The race for the 2022 AFL premiership has never been tighter with just four points separating the top five teams and round 15 produced some classic encounters. So what did we learn?
The round got underway with Melbourne moving clear at the top of the ladder with a 117-53 demolition of fellow flag hopefuls Brisbane on Thursday night.
Carlton beat Fremantle by 31 points at the MCG, while Geelong edged out Richmond by just three points. Collingwood continue to look good for finals after they defeated Greater Western Sydney by 11 points.
In the final game of the round Port Adelaide kept alive their finals hopes and put a dent in the Gold Coast’s at the same time thanks to a thrilling two-point win.
Elsewhere the West Coast Eagles finally snapped their mammoth losing streak by beating Essendon, the Bulldogs beat Hawthorn with ease, while Sydney also crushed St Kilda by 51 points.
North Melbourne’s season continues to go from bad to worse following a 115-58 loss against Adelaide.
So what five things can we take away from the round.
Melbourne are far from finished
The reigning premiers are priced at 9/5 to go back-to-back and win the 2022 grand final and they are back in business following a tough few weeks.
Melbourne were flying after winning 17 games on the bounce, including the 2021 grand final, but it looked as though the wheels may have come off following three defeats on the spin.
Fremantle, Sydney and Collingwood had put them to the sword, while there were also big issues away from the pitch with dressing room bust ups making the headlines.
They have not been helped by injuries either with star ruckman Max Gawn facing a spell out.
The Demons needed a response against Brisbane and got just that as they cruised to a 64 point win over a Lions side that have hopes of winning the grand final.
The win proves that despite all the talk of unrest, Melbourne are a united group and are far from done. Indeed all the off-field issues could have brought them even closer together.
The race for the premiership is wide open
Melbourne may be top of the ladder but only four points separate the top five teams. It proves the race to win the premiership is wide open and a case can be made for one of seven sides winning it.
Geelong, Brisbane, Fremantle and Carlton are all on 40 points and have shown on their day they are capable of winning the big games.
Sydney and Collingwood are also coming up strongly from behind, and last season’s grand final runners-up, the Western Bulldogs, make up the eight.
It will all come down to who can peak at the right time, but it is really hard to pick a winner at this stage of the season.
David Noble likely to be heading for the exit door
The North Melbourne coach is under huge pressure as the Kangaroos prop up the rest of the ladder following just one win all season. That came against a severely depleted and struggling West Coast Eagles side.
Following the defeat against Adelaide, the club have announced a review will take place on the entire footy department and that does not bode well for Noble.
The coach was brought in to lead the re-build, but if anything it could be argued that North Melbourne have gone backwards. Under Noble they have won just five games out of 36 and it looks like a change in coach is imminent.
St Kilda are dropping like a stone
Another man under pressure is Saints coach Brett Ratten. St Kilda were seen as a genuine top-four contender not that long ago.
However three defeats on the spin have seen them drop out of the top eight and they now face a real battle to get back there and play finals this season. They are priced at 15/8 to make the top eight.
They also have a challenging end to the season so it is not looking good. Ratten is also out of contract at the end of the season and it remains to be seen if he will be offered a new one.
Carlton are genuine flag contenders
The Blues put in their best performance of the season when beating fellow high-flyers Fremantle on Saturday with coach Michael Voss describing it as a ‘signature win’.
Carlton are on course for their first finals appearance in nine years but if they keep improving at the same rate they have to be seen as potential premiership winners. They are priced at 12/1 to win the grand final.