An epic weekend of footy sets the scene for a grand finale

Jake Melksham celebrates by screaming and pointing at the sky

Heroes and heartbreak were the order of the day in round 22 and, with finals just a game away, this remarkable home-and-away season is about to reach its crescendo.

Welcome to the AFL Round-Up, where we digest the week that was.

Feelin’ Blue

It was hard to watch, but you couldn’t look away.

Until this point, Carlton’s gradual slide from top-four fancies to a last-ditch scramble for finals had happened in slow-motion, a steady decline that chipped away at Blues fans but never broke them.

But this was visceral. This was the dream being snatched from their hands and smashed at their feet in the most-brutal manner possible.


Carlton’s lead was beyond two scores with three minutes to play, and still stood with the clock showing less than 30 seconds. They could scarcely have been closer to the win that would have ended their finals drought and completely flipped the narrative currently swirling around their 2022 season.

And although it will be easy to play back those three minutes and pinpoint the exact moments Carlton’s heart rips in half, on plenty of other nights they do enough there to beat Melbourne.

Jake Melksham celebrates by screaming and pointing at the sky
The Demons looked beaten, but champs never give up.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Michael Willson)

The Demons know the feeling all too well: Hell, they were on the other side of it just last week.

This time, the chips fell in their favour and the unteachable, sometimes unstoppable genius of Kysaiah Pickett proved decisive.

That one, true snap could prove absolutely critical for Melbourne, who currently find themselves in third but could very conceivably still miss the top four should they lose in Brisbane next week and have other results go against them.

However, in those desperate moments, the reigning champs found something within them to muster one last drive.

In September, that belief that you are never beaten is critical.

Patrick Cripps and Michael Voss walk off the ground with an arm around each otherPatrick Cripps and Michael Voss walk off the ground with an arm around each other
The Blues need to find the strength to lift for one more must-win game next week.(Getty Images: Darrian Traynor)

As for Carlton, they’ve got one more week to save themselves. Dusting themselves down after that finish will not be an easy task, but they can take heart from the fact they met their moment, answered the bell and let nobody down.

Beat Collingwood at the MCG on Sunday afternoon or pray for good fortune in Tassie where the Bulldogs will be playing Hawthorn.

The dream is wounded, but not yet dead.

It’s all to play for

Not sure you could ask for a better final round than what we have coming up.

From second to eighth, every spot is up for grabs and every twist and turn changes the finals picture dramatically.

With Sydney’s win over Collingwood, and with only Geelong’s fate secured, the scene has formally been set for round 23.

Here’s a snapshot of what faces the teams next week:

Lance Franklin clenches his fist and yells in delightLance Franklin clenches his fist and yells in delight
Lance Franklin is heating up just in time for finals.(Getty Images: Brett Hemmings)
  • Sydney can finish anywhere between second and fifth. They’ve got St Kilda away, who need a massive win and a miracle to sneak into the eight. A solid win should be enough to secure second spot for Sydney and the crucial home final.
  • Melbourne can finish anywhere between second and fifth. That game against Brisbane next week is monstrously important. A win secures the double chance, a loss puts them at serious risk of slipping out of the top four.
  • Brisbane can finish anywhere between second and fifth. Do they have it in them to rise to the occasion and beat Melbourne at the Gabba and claim that essential top-four spot? Keep Friday night free.
Cam Rayner holds his index finger up to his lips while facing the crowdCam Rayner holds his index finger up to his lips while facing the crowd
A top-four finish is within Brisbane’s reach.(Getty Images: Daniel Pockett)
  • Collingwood can finish anywhere between third and sixth. Percentages mean they can’t get as high as second — unless Brisbane and Melbourne draw, I guess. Also up for grabs is the chance to ruin Carlton’s season, which counts for something in these parts.
  • Fremantle can finish anywhere between third and sixth. They need to beat GWS, and then will be cheering the Blues and Saints home as a Collingwood or Sydney loss would be enough to earn Freo a top-four spot.
  • Richmond will finish seventh or eighth. They should beat Essendon comfortably enough, but then will be relying on Carlton’s result to determine their final position.
  • Carlton can finish anywhere between seventh and ninth. Technically 10th, if St Kilda somehow was able to make up a sizeable percentage gap. However, it’s basically just a win-loss equation for the Blues. They simply have to beat Collingwood.
  • Western Bulldogs can finish anywhere between eighth and 10th. They really ought to be beating Hawthorn in Tasmania, and only need to win by a couple of goals to make up the percentage gap on Carlton. For the rest of the afternoon, it’ll be good old Collingwood forever in Footscray.

Around the grounds

So Geelong are minor premiers, and in convincing fashion. Chris Scott is playing it cool, but they have proven over the past three months to be a step ahead of the chasing pack. But their season is really only just starting now, and the pressure is ramping up.

Zach Touhy clenches his fistZach Touhy clenches his fist
The Cats wrapped up the minor premiership with a game to spare.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Albert Perez)

Adelaide may have had too much firepower in the end, but special word for two North Melbourne midfielders. Luke Davies-Uniacke was other-worldly for three quarters of that game, but Ben Cunnington was the star of the show. The scenes pre-match were some of the best of the year, and he played pretty damn well too.

The Western Derby was a bit of fun. The Eagles brought the requisite effort, but a two-win season will be a fair reflection for a team yet to fully start rebuilding. Freo will benefit from such a physical test ahead of finals, but were clearly always a class or two above their neighbours.

Nic Naitanui and Sean Darcy look up and grapple with two other players framing them in the foregroundNic Naitanui and Sean Darcy look up and grapple with two other players framing them in the foreground
Sean Darcy was named best on ground having soundly beaten Nic Naitanui.(Getty Images: AFL Photos/Daniel Carson)

It’s not the biggest occasion of the round, but next week’s showdown has a bit to it. Port Adelaide’s demolition of Essendon suggested the Power players want to make a statement for their coach. A win over the Crows would underline that.

In the clubhouse

Here we take stock of who is leading the race for the season’s individual awards.

We’ve long since signed-off on Nick Daicos as our Rising Star winner, but it’s been interesting to see his story develop week-to-week.

He copped a pretty tough tag from Ryan Clarke early but, after those initial struggles, he worked his way into the game and had an influence. Scary to think where he’ll be in a few years’ time.

Mark of the week goes to Luke Jackson, but Mitch Georgiades’s grip on the MOTY award remains strong.


And we’re giving goal of the week to Harry Schoenberg for this solo effort. Not quite enough to knock Josh Daicos off his top spot though.




Author: Ivan Robinson