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Another AFL round, another week of upsets, thrillers and absolute uncertainty as to who this year's premiership team will be. Round 14 saw four matches decided by three points or fewer, and the 17th ranked team defeat the ladder leaders for the second time in just three weeks. By the end of it, the GWS Giants were on top of the ladder and premiership favourites, but it would be a brave person who predicts that will still be the case a month from now.
The first game of the round was the last Thursday night match of the home and away season and it pitted Adelaide against the Hawks at the Adelaide Oval. No one really gave Hawthorn a chance, and when the Crows led by three goals at half time, the result appeared to be a foregone conclusion. But Alastair Clarkson's men produced a second half that harked back to the club's premiership days to produce a remarkable, fighting 14-point win.
Friday night saw Essendon take on Sydney at the SCG in a crucial match for both sides. The Swans jumped out to a four-goal lead in the third term but a run of seven goals from the Bombers turned the match around and saw the visitors ahead by 19 points with four and a half minutes to play. Somehow from there, Sydney got up off the canvas to kick three late goals, the last of which came after the siren, to keep its unlikely finals dream alive.
The two Saturday afternoon and twilight games were somewhat of a letdown after the excitement of the Thursday and Friday matches, but that would have been of no concern to Port Adelaide and GWS, who scored big wins over Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions respectively.
The Power got on top of the Magpies early at the MCG, and while Collingwood remained in touch for much of the first two and a half quarters, a late third-quarter burst set up what was ultimately a solid 31-point victory. The twilight game saw the Giants take on the Lions at the Gabba, and showed all the skill and strength of a premiership contender as they powered away to a 10-goal win.
If the Saturday afternoon matches were a bit of a disappointment to footy lovers, then the two Saturday night matches more than made up for it.
At Docklands, the Western Bulldogs looked to be back in form for much of the night against North Melbourne, and they were a comfortable 26 points ahead late in the final term. But the Kangaroos staged a remarkable comeback to level the scores with a minute to play before a late point to Jake Stringer saw the Dogs sneak home by the narrowest of margins.
Meanwhile on the other side of the country, similar drama was unfolding. At Subiaco, Melbourne looked to be headed for another loss at a venue they've had no success at since 2004, with West Coast 16 points clear 19 points into the last term. But the Demons kicked three late goals, the last with under a minute remaining, to snatch a remarkable three-point win and establish themselves as genuine top four contenders.
Sunday brought yet another thrilling contest but it came from the most unlikely of the three games played on the day. At Kardinia Park, Fremantle started rank outsiders but burst away in the second quarter to lead Geelong by as much as 34 points before the Cats clawed their way back into the match, grabbing the lead early in the final quarter and holding on for a two-point win.
The final two matches of the round were somewhat of a surprise in that they produced no surprises at all. At the Gabba, the Brisbane Lions managed to be very competitive in the first and last quarters against GWS, but the two in between saw the Giants strut their stuff for long enough to produce a commanding 60-point win.
The St Kilda versus Gold Coast match held the promise of some Gary Ablett magic on the occasion of his 300th game but his late withdrawal from the team robbed the fans of that and they had to be content with a rather uninspiring game that the saw the Saints record a comfortable 31-point win. Uninspiring it might have been, but it was a very important win for the Saints, one that kept them in the top eight.
And so we head into round 15, in which games such as Melbourne versus Sydney, the Western Bulldogs versus West Coast, Port Adelaide versus Richmond and GWS versus Geelong loom as mouthwatering. But this week's games have taught us that it could very well be the other five games that produce the weirdest and most wonderful outcomes.
39 - Jeremy Cameron (GWS)
36 - Lance Franklin (Syd)
35 - Eddie Betts, Joe Daniher (Ess)
34 - Josh Kennedy (WCo), Jack Riewoldt (Rich), Robbie Gray (Port)
33 - Taylor Walker (Adel)
31 - Tom Hawkins (Geel), Ben Brown (NM)