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A grand outdated flag is there for the taking as Melbourne enters the closing spherical of the home-and-away season on the AFL ladder’s highest rung.

The final time the Demons completed the common rounds on high was 1964, when additionally they gained their final premiership.

While Simon Goodwin’s aspect dropped video games to struggling Adelaide and Collingwood throughout a mini mid-season lull, they have constantly handled the league’s extra achieved sides.

Grandstand AFL knowledgeable and premiership-winning Magpie, Luke Ball, believes Melbourne has confirmed to be the competitors’s most constant performer.

“The gap between their best and worst has been the shortest out of any team throughout the season,” he mentioned.

“If they go on and finish top they will have absolutely earned it, but then we know it is a new season after that.”

To clinch the minor premiership in the closing spherical, the Demons should overcome Geelong, a aspect they beat by 25 factors in spherical 4.

That win kinds a part of a powerful record of triumphs. Melbourne has additionally recorded victories over each different workforce presently occupying a spot in the eight.

The Giants (spherical 16) and Bulldogs (spherical 19) every gained their second assembly with the Dees this season.

Round 23 shapes as an impressive finals appetiser, with the present high 4 to play quasi-qualifying finals. In addition to the top-two conflict between Melbourne and Geelong, third-placed Port Adelaide faces the fourth-placed Western Bulldogs.

At the different finish of the eight, two spots are nonetheless up for grabs with 4 sides in competition. Greater Western Sydney (42 factors, 98.9 per cent) climbed to seventh after a spirited victory that lastly ended the sputtering season of the reigning premier Richmond.

Essendon (40 factors, 107.2 per cent) entered the eight with a convincing win over Gold Coast, whereas West Coast (40 factors, 94.9 per cent) and Fremantle (40 factors, 89 per cent) are additionally nonetheless in the working.

An Essendon forward wheels with the ball in his hands, as a Gold Coast midfielder tries to go after him.
The Bombers’ huge win over the Suns lifted them into the high eight.(

Getty Images: Robert Cianflone

)

The Dockers boosted their personal claims whereas additional diminishing these of their West Australian rival with a first Derby victory since April 2015.

In spherical 23, the Giants are scheduled to play Carlton at Docklands, Essendon faces Collingwood at the MCG, West Coast performs Brisbane at the Gabba and the Dockers meet St Kilda at Docklands.

Times and venues are nonetheless to be formally confirmed.

‘Worrying’ indicators for Bulldogs

Round 22 was additional trigger for concern for one among the flag favourites. During the bulk of the 2021 AFL season, the Western Bulldogs have regarded a contender, displaying a few of the most damaging and thrilling soccer of any workforce in the competitors.

With 15 wins from their first 19 video games, the Dogs established a place from which to launch an assault on the premiership. But a horror fortnight has jeopardised all that good work.

Critically, the competitors’s premier midfield has been blunted.

Former Tiger and Giant Brett Deledio believes it’s a large concern for Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge with just one spherical till the finals.

“I think that is the part that would be worrying Luke Beveridge, that they’ve been so well beaten, especially from centre clearances,” he advised ABC Sport.

“The Dons put them to the sword last week and now the Hawks, who were missing Jaeger O’Meara, one of their key centre takeaway players.

“I’d be very nervous if I used to be a Dogs supporter.”

A group of dejected Western Bulldogs players leave the ground in Launceston after a loss to the Hawks.
The Bulldogs’ loss to Hawthorn means their spot in the top four is not guaranteed ahead of the finals.(

AAP: Rob Blakers

)

When the Bulldogs’ confidence is high, the ball moves quickly through slick handball chains and damaging field kicking. It is ‘blink and you’ll missed it’ kind of stuff.

But Hawthorn successfully put the brakes on, and — as noted by Grandstand AFL expert commentator Adam Ramanauskas — the Hawks took the ball wide and controlled the tempo.

“Slow the sport down … that is the blueprint, what Hawthorn have simply proven different golf equipment,” Ramanauskas said.

In the final round the Bulldogs face the Power, who also thrive on the need for speed and enjoy a ‘helter skelter’ style of play.

If the Bulldogs win, they secure a top-four finish. 

If they lose, they could relinquish their spot to Brisbane. It is a match with massive consequences.

Clarkson still at his best

Saturday afternoon was yet another masterclass from the master coach Alastair Clarkson, the type of victory that has defined his storied 17-season tenure.

Post football, Clarkson could easily slip into a career as an architect or an orchestra conductor, such is his meticulous attention to detail and ability to hit the right note. Just do not let him near a guitar.

Clarkson, a revered figure with four premierships in his keeping, has somehow further elevated his reputation in the past three weeks, as the rebuilding Hawks claimed superb wins over Brisbane, Collingwood and the Bulldogs.

To see Clarkson’s reaction on the ground and in the rooms in Launceston offered an insight into his undiminished energy and enthusiasm for football. The pursuit of excellence still drives him.

The Hawthorn AFL senior coach looks to his left while walking on the ground at the MCG.
Alastair Clarkson is displaying he has not misplaced any of his brilliance as a coach.(

AAP: Richard Wainwright

)

That Hawthorn’s win was achieved without O’Meara, James Worpel, Luke Breust, Jack Gunston, James Sicily and exciting young defenders Will Day and Denver Grainger-Barras only added to its magnitude.

It also makes the Hawks’ decision to part ways with Clarkson all the more perplexing. In engineering the coaching handover to a favourite son, Sam Mitchell, the club’s hierarchy — including president Jeff Kennett — has taken the boldest of punts.

Mitchell’s inheritance is looking increasingly prosperous, but with that comes the burden of expectation and the biggest of football boots to fill.

A masterful move, or the ‘Kennett curse’ 2.0?

Only time will inform.

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