The minor rounds of one of the tightest AFL seasons ever have closed, with round 23 being integral in finalising the top eight. Here are four things we learned.
Adelaide Crows shot themselves in the foot
After being in scintillating form in recent weeks and with a top two spot up for grabs, everyone thought Adelaide would put in a decent performance on Friday night.
Instead, they were out played and out worked, and as a result slipped from second to fifth on the ladder.
They will now play in an elimination final rather than a qualifying one.
Adelaide was under tremendous pressure from West Coast the whole game, leading to many basic skills errors throughout the match, with West Coast capitalising on the turnovers.
With Rory Sloane suspended, Adelaide’s midfield looked exposed, their lack of speed showed as they were unable to keep up with the likes of Andrew Gaff (41 disposals) and Matthew Priddis (33).
History will now have to be made by Adelaide if they are to win the premiership, with no team ever winning from outside the top four in the current finals format.
Essendon had the perfect weekend
The weekend could not have been any better for Essendon, with a win to finish off the season but not enough of a percentage boost to move off the bottom of the ladder.
While Essendon’s first wooden spoon since 1933 does not sound great, the fact that they will have the number one draft pick will go a long way in setting up the future of the club.
With Jaeger O’Meara announcing he wants to leave Gold Coast for a Victorian club, Essendon is now in the box seat with the first pick in the preseason draft, and will potentially get him for nothing.
This just gives Essendon fans something else to be excited about.
Their win against Carlton showed how much their young talent has developed this year, with Joe Daniher kicking five goals and Zach Merrett breaking the record for most disposals in a season by an Essendon player being just two examples of this.
With majority of their suspended players returning, and a really strong culture developed this season, the future is looking bright.
It really has been one of the most successful three-win seasons in the competition’s history.
At 33, Nick Riewoldt is still at his best
The statistics from Nick Riewoldt’s game against Brisbane are extraordinary on their own.
An equal career best nine goals, 21 marks and 26 disposals are incredible numbers.
He also scored 200 AFL Fantasy points, the second highest score since 2000.
When you include the fact he is 33-years-old, it gets even better.
Despite being 16 seasons into his career, he does not look like slowing down, and with St Kilda being on the rise up the ladder he is the perfect leader for the club.
Even if he steps down as captain next season, it seems he will still be leading the club on the field.
Sydney and Geelong are in prime position
Sydney and Geelong could not have had a better final game before the finals, both absolutely thrashing their opponents.
Sydney embarrassed Richmond by 113 points, while the Cats demolished Melbourne by 111.
These wins secured the minor premiership for Sydney and sealed a top two finish for Geelong, but even better it was bruise-free football for both teams.
Their last game was basically a training run before their qualifying finals, and has set them up perfectly for their final assaults.
For Richmond and Melbourne it was reflective of their years.
Richmond has been a let down all year while Melbourne keeps taking steps forward before taking leaps backwards.
There should be no such games in the upcoming final series though, with the race to the 2016 premiership as open as over.
Written by Kirralee Thomas @kirralee_thomas