From Melbourne to West Coast — your AFL team’s position summed up in two lines

We’ve completed a third of the AFL season, and already we are getting close to clean air between the top eight and the rest.

But this season has already thrown up different challenges for different sides. Some are struggling to produce their best footy due to things not clicking, others have had big injuries, and others still have had their season upended by COVID.

Elsewhere there are three teams at the top who are functioning quite fluently, including the one that is a game clear on the ladder.

So how is YOUR team going after eight rounds? Let’s take a look at all 18 sides in two lines each — and there’s only one place to start.


What can be said that hasn’t already for the Demons — a 15-game winning streak, the best one-two midfield punch in the league with Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca, a dynamic ruck pairing of Max Gawn and Luke Jackson, and the scary sense that there are more gears to come.

Can they match the likes of Collingwood 2011 and St Kilda 2009 (20 wins in home and away) or even Geelong 2008 and Essendon 2000 (21 wins)? Perhaps — who’s going to stop them?


Andrew Brayshaw’s great choices and excellent disposal have helped the Dockers make the most of their chances. (Getty Images / AFL Photos: Will Russell)

The Dockers have surprised just about everyone, and are flying thanks to the quarterbacking of Andrew Brayshaw, the rucking and scoring ability of Sean Darcy, the contested ball-getting of Will Brodie and the best defence in the AFL — and they haven’t even had Nat Fyfe around yet.

Justin Longmuir’s men are primed for a huge run at the top four — and more — but they can’t afford any momentum-dragging losses leading into the bye.


An AFL player puffs his cheeks out as he runs, readying himself to kick the ball while a defender dives at him from behind.
The Lions already have plenty of avenues to goal, but Hugh McCluggage is taking up some of the slack in the absence of Joe Daniher.(Getty Images: Bradley Kanaris)

The big plus for Brisbane in 2022 has been the balance — the Lions have always had an exciting attack, but having Dayne Zorko directing play off half-back has been a key switch early on.

The biggest concern for Brisbane is whether Joe Daniher’s shoulder can avoid another sub-lux when he returns — but with Lachie Neale back to his elite best and Hugh McCluggage adding crucial goals to his set-up skills, the Lions have a formidable set of attacking weapons, and a prelim looks like the starting point.


Charlie Curnow of Carlton pumps his fist in celebration of a goal against Adelaide
Charlie Curnow is second in the Coleman medal and is giving Carlton another serious target alongside Harry McKay.(Getty Images / AFL Photos: Michael Willson)

For all the chat about new recruits like Adam Cerra and George Hewett, it’s the full return of three existing players — Patrick Cripps, Charlie Curnow and Sam Docherty — that has been the big lift for the Blues in 2022.

If the clearance game and delivery to Curnow and Harry McKay stays strong, the finals drought dating back to 2013 will finally be broken for the Blues. 


Jeremy Cameron of Geelong raises his finger in the air while celebrating a goal against GWS
Jeremy Cameron (right) and Tom Hawkins are a hard combination to stop for teams defending against the Cats.(Getty Images / AFL Photos: Mark Metcalfe)

Spirits are high at Geelong after the demolition of the Giants, and the tandem of Jeremy Cameron and Tom Hawkins up forward is proving a stiff test for everyone — but it has been an up-and-down year for the Cats so far.

Chris Scott and his team went back to basics to shut down GWS, but if the old, familiar grinding game style from previous years returns, then the old, familiar question will still be there later in the year — will it work in finals?

Sydney Swans

A Gold Coast AFL player holds the ball in front of him as he runs while a Sydney player dives to try and  stop him.
Sydney lost contested possessions by 15 in the Swans’ shock loss to Gold Coast at the SCG.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

The Swans’ apparent upward trajectory has hit a couple of obstacles — the Lions result might have been expected but the loss to the Suns was not.

The pieces are there for a proper run at the finals — when the Sydney attack is humming it is capable of overwhelming sides — but the Swans need to address the issues in stoppage clearances and contested possessions that have been visible particularly in the last fortnight.

St Kilda

A group of AFL players surround a full-forward after he scores a goal during a match.
Max King is St Kilda’s main goal threat, and the big full-forward shows no signs of stopping in 2022.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

After eight rounds in 2021, St Kilda was 11th, with a percentage of 82.7 — a year on, the Saints are making strides with seventh spot on the ladder, one extra win and a percentage 35 higher.

Despite losses to the Power and Demons, St Kilda are building nicely with the three Jacks — Higgins, Steele and Sinclair — and forward focal point Max King giving the Saints a strong hand in the race to make finals for what would be only the second time in 11 seasons. 


Maurice Rioli gathers the ball in a contest against Liam Duggan of the Eagles
Maurice Rioli Jr’s exciting brand of play has been a solid addition to the Richmond side in recent weeks.(Getty Images: Paul Kane)

Tom Lynch is monstering defences, Dusty Martin is back on the park, and Maurice Rioli Jr’s entree to AFL is both strengthening the Tigers’ links with one of the great football dynasties and also fitting in with the kind of high-pressure, dynamic game that is Richmond at its best.

So things are on the improve at Tigerland — but let’s wait for the three games either side of the bye (Sydney R11, Port Adelaide R13, Carlton R14) to get a sense of where this team is really at.


A Collingwood AFL player celebrates a goal against Essendon on Anzac Day.
It hasn’t all been perfect for Collingwood in 2022, but one clear reason for celebration is the arrival of excitement machine Jack Ginnivan.(Getty Images/AFL Photos: Dylan Burns)

The Craig McRae era has started well at Collingwood, with the team playing an attack-focused game that is pleasing to the eye and has got early wins on the scoreboard.

The Magpies remain a work in progress, and medium- to long-term injuries to Brodie Grundy and Jamie Elliott aren’t helping — but there’s no disguising the excitement of talents like Nick Daicos and Jack Ginnivan, and even if finals might be a step too far for 2022, the future looks bright for the Pies.

Western Bulldogs

A group of dejected AFL players walk off the ground after a loss.
The Bulldogs have gone from a grand final appearance to struggling to make the eight in 2022.(Getty Images / AFL Photos: James Elsby )

The Bulldogs in 2022 have been like a high-performance sports car with a misfiring engine — the absence of Josh Bruce has hurt up forward, skipper Marcus Bontempelli is struggling physically, the back six is being shredded with opposition marks inside 50, and the injury list has just had a few new entries, including forward Cody Weightman.

We’ve had a few recent examples of grand finalists who miss finals the following year — Richmond 2021, GWS 2020, Adelaide 2018 — and there are big danger signs that Western Bulldogs might add to the list.

Port Adelaide

Todd Marshall celebrates a goal with his Port Adelaide Power teammates
Marks inside 50 matter for Power forwards like Todd Marshall — in wins against the Eagles and Bulldogs the team averaged 20, overall they average 11 a game.(Getty Images / AFL Photos: James Elsby)

When Ken Hinkley spoke to the media at 0-5 and said teams could lose five games in a row and still make finals, most people shook their heads.

It’s still an uphill task for the men from Alberton, but if results go on form, the Power could be back to 5-6 going into the bye — if they can keep improving their supply to Jeremy Finlayson and Todd Marshall up forward (and get Charlie Dixon back on the park) the season will start to look a lot brighter.


A Hawthorn AFL player stretches his arms above his head to grab the ball with his eyes closed while players watch.
Dylan Moore has averaged 20 possessions and 6.5 marks a game for Hawthorn in 2022.(Getty Images / Robert Cianflone )

The old saying “a change is as good as a rest” could be applied to Hawthorn this season under new coach Sam Mitchell. The Hawks have looked invigorated, and wins over Port Adelaide and Geelong — not to mention holding the Demons to a 10-point margin — showed positive signs.

Some pieces of the puzzle — like Dylan Moore, Mitch Lewis and Jai Newcombe — appear to be in place, but a tough loss to the Bombers is a reminder of what stage the Hawks are at, and with Richmond, Brisbane and Fremantle up in the next five weeks, it’s a difficult period ahead.   

Gold Coast

An AFL full-forward pumps his fist in delight after kicking a goal, while a defender looks on despondently.
Levi Casboult’s big marking and two goal per game average has been more than valuable for the Suns in 2022.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

A cursory glance at the ladder might suggest business as usual at Gold Coast, but they are playing better than results suggest with their more direct style — the excellent win over the Swans showed the season doesn’t have to end for them after round four each year.

The impact of Ben King’s absence cannot be underestimated, but Levi Casboult is proving to be an inspired addition, Izak Rankine is beginning to hit form and while Jarrod Witts is tapping to Touk Miller, Noah Anderson and co, the Suns have more than a few winnable games on the way.


An Adelaide AFL player stands staring downfield with hands on hips after a loss for his team.
The Crows have had some good results this year, but bad losses to GWS and Carlton have taken the wind out of their sails.(Getty Images / AFL Photos: Michael Willson)

This season has already seen a few revivals from teams, and Matthew Nicks’ Crows are one of the surprise ones — already they have three exciting wins and a narrow round-one loss to the Dockers that looks better and better in hindsight.

The longer things go, however, the more it seems they faced teams like the Tigers and Bulldogs at the right time — thumpings by GWS and Carlton suggest preseason predictions that had Adelaide finishing between 16th and 18th might be close to the mark.


Coach of the GWS Giants Leon Cameron looks exasperated as he addresses his players
Coach Leon Cameron’s future is dominating conversation from outside the club — and the lack of early wins has just increased the focus.(Getty Images / AFL Photos: James Elsby)

For GWS, this 2022 season is being overshadowed by the unanswered question of coach Leon Cameron’s future — so far the team’s travails point to his tenure ending after a decade.

The Giants’ average margin in their six losses is 39.5 points, and while Toby Greene’s return from suspension has made a difference, scoring remains a struggle with a goals-to-inside-50 ratio of 1:5, when the top teams are 1:4. 


Peter Wright lines up for goal while playing for the Essendon Bombers
Ex-Sun Peter Wright has been great for the Bombers, highlighted by a six-goal haul against Hawthorn.(Getty Images / AFL Photos: Dylan Burns)

The win over Hawthorn may have given some hope to the Bombers after a tough start to 2022, and stories like Peter Wright (third in the Coleman medal) and mature-age sensation Nic Martin have been big positives for the club.

A lot of questions remain, however, on the future of players like Dylan Shiel, on coach Ben Rutten, and whether a defence that is giving up an average of 102 points a game is capable of keeping them in the contest week in, week out. The next half-dozen games could be pivotal.

North Melbourne

An AFL coach looks at a magnet board as he speaks to players at quarter-time during a match.
The challenge doesn’t get any easier for coach David Noble and his Kangaroos, who have only one win on the board in 2022.(Getty Images / AFL Photos: Daniel Carson)

Life has not been easy at Arden Street — 30 games into the rebuild, coach David Noble’s record is five wins, one draw and 24 losses.

This season, the Kangaroos’ only win has been against the Eagles at the height of the COVID issues in the west — the last four weeks have seen losses of 68, 60, 50 and 80 points, and with Port Adelaide, Melbourne and St Kilda next up, it’s hard to see things easing up soon. 

West Coast

A West Coast Eagles player drops the ball to take a kick for goal during a match. to
Liam Ryan has been one of West Coast’s best sources of goals in a very tough opening to the season for the Eagles.(Getty Images / AFL Photos: Daniel Carson)

The injuries, the COVID avalanche, the nightclub outings, the declining leaders, the repeated need for top-up players, the stats that are down across the board — it’s been a perfect storm for the Eagles this season.

There are occasional positives, like Jeremy McGovern still picking off attacks in the backline and the thrill of watching Liam Ryan in action — but if you’re averaging eight goals a game and conceding 16, the road back is a long and painful one.

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