The most open AFL season in many years has taken another stunning turn with Adelaide entering the top eight for the first time this season.
Adelaide’s 16-point win over Collingwood has cracked open the AFL finals race, setting the stage for a grandstand finish to the season.
The Crows’ 0-3 start to the season seems a lifetime ago, the club entering the eight for the first time this season with the win.
The tight MCG finish was a fitting end to a thrilling AFL round played across two weekends.
Upsets, thrillers, packed houses and outstanding individual showings ensured multicultural round will live long in the memory.
And the repercussions from round 18 were felt heavily on the ladder.
At the top end, Fremantle coughed up a golden opportunity to sit atop of the table, Hawthorn reminded all they are still the team to beat and Geelong continued to coast.
On the second rung, North Melbourne took a step backwards while Essendon took a big step up.
And at the edge of the eight, Adelaide and Richmond took steps to keep their respective finals hopes alive.
With five rounds to go all of the key questions poised by the home and away season are still hotly contested.
Who will be minor premiers? The top four all have serious claims.
Who will make up the eight? North Melbourne aren’t safe at 10-7 in sixth, while even the Tigers in 12th (7-10) have a chance.
And who will claim the spoon? GWS, Melbourne and St Kilda have five weeks to add to their four wins apiece.
By any measure this has been a remarkable AFL season, with a showpiece match on Saturday night potentially giving 72,000 fans at the MCG a grand final preview.
Lance Franklin’s return to play against the club he won two premierships with, at the place he won them, was a blockbuster occasion.
Unfortunately for him, the Hawks claimed a 10-point win that coach Alastair Clarkson would bolster his side’s belief.
“I’m sure our players will get a lot of confidence out of being able to cope with that sort of situation,” Clarkson surmised.
Sydney held a 23-point lead in the third quarter, with Jarrad McVeigh saying he felt his team would run out winners.
“I thought in that period, we were looking around thinking here we go, we’re on here,” McVeigh told Channel Seven’s Game Day.
“But then they kick a couple, a couple of crucial centre clearances – it really does hurt you.”
“Great teams, they are always going to come back.”
Earlier on Saturday, Brisbane claimed a stunning QClash victory with an imperious first quarter domination of Gold Coast.
Tom Rockliff and Pearce Hanley led the way with 46 and 45 possessions respectively. Richmond took four points home from Perth after a 17-point win in the wet against West Coast on Friday night.
The Tigers’ fourth win in a row was most notable for a roundhouse punch from Ty Vickery that landed on retiring Eagle Dean Cox’s jaw.