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Aussie Rules: What we learnt from the weekend

Round 21 of the AFL is done and dusted with Geelong continuing to lead the way while there were also big wins for Collingwood, Sydney, Fremantle and Brisbane.

There are just two rounds of the home and away season remaining and it is building up to be a very exciting finish before we head into the finals campaign.

Geelong continue to set the pace as their convincing victory over St Kilda leaves them four points clear at the top of the ladder and within touching distance of the minor premiership.

However it is Collingwood who have now emerged as the biggest threat after they defeated Melbourne in a huge game at the MCG on Friday night.

Fremantle bounced back in fine style with an impressive win over the Western Bulldogs, while the Sydney Swans jumped back into the top four with a win over North Melbourne.

The Brisbane Lions picked up a crucial win over Carlton and are still in contention to make the top-four.

Richmond managed to hang on to eighth spot with a good win against Port Adelaide at the Adelaide Oval. But their lead remains a slender two points over St Kilda.

It was another exciting weekend, but as the dust starts to settle, what did we learn?

The reigning premiers continue to stutter

Melbourne were in the early stages of an unbeaten run this time last year, a run that would see them go on and win the premiership.

However they lost their third game in five when losing to Collingwood by seven points on Friday night and a worrying trend is emerging.

On five occasions this season they have lost games despite holding a 20-point lead at one point. The fade-outs are a big concern as the Demons look to secure a top-four spot before going on to defend their crown. They are 14/5 to win the grand final.

They remain in third place but Fremantle in sixth are only two points behind. Melbourne have tough games against Carlton and Brisbane to come and the top four is by no means guaranteed.

The fade-outs will be addressed again this week as Demons star Jake Lever knows how important it is to make the top four.

"It's obviously pretty important, I think the history suggests that, but the good thing is it's in our own hands," Lever said. "If we win the next two we finish top four, so that's super important for us.”

The race for the top four is on

Finishing in the top four is crucial to your chances of going on to win the grand final. It is rare a side finish outside of the top four and go on to win the flag.

The Western Bulldogs in 2016 were the last team to do it. No surprise then that teams are desperate to get in there.

Leaders Geelong have top spot and the minor premiership in the bag but there are three places still up for grabs with five teams battling for them.

Collingwood are looking good as they sit second with a four-point gap from Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. Then come Fremantle a further two points behind.

It is the Dockers who have the best run home and should win both games against West Coast Eagles and GWS, which would give them a great chance of squeezing in. Freo are 5/4 to make the top four.

Melbourne and Brisbane have to play each other, while Sydney have to play Collingwood. One thing is for certain, the race for the eight is going right to the wire.

Carlton in desperate need of a win

Carlton’s slide down the ladder continued with a defeat against the Brisbane Lions on Sunday and their place in the eight remains under threat.

They sit in seventh place just one win ahead of St Kilda in ninth. Richmond are sandwiched in between in eighth.

To make sure of their place in finals, which would end a nine-year drought, they need to win one of the last two games. But that will be far from easy as they face Melbourne next and then Collingwood.

The Blues will not want to rely on other results going their way, but may have to. St Kilda face Brisbane and Sydney and winning those two will be a tall order for Brett Ratten’s side.

Richmond have found some form with back-to-back wins and will fancy their chances of winning the last two games against Hawthorn and Essendon.

So to make sure of a spot in finals, Carlton need to get it done themselves. They are priced at 2/7 to make finals.

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