Aaron Sandilands of the Fremantle Dockers during the Round 18 AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and Greater Western Sydney at the Domain Stadium in Perth, Sunday, August 2, 2015.Fremantle won the match 84-63.
Aaron Sandilands of the Fremantle Dockers during the Round 18 AFL match between the Fremantle Dockers and Greater Western Sydney at the Domain Stadium in Perth, Sunday, August 2, 2015.Fremantle won the match 84-63. AAP Image - Tony McDonough

Roos, Cats force their way into the top eight

THE results are in ... the top eight, as it stands now, will become the final eight at the completion of round 23.

It's unclear on what will happen thereafter, and whether Richmond can actually win its first final in 14 years, let alone push for the premiership.

But, according to the APN computer, the Tigers will finish fifth and face a tough elimination final against the once mighty Geelong.

Okay, so we've stuck our neck out, and a lot can happen in last five rounds, but Richmond and the Bulldogs appear certainties to be joined in the bottom half of the eight by North Melbourne and Geelong.

Then it's just a matter of how the top four - Fremantle, West Coast, Hawthorn and Sydney - fall, and whether we'll get two qualifying finals in Perth.

Having strung together four and three wins in succession respectively, the Scott boys' Kangaroos and Cats have all the momentum.

Incredibly, they began the season occupying the bottom two spots on the ladder after opening-round smashings by Adelaide and Hawthorn.

And while North only reached the top eight for the first time in round 17, the Cats have clawed their way in for the first time this week.

The Kangaroos may yet even rise as high as fifth, and it could come down to the result of a tantalising final-round clash with the Tigers.

But, it may not matter.

With Adelaide and GWS having lost their positions in the top echelon and unlikely to regain them, and Port Adelaide surely too far back, we can expect two all-Victorian fixtures in Melbourne in the first week of the finals, and no real home-ground advantage for the combatants.

Despite recording what could be regarded as its best win since its last finals success in 2001, Richmond still needs to make up a game and percentage to usurp the Swans in fourth.

The Tigers can only hope the Cats upset Sydney at Kardinia Park this week to keep the door ajar, not to mention them overcoming the Crows in Adelaide on Friday night.

If they do miss the double chance, the Tigers certainly appear better-equipped for a cut-throat final this time.

After being bundled out by Carlton (2013) and Port Adelaide (2014), they look more than just a tease in 2015, adding genuine toughness.

They put finals-like pressure on the Hawks on Friday night, making the reigning premiers look uncharacteristically slow and sloppy.

The Hawks must now regroup for a blockbuster against West Coast at Subiaco on Saturday night - one of two matches the Eagles play in succession which could determine the top two.

The other is arguably the biggest Western Derby ever in round 20 against ladder-leader Fremantle.

The Run home

FREM: SK (a), WC, NM (a), Melb (h), PA (a)

WC: Haw (h), Fre, WB (h), Ade (a), SK (h)

HAW: WC (a), Geel (h), PA (h), BL (h), Carl

SYD: Geel (a), Coll (h), GWS (a), SK (a), GC (h)

WB: PA (h), Mel, WC (a), NM, BL (a)

RICH: Ade (a), GC (h), Coll, Ess, NM

NM: Melb, SK, Fre (h), WB, Rich

GEE: Syd (h), Haw (a), SK (a), Coll (h), Ade (h)

ADE: Rich (h), Ess (a), BL (h), WC (h), Gee (a)

GWS: Ess (h), PA (a), Syd, Carl (h), Melb (a)


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