They are well-drilled and disciplined in tight games, boasting three wins and a draw in matches decided by 10 points or fewer this season. However, there remains a vulnerability at stoppages; they rank ninth in scores from stoppages. The next six games will be a test of their top-four credentials, with challenging match-ups against Carlton, West Coast, Geelong, Collingwood, Melbourne, and Adelaide.

3. Geelong

The Cats started with an impressive seven-game winning streak, at times looking invincible. However, that form evaporated as they lost their next four, highlighting the weaknesses in their midfield and ruck division, which is among the league’s worst.

Geelong’s performances against top-eight sides have also been concerning, with just one win and three losses, including an alarming 64-point defeat to Gold Coast in round 11.

Coach Chris Scott has opted to rest many of his veteran players, with only eight players having played every game. Scott’s strategy tries to ensure that the team can regain fitness, form, and continuity leading up to September – if they qualify. The Cats face a tough run over the next six weeks, with games against Sydney, Carlton, Essendon, Hawthorn, Geelong, and the Western Bulldogs, putting their top-eight position at risk.

Geelong’s Ollie Henry is tackled.

Geelong’s Ollie Henry is tackled.Credit: Getty Images

4. Port Adelaide

The Power have endured an inconsistent, up-and-down season. Despite criticisms about their ability to beat the best teams, they have an impressive three wins and one loss against sides currently in the top eight.

The round seven and nine losses to Collingwood and Adelaide were disappointing, and injuries to captain Connor Rozee, forwards Sam Powell-Pepper, Ollie Lord, and Willie Rioli, as well as first-choice ruckman Ivan Soldo, have exposed a lack of depth.

Port Adelaide excel at scoring from stoppages, ranked third in the league, and they sit sixth for total points (1078) and 10th for points against (965), reflecting a well-balanced position. Their style of moving the ball with speed and daring is a strength but also leaves them vulnerable to scores against from turnovers, as seen in their recent loss to Carlton. The small to medium defenders, particularly Ryan Burton, Lachie Jones, and Miles Bergman, have been liabilities, which may force coach Ken Hinkley to move All-Australian half-back Darcy Byrne-Jones back to defence.

Standout players include Dan Houston, Zak Butters, and emerging superstar Jason Horne-Francis. However, the team should finish in the six-to-10 range, placing added pressure on Hinkley.

Carlton’s star forward Charlie Curnow.

Carlton’s star forward Charlie Curnow.Credit: AFL Photos

5. Carlton

The Blues are the team most likely to challenge Sydney for the flag. Their top-five players – Sam Walsh, Charlie Curnow, Jacob Weitering, Harry McKay, and Patrick Cripps – form the best core of any team.

Carlton excel at scoring from stoppages – ranked second in the league – and they have made significant improvements in scoring from opposition turnovers. They rank first in contested possessions and second in contested marks, thriving when the game is highly contested, which bodes well for big finals.

Coach Michael Voss is emerging as one of the game’s best, with strategic moves like positioning Zac Williams forward and utilising Alex Cincotta as a run-with player proving to be masterstrokes.

Voss has led his team to four victories by less than 10 points, highlighting how well-drilled they have become.

Only a lingering injury list and recurring soft-tissue issues could derail them from finishing inside the top four at the end of the home-and-away season.

6. Fremantle

The Dockers are in a commanding position, considering they entered the season with the second-youngest squad, behind only winless North Melbourne.

Fremantle have only lowered their colours twice this season: in round seven against rivals West Coast, and in round 10 when they lost to ladder-leaders Sydney by 48 points. Their other two losses have been close, by 10 points to Carlton and by three points to Port Adelaide.

They play a high-possession and high-marking game, ranking first for disposals (380 per game), handballs (165 per game), second for uncontested marks (93 per game), and third for short kicks (95 per game). Defender Luke Ryan leads the competition in kicks, while midfielders Caleb Serong and Andrew Brayshaw sit third and 16th for total disposals, though the duo have kicked just one and three goals, respectively. They also rank first in clearances winning 107 more than their direct opposition.

Coach Justin Longmuir has defended his decision to play both ruckmen Luke Jackson and Sean Darcy, despite Jackson’s form dropping across the five games Darcy has played.

The Dockers are capable of winning a final this year, which would be an outstanding result.

7. Greater Western Sydney

The Giants are another team struggling for consistency since their blistering start to the season, in which they were considered equal premiership favourites after round six. The Giants are eighth in scoring from stoppages and seventh in scoring from turnovers, areas they need to improve to push into the top six and have a chance at finishing inside the top four by season’s end.

Giants skipper Toby Greene.

Giants skipper Toby Greene.Credit: Getty Images

Key forward Jesse Hogan sits third in the race for the Coleman Medal with 31 goals, but they need more impact from small forwards Toby Bedford and Brent Daniels. All-Australian captain Toby Greene has returned to his devastating best in the last fortnight after a sluggish start to the season, an ominous sign for the rest of the league.


To secure a vital top-four position and keep their dream of a first premiership alive, GWS must win all six remaining home games.

8. Gold Coast

Despite being winless from four attempts away from home, it has been an impressive season for new coach Damien Hardwick and the Suns.

Gold Coast are sixth for points scored (1086) and fifth for points against (1000), with their round 11 smashing of Geelong one of the best performances from any side this year.

No team has generated more inside 50 entries (57.6 per game), but they sit 16th for marks inside 50 (10.1 per game), indicating that the connection between the midfielders and forwards can improve. Mids Matt Rowell and Noah Anderson are in All-Australian form, ranking second and eighth for clearances.

With games against lowly St Kilda, North Melbourne, West Coast, and Richmond remaining, there is no excuse for the Suns not to qualify for finals for the first time.

Collingwood young gun Nick Daicos.

Collingwood young gun Nick Daicos.Credit: AFL Photos

9. Collingwood

The reigning premiers started slowly, losing their first three games, intensifying questions about a premiership hangover. However, those concerns were put to bed over the following eight weeks as the Pies recorded six wins and two draws.


They are the fourth-most efficient side at generating scores per inside 50 (46.7 per cent) and they are the best tackling team in the league, with pressure remaining a standout feature of their game. Nick Daicos is on his way to a maiden Brownlow Medal and by season’s end will be universally recognised as the game’s best player, ranked second for clearances and fifth for score involvements.

Collingwood are still the kings of the close one, having won three games by 10 points or less. They are well-positioned to challenge Sydney for the premiership, provided they get some respite on the injury front.

10. Melbourne

Having won 59 of their last 81 games and securing the 2021 premiership, it has been a golden era for the Demons. However, it appears this era has come to an end.

The alarming 92-point loss to Fremantle last weekend, coupled with the loss to West Coast in round 11, ended any thoughts that this team is good enough to win the premiership this season.

Midfield-forward Christian Petracca and captain Max Gawn have been standouts, but the team is too reliant on them.

Steven May and Max Gawn celebrate a goal for the Demons.

Steven May and Max Gawn celebrate a goal for the Demons.Credit: Getty Images

Coach Simon Goodwin deploys a short-kicking, high-uncontested-mark style, but this strategy fails to generate enough inside 50s and goals – they sit 13th for inside 50s and average only 11 goals per game.

The team’s off-field drama, poor culture, and discipline issues are finally affecting their on-field performance.

11. Western Bulldogs

It’s a shock that a team with a list as strong as the Bulldogs sits in 11th after 12 games.

Coach Luke Beveridge has finally settled his line-up after experimenting with selection and positioning of his best players early in the year. The Bulldogs are the best stoppage team in the competition and sit fourth for total points scored.

Champion Data has captain Marcus Bontempelli rated as the second-best player in the league. With midfielders Tom Liberatore and Ed Richards returning to the line-up, they have the potential to make a late charge towards September.


12. Hawthorn

After losing the first five games, the Hawks are emerging as one of the most dangerous teams, winning five of their past seven games.

They have rectified early concerns around clearances, and the return of star midfielder Will Day has been crucial. However, they need to tighten up defensively, as they sit 15th for points against (1057).

Hawthorn are one of the most exciting teams to watch, emphasised by the freedom afforded high half-forwards Dylan Moore, Jack Ginnivan, and Connor McDonald. If Mitch Lewis can return in the short term and find form, Hawthorn can easily eclipse the eight games won in 2023 and continue to charge back into premiership contention in the next two seasons.

13. Brisbane Lions

Last year’s grand finalists are one of this year’s most disappointing teams. Too many highly regarded players, such as Cam Rayner, Joe Daniher, Charlie Cameron, and Eric Hipwood have had inconsistent and disappointing seasons.

The Lions’ injury list is long, and despite signs that their best is good enough, they are too far behind to make any meaningful inroads towards a decent finals run. Coach Chris Fagan and his team may need to shut up shop, send players in for surgery early, and prepare for a long pre-season and bounce-back year in 2025.

14. Adelaide

The Crows have become one of the biggest disappointments of 2024 after a promising campaign in 2023.

Adelaide are a high-possession team, ranking fifth for total disposals, but this has failed to translate into enough forward entries, where they sit 10th with 51.8 entries per game. The midfield combination gets a lot of the ball but is not damaging, a weakness highlighted by the loss of Izak Rankine in the past fortnight.

The drop-off in form of last year’s All-Australian forward Taylor Walker shows how reliant the side had become on him. The board prematurely extended coach Matthew Nicks’ contract for a further two seasons, but that won’t alleviate the pressure if these disappointing performances continue.

15. St Kilda

It’s hard to believe that they won 13 games last season and hosted an elimination final at the MCG. However, just 12 games on from that final, it is apparent that they are now a bottom-four side with few prospects in the coming years. There is a lack of A-grade talent and a void of players under the age of 23 to build the team around.


Under coach Ross Lyon, the Saints have become boring. They sit 15th for inside 50s (50.1 per game) and 17th for efficiency when the ball goes inside 50, scoring at just 40.9 per cent. Only North Melbourne, Richmond, and West Coast have scored fewer points this season.

It’s been a dark year, and the future looks bleak.

16. West Coast

The Eagles have recorded three impressive home wins against Richmond, Fremantle, and Melbourne, and are no longer the easy beats.

Senior players Elliot Yeo, Tom Barrass, and Jeremy McGovern have been excellent, while forward Jake Waterman (30 goals) is the league’s most improved player.

First-year player Harley Reid has made the team relevant again, captivating the competition like no other player in recent times. However, Reid will face extra attention from opposition teams when he returns from suspension, as he has shown vulnerability to tagging tactics.

If the Eagles can end the season with six wins, that would be a respectable outcome.

17. Richmond

Due to the injury crisis, the Tigers have been forced to use a competition-high 40 players this season and five debutants. The list management committee needs to make hard calls on players who lack durability and suffer from repeated injuries season upon season.


The Tigers were uncompetitive from rounds six to 11, highlighted by a 91-point loss to the Bulldogs followed by a 119-point loss to the Lions. New coach Adem Yze was too accepting of these efforts.

They have been more competitive in the last two games against Essendon and Geelong. However, the next five to seven seasons are likely to be filled with pain and disappointment as the club undertakes the rebuild they delayed for too long.

18. North Melbourne

It’s hard to find a single positive out of another disastrous year for the Kangaroos, and this Saturday is one of the few remaining opportunities for the side to get its first win.

The list rebuild has focused too heavily on recruiting midfielders and neglecting key defenders and key forwards, which will become a priority this off-season, while the senior players brought in from other clubs have failed to have an impact.

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