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BARRETT: Massive change looms for 'flat, dispirited' Crows

The 10: round 23's best moments A result that sends shockwaves, a nine-goal haul and brute strength in this week's standout plays

NOW, THE walkouts start at Adelaide.

Josh Jenkins, Brad Crouch, Sam Jacobs, Alex Keath, Hugh Greenwood, even Eddie Betts and probably many more will now be able to properly analyse where best their football futures lie.

UP FOR GRABS Every club's out-of-contract players

Losing their final three games of the season was reflective of the Crows' standing, and officials are now belatedly prepared to acknowledge what the entire AFL industry has known since early 2018 – there are massive morale issues.

Director Mark Ricciuto, in his role on Triple M radio, said on Sunday after the loss to the Bulldogs: 

"It was just another poor performance, wasn't it, really. And it wasn't surprising, either, to be honest because they just seem like they've been flat and dispirited for a while."

Massive changes to come, here.

Brad Crouch's future at Adelaide seems less than certain.

The greatest? Clarko's around the mark

It may have been a round of footy where Geelong regained top spot to earn minor premier status, Collingwood secured a finals double chance, Brisbane lost yet proved it belonged on the biggest stage, and the Western Bulldogs continued their courageous and scary-to-seven-other-finalists surge.

SHAPE OF THE EIGHT Where your club finished in the race to September

It may have been a weekend where Buddy reminded us he he's got plenty of football left, and where Brodie Grundy delivered another performance now guaranteed to have him on the Brownlow Medal leaderboard throughout the count.

NINE THINGS WE LEARNED Forget Jaidyn, Bucks has his finals X-factor

It may have been a season-closing fixture that concluded with Hawthorn sitting outside the top eight.

Yet it was Alastair Clarkson's weekend.

Even when he's unable to lift his Hawks into the finals, he's shaping them.

Clarko finished the weekend with a massive thank you from Collingwood, a hate-you from West Coast and yet more layers of evidence that he simply has to be in any conversation debating the game's best-ever coach.

The Hawks' brilliant win against West Coast in Perth on Saturday seriously destabilised the Eagles' hopes of defending their flag. To make the Grand Final, they are now going to have to win three matches and travel twice, then travel a third time to play it, if they somehow make it.

The win was perfect timing for Clarkson's sustained personal pitch at GWS free agent Stephen Coniglio, too.

Stephen Coniglio remains unsigned for 2020. Picture: AFL Photos

Time for Eagles to risk it all

West Coast now has nothing to lose, and that mindset might actually be its greatest weapon.

But there are obvious concerns. Gun full-forward Josh Kennedy has, by his standards, struggled this season, with 44 goals from 20 matches. He looks even sorer than normal.

The plan is for the again-injured Nic Naitanui to train at full speed in the week leading into the Eagles' elimination final against Essendon. If he doesn’t make it into the team at some stage of September, then it is hard to see West Coast having significant impact.

Find In the Game on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts or Spotify

Everyone's a winner at the 'G

Richmond did what it had to do on Sunday.

Brisbane did more than enough to be convinced it belonged on the biggest stage.

And now they get to do it all again on Saturday week in the Lions' house, in a double-chance final.

WHO PLAYS WHO Finals fixture for week one revealed

Brisbane's game style stood up, as did the individuals who have been crucial to their 2019 surge to second on the ladder: Dayne Zorko, Mitch Robinson, Lachie Neale, and the extraordinarily gifted third-year player Hugh McCluggage.

The 27-point deficit on the final siren roughly equates to the headstart the Lions will get at the Gabba.

From the Doghouse to the penthouse – again?

"We know that we're capable … we're not limping into this finals series, we're going in with a head of steam … and I think we're going to be hard to beat."

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge's words after Sunday's mauling of Adelaide in Ballarat were arguably as menacing for the seven other finalists as his team's seven wins from the final nine home-and-away season games.

Playing GWS at Giants Stadium poses no fear, either. Only two weeks ago, the Bulldogs went there and won by 10 goals. The venue posed no problem, either, in a 2016 preliminary final.

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At 4-7, the Bulldogs were headed for a Melbourne-style 2019. But they always had Marcus Bontempelli. But they then gave licence to Josh Dunkley, and they created a dynamic, dangerous forward line. Bailey Dale booted five against the Crows, and now has 21 from nine matches this year.

Bailey Dale booted five goals against the Crows in Ballarat. 

As was the case three seasons ago, incredibly, anything could happen from here.

Two full-forwards, 15 goals, one big problem

For different reasons, opponents of Gold Coast in the past two matches set out to have their key forwards kick bags of goals.

The Hawks set up in a way which allowed Jarryd Roughead to boot six, the perfect personal farewell to the game in his 283rd match.

Then on Saturday night, GWS ensured Jeremy Cameron would win the Coleman Medal, easily structuring their play through him in a manner that allowed him to boot nine goals.

Jeremy Cameron celebrates his Coleman Medal-sealing goal against the Suns.

The Suns lost their final 18 matches of the season, the last four by 72, 70, 91 and 69 points. There were also consecutive 90-point losses to Richmond and Adelaide in rounds 16-17.

At the completion of their ninth AFL season, the Suns are in mediocrity freefall. They have two wooden spoons, three second-last finishes and have never finished higher than 14th.

They will be asking the AFL Commission on Tuesday for a raft of assistance packages, and will go in hard with a request that would have them receive the first two picks in the NAB AFL Draft.

Find Road to the Draft on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts and Spotify.

Change is coming after hellish season

Melbourne officials will also front the AFL Commission on Tuesday, with their 2019 season contextually as bleak.

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Right through to the final minutes of a horror season, where poor skills and questionable decision making cost them a win against North Melbourne in Hobart on Saturday, the Demons were embarrassing.

Co-captain Nathan Jones was one of the culprits late against the Roos, and this week he now faces, like 90 per cent of teammates, a searching 2019 exit meeting process.

Jones has been offered a contract for 2020, but it is a dramatically reduced offer.

The captaincy will be removed from his status next year, should he accept the fresh terms.

Ruckman Max Gawn, clearly the Demons' best player this year, is likely to be given official leadership responsibilities alongside Jack Viney.

Dilemma for North's top-liners

North Melbourne's best-and-fairest will seemingly be a fight between three past winners – Ben Cunnington, Todd Goldstein and Shaun Higgins.

That trio was solid throughout 2020, even in the first half of the season when Brad Scott was sacked as coach.

Of the three, only Cunnington enters the off-season without industry talk about his future as a Roo.

Goldstein has multiple outside offers to consider. He wants North to offer him a three-year deal, not the two currently in front of him.

The ultra-classy Higgins is contracted for next season. Understandably, he wants an extension, and equally understandably, with him turning 32 before round one next year, the Roos are of the view that rolling one-year deals would be the best approach to the future.

Todd Goldstein lays a tackle on James Harmes on Saturday. 

Twitter: @barrettdamian

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs