|Greater Western Sydney||97|
Total Crowd 306,319 (Avg 34,035)
It took until round 20, but the 2017 AFL season has finally claimed its first victim, with the Gold Coast Suns announcing the termination of Rodney Eade as coach, after the Suns' loss to Fremantle on Saturday. Eade's card was probably already marked, but the loss to the Dockers probably presented a perfect time for the Gold Coast board to step in and make the call public, allowing stand-in coach Dean Solomon to take over the reins in a winnable game against bottom-placed Brisbane next Saturday.
Meanwhile, on the field the action continued unabated, with the round kicking off on Friday night at Kardinia Park where Geelong hosted Sydney. The Cats came into the match undermanned, Dangerfield one of several regulars missing, but even allowing for that their performance was below expectations, the Swans breaking away early to set up a more than comfortable 46-point win.
Saturday at Manuka in Canberra saw GWS play host to Melbourne at their second home. The Giants kicked with the wind in the first term, but the Demons got the jump on them, kicking the first three goals. But from there, GWS took over. The Giants booted the next eight goals to lead by 36 points at quarter time, and kept Melbourne at bay for the rest of the match to win by 35, sending the Demons tumbling out of the eight.
Essendon was expected to make short work of Carlton at the MCG, and looked like doing so when it kicked five of the first six goals of the match. But the Blues bounced back to take the lead in the third term, and then led again in the final quarter before a couple of late goals saw the Bombers sneak home by eight points to slip into the place in the eight vacated by Melbourne.
The Saturday twilight game was played at the Gabba and it saw the Western Bulldogs win as expected over Brisbane - but not before the Lions gave them a huge fright. The Dogs started strongly but Brisbane dominated the next two quarters to lead by 11 at the last change. The Bulldogs finished strongly, though, a 14-point win seeing them back also back into the eight.
Saturday night's two matches held little interest compared to the weekend's other games, with none of the four combatants likely September contenders. At Docklands the North Melbourne v Collingwood game lived down to the lack of hype, particularly in an error-riddled first quarter. Eventually the Magpies raised the bar and kicked away to a 54-point win, one which leaves them as a mathematical finals chance.
The other match saw Fremantle record what could only really be described as a routine win over Gold Coast. But the routine win led to a non-routine post script at Carrara, with the Suns' board removing Rodney Eade from his coaching post on the following Tuesday, with Dean Solomon to take the reins for the season's final three games.
For the second week in a row, the early Sunday game at Docklands produced a fast-paced, open, thrilling affair. With both St Kilda and West Coast needing a win, the Eagles held sway narrowly for the first three quarters but the Saints edged them out with a five-goal-to-four final quarter, the win keeping St Kilda's finals hopes alive and leaving West Coast as the second side for the round to slip out of the top eight.
Over at the MCG, Richmond virtually guaranteed itself of September action and moved up from fourth to third with an impressive win over Hawthorn. The Hawks might be out of the eight but their form before Sunday had been very strong, and the Tigers' win further franked their credentials as worthy contenders in 2017.
The final match of the round - Showdown 43 - promised to be the best. It failed dismally, except perhaps in the eyes of Adelaide fans. The Crows tore Port Adelaide to shreds, in the process confirming themselves as valid premiership favourites, and exposing Port as pretenders in the eyes of most.
With three weeks to go in the home and away season, only a game plus percentage separates seven sides from fifth placed Port down to St Kilda in 11th place. Those final three rounds promise to be one hell of a ride - strap yourselves in!
56 - Joe Daniher (Ess)
54 - Josh Kennedy (WCo)
52 - Lance Franklin (Syd)
51 - Ben Brown (NM)
46 - Tom Hawkins (Geel), Taylor Walker (Adel)
45 - Eddie Betts (Adel)
44 - Tom Lynch (GCo)
42 - Jack Riewoldt (Rich), Jeremy Cameron (GWS), Robbie Gray (Port)
Videos sourced from YouTube, courtesy of the AFL.