The Western Bulldogs are well on the way to a finals berth after a dominant first quarter in Ballarat, led by star Marcus Bontempelli.
Luke Beveridge’s men burst out of the blocks with the first six goals before the Crows pegged the margin back late.
They just need to secure the four points against Adelaide to move into the top eight, knocking Hawthorn out of the finals in the process.
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Collingwood climbed into third after Friday night’s win over Essendon and is guaranteed a top four finish after Hawthorn’s stunning win over West Coast.
But the make-up of the top four will come down to today’s Richmond v Brisbane game at the MCG, with the Tigers still a chance to grab second spot and a home final — but they could also slide out of the four.
The race for the minor premiership, the double chance and the final spot in the eight are all up for grabs on a massive final day of the home-and-away season.
Brisbane, meanwhile, is trying to win the club’s first minor premiership in more than a century — the Lions last finishing a season on top back in 1913 as Fitzroy.
But the Lions will have to defeat Richmond to achieve a slice of history after Geelong stormed to top spot on Saturday.
Seven teams are assured of September action with the Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn, Adelaide and Port Adelaide to fight it out for the last spot.
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The Power and Adelaide would need wins by more than 15 goals to stand any chance after the Hawks’ win in the west.
One result that could scramble ladder predictions is if the Tigers and Lions play out the season’s first draw. That would push Richmond ahead of Collingwood into third spot and the Lions ahead of Geelong, leading to Lions v Pies and Cats v Tigers qualifying finals. Just don’t ask Chris Scott about where it should be played.
1. GEELONG 64 135.7%
The Cats grabbed top spot with an emphatic victory over Carlton, clinching a home final in the process — which of course will be played at the MCG. That is almost certain to be against Collingwood with a Richmond win against Brisbane sending the Pies to fourth and a Brisbane win pushing Geelong to second (and Richmond out of the top four).
2. BRISBANE LIONS 64 120.9%
Rd 23 Richmond (MCG), Sunday 3.20pm
The Lions lost top spot on Saturday but will get it back with a win or a draw against Richmond. Lose to the Tigers and it’s all about the margin. If it’s under 10 goals they will stay second and host a qualifying final at the Gabba — against the Tigers. If it’s by more than 11 goals Richmond will leapfrog them into second spot and the rematch would be at the MCG. In between and we’ll all have the calculators out.
3. COLLINGWOOD 60 117.7%
The Magpies are assured of a top-four finish and will likely face Geelong in a qualifying final after Hawthorn’s win against West Coast. A Richmond victory would relegate the Magpies to fourth and leave the Cats as minor premier. If the Lions triumph, they would take top spot and Collingwood would finish third. The Pies are likely to be playing an “away” final at their home ground, but the Cats have won the past three meetings between the two teams at the ’G.
4. RICHMOND 60 112.5%
Rd 23 Brisbane Lions (MCG), Sunday 3.20pm
The hyped Cats v Tigers qualifying final is now out the window barring a draw today. But the Tigers could still play at the MCG in the first week of September if they win by enough to overtake the Lions on percentage — about 63 points. A loss by less than that margin will put the Tigers third and into a rematch against the Lions at the Gabba. A loss by any margin will see them drop to fifth and face Hawthorn, Essendon, Adelaide or Port Adelaide in an elimination final.
5. WEST COAST 60 112.5%
West Coast’s loss to Hawthorn could spell disaster for its premiership defence. If Richmond wins on Sunday the Eagles will finish fifth and host an elimination final, most likely against Essendon or the Hawks. If Brisbane is victorious, West Coast will finish fourth and travel to Brisbane for a qualifying final in week one.
6. GWS GIANTS 52 115.4%
Lock it in Leon. After storming to victory against Gold Coast, GWS will finish sixth. Their opponent in an elimination final will come down to results today — if the Bulldogs defeat Adelaide we’ll get a rematch of last week’s clash at Giants Stadium.
7. ESSENDON — 48, 95.4%
The Bombers can’t miss the eight and look a lot more dangerous than they did a couple of weeks ago. Essendon will slide to eighth if the Bulldogs defeat Adelaide. If the Crows win, the Dons will travel to Sydney to take on the Giants, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing when Richmond, West Coast and Collingwood are potential alternative opponents.
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8. HAWTHORN — 44, 108.7%
Hawthorn’s finals chances rest on the result of Western Bulldogs’ clash against Adelaide. If the Bulldogs win, their season is over. Otherwise, only victories by 16 goals or more by Port Adelaide or Adelaide would knock the Hawks out of the eight.
9. WESTERN BULLDOGS — 44, 105.6%
Rd 23 Adelaide (Ballarat), Sunday, 1.10pm
The equation is simple — win and the Dogs make it (finishing seventh and facing the Giants in an away final). Lose and they can’t play finals after Hawthorn’s huge upset.
10. ADELAIDE — 40, 103.0%
Rd 23 Western Bulldogs (Ballarat), Sunday, 1.10pm
Lose and they’re cooked. The Crows need to win, and win big, to jump back into the eight, with a margin of 95 points or more needed to jump the Hawks on percentage. They also need to hope Port Adelaide loses, or wins by less than 15 goals.
11. PORT ADELAIDE — 40, 103.0%
Rd 23 Fremantle (AO), Sunday, 4.40pm
Still alive — but only just. This game will be a dead rubber if the Bulldogs win, but a Crows victory will keep the season alive until the final siren. To snare eighth spot Port needs the Adelaide to win (sorry, Power fans) but not by too much — then to destroy Fremantle by 16 goals. Seems unlikely but this has been one crazy season. Lose and it doesn’t matter what else happens.
12. NORTH MELBOURNE — 40, 99.5%
The Roos finished their half-yearly stint under Rhyce Shaw one game out of the eight after a scrappy win over the Demons. How will North look after a full summer under its new senior coach? There’s a bit to be excited on the evidence in the second half of this season.
13. FREMANTLE — 36, 94.0%
Rd 23 Port Adelaide (AO)
Can still play finals spoiler if Port Adelaide is alive going into the last game on Sunday. Otherwise they’re trying to impress caretaker coach David Hale.
14. ST KILDA — 36, 83.9%
It wasn’t the finish the Saints or interim coach Brett Ratten were hoping for. But at least a 14th-placed finish gives them a top-five draft pick (before any priority selections are handed out) — a good bargaining chip in the race for Docker Bradley Hill.
15. SYDNEY — 32, 97.7%
The Swans gave retiring champions Kieren Jack and Jarrad McVeigh the fitting send-off their decorated careers deserved with a 45-point victory over St Kilda. It might not have changed their ladder position, but it was the perfect celebration in the Harbour City.
16. CARLTON — 28, 84.5%
Not how the Blues would have hoped to finish after a positive period under David Teague which secured him the full-time coaching job. Today it’s all about barracking for the Dogs (and Port) to close the gap with the Crows after the Liam Stocker deal.
17. MELBOURNE — 20, 78.6%
The Demons surprisingly improved their percentage with a close loss in Hobart, so that’s something. What a year to forget for last year’s preliminary finalist. There will be a lot of soul searching at Melbourne’s post-season reviews.
18. GOLD COAST — 12, 60.5%
There was genuine hope of an upset when the Suns got within 10 points of GWS during the second term. From that point, the Round 23 match summed up the Suns’ campaign. After starting 3-1 they lost 18 consecutive games and a fair bit needs to change during the off-season at Metricon Stadium.