DESPITE all the hurdles that have been thrown up, the new-look VFL has made it two-thirds of the way through the season – and hopefully it can get through the remaining 10 weeks including finals.

There have been plenty of surprises throughout the competition, some pleasant and some not so, with newcomer Southport in flag contention, Frankston charging up the ladder, Coburg and the Northern Bullants enjoying renaissances, Williamstown still around the mark, Aspley and Port Melbourne having had issues with luck, injury and form and both reigning premiers falling off the cliff.

With at least eight and possibly nine wins out of 14 needed to make the top eight, who can still make it? Let’s take a look, notwithstanding the number of upset results we are still likely to see.

(1st, 9-0, 171.9%)
Past three games: W
(Syd 7); W (NM 11); W (Cob 32)
Still to come: bye, Port Melbourne (H), Casey Demons (A), Gold Coast (A), Aspley (H), Sandringham (A)
Analysis: The last undefeated team has managed to win its past two despite being below its best, coming from behind on each occasion. The Bulldogs will look to use the next two games after this week’s bye to regain their mojo before a possible top-two showdown against Casey in Round 16.
Prediction: 2nd (13-1)

(2nd, 8-1, 190.0%)
Past three games: W (BL 109); W (BL 107); W (Syd 15)
Still to come: Aspley (A), Werribee (H), Coburg (A), Frankston (H), bye, Brisbane Lions (A)
Analysis: The only blot on the NEAFL powerhouse’s copybook in a stunning debut VFL season has been a wasteful 30-point loss to GWS in Round 3 when they kicked 8.16. Have four wins by more than 100 points and will start favourite in each of their last five games, four of them in Queensland.
Prediction: 1st (13-1)

(3rd, 7-1, 194.5%)
Past three games: W
(Wer 59); L (GWS 1); W (Ess 48)
Still to come: Box Hill Hawks (H), Gold Coast (A), Footscray (H), Carlton (H), Williamstown (A), Northern Bullants (A)
Analysis: Bounced back from a shock loss to GWS in Round 12 but resumed normal service last week in thrashing Werribee. A one-point win over Geelong is the only other time they’ve been challenged. Clashes against Box Hill, Footscray and Williamstown will decide the Demons’ top-four fate.
Prediction: 3rd (12-2)

(4th, 7-2, 167.3%)
Past three games: W
(Wil 12); W (Ess 75); W (BL 118)
Still to come: Coburg (A), Richmond (H), North Melbourne (A), bye, Sandringham (H), Port Melbourne (A)
Analysis: Have been ticking along nicely behind the three high-flyers. Have found another gear post lockdown after giving up a four-goal lead to Footscray and are poised to strike with five games they will be expecting to win. Richmond and Sandringham could provide stern tests, however.
Prediction: 4th (12-2)

(5th, 7-2, 163.9%)
Past three games: W
(GC 62); W (Asp 62); W (Ess 51)
Still to come: Casey Demons (A), Brisbane Lions (H), Williamstown (A), Collingwood (H), bye, Richmond (A)
Analysis: Unchallenged since a six-goal loss to Werribee in Round 4, although none were against a finals contender. The biggest challenge is Casey – who easily beat them in Round 1, with the Hawks boasting a strong recent record at Williamstown. Richmond is a big one if the Tigers are still alive.
Prediction: 6th (10-4)

(6th, 6-4, 106.4%)
Past three games: W
(PM 95); W (Syd 28); L (Col 39)
Still to come: Sandringham (H), bye, Richmond (H), Southport (A), bye, Werribee (H)
Analysis: The rejuvenated Dolphins are in their best form for more than a decade, having won three of four since the thrashing from Footscray in their 1000th game and lockdown. Proving tough to beat under lights, but day-time questions remain. Round 19 against Werribee could decide a finals berth.
Prediction: 9th (8-6)

(7th, 6-2, 101.3%)
Past three games: W
(Ric 5); W (San 18); W (Fra 39)
Still to come: Carlton (A), Aspley (H), Port Melbourne (A), Box Hill Hawks (A), Brisbane Lions (A), Essendon (A)
Analysis: Had a longer break than most with a bye either side of the lockdown, but it hasn’t affected them, with three impressive wins since returning. Having only one more home game will be a test, but the Magpies will see each of their last six games as winnable with only one top-eight team left.
Prediction: 7th (10-4)

(8th, 6-4, 90.6%)
Past three games: W
(GC 40); W (Cas 1); W (Syd 38)
Still to come: bye, Essendon (A), Aspley (A), bye, Richmond (H), Carlton (A)
Analysis: The only team to defeat both Southport and the Casey Demons, the Giants are a dangerous sleeper and more than capable of doing some damage in September. Have won five of six since a 97-point flogging from Richmond in Round 5, meaning their finals fate is in their own hands. Prediction: 10th (8-6)

(9th, 5-2-1, 140.7%)
Past three games: L
(Gee 12); W (PM 37); D (Ric)
Still to come: Northern Bullants (A), Sandringham (H), Box Hill Hawks (H), Coburg (A), Casey Demons (H), North Melbourne (A)
Analysis: Won their first four but have lost consistency since the break in going 1-2-1. Still in good shape with all games in Victoria and their biggest threats being at their home fortress. Can’t underestimate any of their opponents, though, given the Bullants’ and Kangaroos’ recent form.
Prediction: 5th (11-2-1)

(10th, 4-4, 148.2%)
Past three games: L
(Cas 59); L (NM 5); W (GWS 48)
Still to come: Port Melbourne (A), Southport (A), Northern Bullants (H), Port Melbourne (H), Coburg (A), Frankston (A)
Analysis: Looked like they had come good with four impressive wins in a row, but the slip-up against North, coupled with those two home losses at the start of the season, has the Tigers chasing their tail. Round 19’s trip to Frankston shapes as an elimination final. Percentage could be their saviour.
Prediction: 8th (8-6)

(11th, 4-4, 100.4%)
Past three games: W
(Ess 67); L (Col 18); W (Ric 30)
Still to come: Frankston (A), Williamstown (A), Carlton (H), Sydney (A), Geelong (A), Footscray (H)
Analysis: The Zebras’ best football is good enough to beat anyone, but they probably need to win the next two on the road to stay alive with the toughest fixture of any of the finals contenders. Even if they do that, Geelong and Footscray loom in the last two games.
Prediction: 12th (6-8)

(12th, 3-5-1, 101.5%)
Past three games: L
(Col 5); L (NB 13); L (San 30)
Still to come: bye, Geelong (A), Frankston (A), North Melbourne (H), GWS (A), Box Hill Hawks (H)
Analysis: The lockdown seems to have affected the reigning premiers more than anyone. Thrashed the Brisbane Lions by 10 goals before the break but have only a draw and three losses since. Good enough to still mount a charge but must win every game to stand any chance.
Prediction: 11th (7-6-1)

(13th, 3-6, 95.1%)
Past three games: L
(NB 1); W (Car 37); L (Foo 32)
Still to come: Geelong (H), bye, Southport (H), Williamstown (H), Werribee (H), Sydney (H)
Analysis: So close yet so far for the Lions, with losses by four (Collingwood), three (North Melbourne) and one point (Bullants) cruelling their finals hopes with a tough fixture to come. But with all those games being at home, they will relish the chance to play finals spoiler.
Prediction: 15th (4-10)

(14th, 3-5, 94.6%)
Past three games: L
(Cob 37); L (NB 32); W (PM 15)
Still to come: Collingwood (H), North Melbourne (H), Sandringham (A), Casey Demons (A), Sydney (H), GWS (H)
Analysis: Loomed as a finals chance after beating Port Melbourne, but dropped out of the running with consecutive losses to their northern neighbours. Have a knack of beating Collingwood when nobody gives them a chance and will see all their home games as winnable.
Prediction: 13th (6-8)

(15th, 3-6, 67.4%)
Past three games: L
(GWS 40); L (BH 62); W (Asp 6)
Still to come: bye, Casey Demons (H), Brisbane Lions (H), Footscray (H), Essendon (H), Aspley (A)
Analysis: Capable of anything when they can get on a roll, having come back from a long way down to beat Sydney (twice) and Aspley, but also lose big when that doesn’t happen. Could win up to three of their remaining games, but could equally lose them all.
Prediction: 17th (4-10)

(16th, 3-6, 65.4%)
Past three games: L
(Sou 109); L (Gee 118); L (Sou 107)
Still to come: bye, Box Hill Hawks (A), Gold Coast (A), Northern Bullants (H), Collingwood (H), Southport (H)
Analysis: The NEAFL premiers have crashed even harder than their VFL counterparts, losing the past three matches in humiliating fashion by triple-figure margins against top-four opposition. The Lions have the fixture to regain respectability, but they need to reset quickly over this week’s bye.
Prediction: 14th (5-9)

(17th, 3-6, 61.7%)
Past three games: W
(Cob 1); W (Ric 13); W (Car 32)
Still to come: Williamstown (H), bye, Werribee (A), Brisbane Lions (A), Port Melbourne (H), Casey Demons (H)
Analysis: What a turnaround since lockdown from the developing Bullants. Competitive without challenging before, they have won the past three to knock all three rivals out of contention. Have picked up a last-minute home game this week and there may be another win or two in the offing.
Prediction: 19th (3-11)

(18th, 3-6, 52.5%)
Past three games: L
(Foo 11); W (Wer 5); W (Cob 3)
Still to come: Essendon (TBC), Carlton (A), Geelong (H), Richmond (A), bye, Williamstown (H)
Analysis: The Kangaroos have also become an opponent to be wary of with three wins in their past four games and are a live chance in at least the next two, including against a Bombers team they have already beaten. Have also beaten Richmond at Arden St when the Tigers were flying.
Prediction: 18th (4-10)

(19th, 2-8, 88.9%)
Past three games: L
(Foo 7); L (Fra 28); L (GWS 38)
Still to come: bye, bye, Essendon (A), Sandringham (H), Carlton (A), Coburg (A)
Analysis: Six losses in a row for the Swans despite leading in the second half of every defeat except when missing half their team due to quarantine rules. But four of those came after being four goals up, so their ladder position is of their own doing. All of their remaining games are winnable.
Prediction: 16th (4-10)

(20th, 2-7, 61.8%)
Past three games: L
(San 67); L (Gee 75); L (Cas 48)
Still to come: North Melbourne (TBC), GWS (H), Sydney (H), bye, Gold Coast (A), Collingwood (H)
Analysis: The Bombers have lost their past five but will feel like they can turn that around with three games against teams around them on the ladder, while they will also relish the chance to play finals spoiler on the Giants and Magpies. But they will need a marked lift in form to do any of that.
Prediction: 22nd (2-12)

(21st, 1-8, 77.6%)
Past three games: L
(BH 62); L (GC 6); L (GWS 49)
Still to come: Southport (H), Collingwood (A), GWS (H), bye, Footscray (A), Gold Coast (H)
Analysis: The Hornets haven’t won since their ambush of Port Melbourne in Round 1. But they could have been so much better, with two defeats by a goal or less and three others inside four goals. They still have a couple of very winnable home games to get away from the bottom.
Prediction: 20th (2-12)

(22nd, 1-7, 66.3%)
Past three games: L
(Fra 95); L (Wil 37); L (Car 15)
Still to come: Werribee (H), Footscray (A), Collingwood (H), Werribee (A), Northern Bullants (A), Geelong (H)
Analysis: A season where nothing has gone right, and they finally appeared to hit breaking point at Frankston last Friday night. But the Borough won’t give up and will see the games against Werribee (twice) and Collingwood as chances to shape the eight, while the Bullants will also be in their sights.
Prediction: 21st (2-12) 

Twitter: @BRhodesVFL


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