Essendon and St Kilda were knocked out of the AFL finals series over the weekend while Geelong and Collingwood have earned themselves a week’s rest after narrowly beating lesser opponents.
Eight days after suffering a hideous flogging by Geelong, Coll-ingwood again looked wobbly on their home turf against West Coast on Saturday, winning by just 20 points – a conservative margin by their standards.
Hawthorn remain in the race with their second chance after losing to Geelong by a respectable 31 points in a fierce contest that saw champion Luke Hodge and his minions unable to hold off the consistency and depth of the rampaging Cats across the entire ground.
But the Hawks could be severely hampered by the loss of star forward Buddy Franklin when they face off with Sydney at home after Franklin went down with a knee injury late in their Friday match.
Carlton, meanwhile, have steamrolled their way into the next round, reversing poor form towards the end of the season with a devastating annihilation of arch-rivals Essendon yesterday.
Despite an effective negation role by Heath Hocking on the Blues’ champion captain Chris Judd, Carlton tore the Bombers to pieces in the second and third quarters, capitalising on the relentless ball-gathering of midfielder Marc Murphy and the dominance of ruckman Robby Warnock.
Essendon’s early lead amounted to little once Carlton’s speedsters such as Chris Yarran and Jeff Garlett started finding the ball, moving around opponents with ease.
Forwards Andrew Walker, Bret Thornton, Eddie Betts and Setanta O’Hailpin and Garlett made it count on the scoreboard, with Thorton impressing in contested marks and Walker kicking with lethal accuracy to take home three goals.
Garlett also kicked with superb accuracy, booting three goals while Betts amassed a total of four with his creative baulking and weaving.
The Blues now face a formidable West Coast team at their home pitch on the other side of the country, but will be buoyed by the successful return of fullback Michael Jamison and other potential inclusions of centre half forward Jarred Waite and star ruckman Matthew Kreuzer.
AFL Finals Results
Friday September 9
Geelong 98 Hawthorns 67
Saturday September 10
Collingwood 82 West Coast 62
St Kilda 57 Sydney 82
Sunday September 11
Carlton 149 Essendon 87