An inner Melbourne war beckons as four clubs strive, seemingly, for the last invitation to compete in September action.
With the 2008 AFL season in mid season mode, evidence suggests there are three or possibly four premiership aspirants, three clubs facing the ‘tanking’ question, and three September-bound clubs holding ground, making up the numbers.
Perhaps the most interesting and uncertain question to be answered over the next nine weeks is who will fill the coveted eighth position at the end of August.
The Saints, Blues, Kangaroos and Tigers faithful are all desperate to fulfil a finals dream that at times has appeared improbable.
St Kilda, (8th – 7 wins, 7 losses) a big disappointment in 2008 yet appear the most likely candidate with key players to return from injury and a confidence boost following a come-from-behind victory against North last weekend.
An adventurous approach from Ross Lyon and a lift from its big man and midfield department could ensure qualification. Only face three more finals-bound opponents and have two road trips to the West in the run home.
Carlton, (9th – 7 wins, 7 losses) certainly would have accepted what they’ve achieved thus far and seem to have the biggest scope for improvement heading into the business end of the season. A group full of potential on the rise and players capable of ripping a game apart sees them in with a realistic chance of qualifying. Two road trips remaining and drawn to play six sides currently in the eight, the next month will decide the fate of the Blues.
North Melbourne, (10th – 6 wins, 7 losses, 1 draw) have lost touch despite a win over the Hawks, their only win in five starts. The loss of Hamish McIntosh cannot be underestimated and with two more road trips, four games against top eight dwellers and a visit to the Cattery late in the season, the Shinboner spirit needs some reigniting pronto.
Richmond, (11th – 5 wins, 8 losses, 1 draw) have improved markedly in the penultimate year of the five-year Terry Wallace reign. Will be ruing some lost opportunities in their post mortem of season 2008. Two remaining road trips and four games against finals sides, the Tigers need to win six of their remaining games to qualify for September action.
The arguments for each illustrate the final eight system rewarding mediocrity, but it won’t bother those of us who love a climactic end as a prelude to the run into the last Saturday in September.
By Andy Morris of Betfair