Round 13 was certainly a long one. Geelong’s win over Port Adelaide feels like it happened a month ago and the nature of the bye rounds left chasms between games.
For the most part, the matches themselves delivered, with five tight contests, one big upset on Friday night … and, well, whatever Fremantle versus Gold Coast was.
Here’s what we learned from Round 13:
1. Geelong at full strength might be the team to beat
Geelong came into this weekend with eight wins despite missing key players and not really finding their best form until recently.
The early groundwork puts them in a strong position now that they have Jeremy Cameron up and running, as well as Patrick Dangerfield, Mark Blicavs and Mitch Duncan back from injury.
Not to mention Cam Guthrie is another All-Australian piece to slot back in soon.
The Cats fronted up to the daunting task of taking on Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval and did so despite the state’s ridiculous quarantine restrictions. In the end, they won comfortably.
Now they host the Western Bulldogs in another big test. They might just finish next weekend premiership favourites in the eyes of many.
2. Adelaide is overstocked in key forwards
Riley Thilthorpe is everything you would want from a key forward taken at pick two in the draft.
He has kicked 16 goals in eight games and has experts like Kane Cornes ready to stamp him in for the next decade.
Taylor Walker is currently in the middle of a late-career renaissance and might have another year or two left in him.
After those two, the Crows have a glut of key forward talent and probably only one spot for them.
How does Adelaide fit Darcy Fogarty, Elliott Himmelberg and Billy Frampton into this team? Particularly if Thilthorpe develops into the secondary ruckman.
One of the players above may best served finding opportunities elsewhere. Perhaps at the team below.
3. Collingwood has the pieces to rebound quickly
The Nathan Buckley era at Collingwood is over and a new one will soon begin.
Whoever does take the reins at the Magpies next year will have a lot to work with.
Collingwood has a strong core of players in their prime in Darcy Moore, Jordan De Goey, Jamie Elliott, Taylor Adams, Brayden Maynard, Brody Mihocek and Jack Crisp.
Underneath them the Pies have quite a few youngsters who have almost all shown they have what it takes at AFL level.
Josh Daicos is a proven commodity, as is Isaac Quaynor. Then you have Caleb Poulter, Trent Bianco, Beau McCreery, Will Kelly, Nathan Murphy, Jay Rantall, Ollie Henry, Reef McInnes and Max Lynch, with Nick Daicos on the way.
The next coach of Collingwood has a lot to work with and veteran leaders to oversee the next era in Scott Pendlebury, Steele Sidebottom and Jeremy Howe.
A ready-made key forward appears to be the primary hole they should address in the upcoming trade period.
4. Hawthorn has their backline sorted for the next decade
Hawthorn believes they only need to hit two more drafts in order to rebound back up the ladder and honestly who are we to doubt the most successful team of the millennium.
The Hawks have some work to do in the midfield and forward of the ball, but they can be confident in what they’re building in defence.
Jarman Impey, Changkuoth Jiath and Will Day are all outstanding run-and-carry defenders and will be on the magnet board for a long time.
Jack Scrimshaw has had a strong season as the third intercept marking tall and Denver Grainger-Barras is likely their long-term key defensive option. Blake Hardwick is also as reliable as they come in the back pocket.
Of course, we haven’t seen Grainger-Barras yet, but they would hope their top draftee from 2020 can be their full back of the future.
5. This year’s finals series is going to be awesome
If we work under the assumption that the top eight won’t change from here, the machinations are already fascinating.
There’s a lot of water left to go under the bridge, but let’s also assume that the top four will remain as is (in any order). As will places five through eight, also in any order.
We saw what West Coast and Richmond are capable of on Sunday night in a high-stakes game and both teams will likely get key soldiers back before the end of the year.
You would not want to be the side that finishes fifth and has to host an Elimination Final against the teams that have shared the last four premierships.
Similarly, you also would not want to lose a Qualifying Final and then face straight sets elimination against the Tigers.
The storyline shaping up ahead of September are already fascinating:
Melbourne and the Bulldogs have been the teams to beat to this point of the season, Geelong flexed its might at full strength on Thursday, Brisbane has maintained its form of the last two years, Port Adelaide has something to prove against the best teams and Sydney is here ahead of time and has nothing to lose.
Regardless, the six teams above will sleep better if they can avoid the Richmond or West Coast matchup in September.