AFL – Four into two: Top 8 battle heats up

With two games to go in the home-and-away season, four clubs are fighting for the remaining two spots inside the AFL Top 8.

This season’s Top 8, compared with 2021, has already been subject to major shifts. Last year’s finalists Port Adelaide, GWS and Essendon are already out of contention to return in 2022, as Collingwood and Fremantle are already guaranteed a return to September action. But, with two games to go, there’s still spots up for grabs. Two, in fact, with four clubs scrapping to either remain inside or force their way in.

We assess all four, and their upcoming fortnight.

Richmond ($1.11 to make the AFL Top 8)

Run home

  • Round 22 vs. Hawthorn (MCG)
  • Round 23 vs. Essendon (MCG)

At 42 points down to Brisbane in Round 20, Richmond’s season looked all but done. A stunning comeback in that clash, then a dominant win over Port Adelaide in Round 21, has put Damien Hardwick’s side in the box seat to return to finals action. With games against Hawthorn and Essendon to come — both of which they’re likely to start favourites in — wins in both guarantees a September berth. One win could easily see them through, too, but would rely on St Kilda not winning both of their final two games.

Carlton ($1.36 to make the AFL Top 8)

Run home

  • Round 22 vs. Melbourne (MCG)
  • Round 23 vs. Collingwood (MCG)

After bursting out of the blocks to go 8-2, Carlton looked for all money that they’d return to the AFL Finals for the first time since 2013. Even a fortnight ago, Michael Voss’ side had shortened into $1.04 Top 8 hopes with Palmerbet. But things have gone awry. Two further defeats have made things considerably more nervy. The Blues have games against the Pies and Dees to come (both currently inside the Top 4); clashes in which they will likely start as underdogs in. One win would seal it, but two defeats sees them relying on other results to squeeze in.

Western Bulldogs ($3.25 to make the AFL Top 8)

Run home

  • Round 22 vs. GWS Giants (Marvel Stadium)
  • Round 23 vs. Hawthorn (UTAS Stadium)

Carlton’s stuttering finish to 2022 has opened up the door for the Dogs to sneak into the Top 8, but Luke Beveridge’s men blew the perfect chance to narrow the gap with a hugely disappointing loss to the Dockers at home in Round 21. It leaves them needing victory in both of their final two games, and relying on the Blues to trip up against both Melbourne and Collingwood. However many aren’t seeing the sequence of events as impossible. In fact, the Dogs are only out to $3.25 to make the Top 8. Victory this week against the Giants could make things very, very interesting.

St Kilda ($6.00 to make the AFL Top 8)

Run home

  • Round 22 vs. Brisbane Lions (Marvel Stadium)
  • Round 23 vs. Sydney Swans (Marvel Stadium)

Like the Blues, St Kilda burst out of the blocks in 2022 and at one stage were 8-3. At that point, Brett Ratten’s men were $1.25 hopes of returning to the AFL Finals after missing out in 2021. But things have gone awry since, and the Saints have lost six of their last nine. At this stage, they don’t look a finals side and will need something special to squeeze in. Despite sitting four points ahead of the Dogs, they’re at longer odds due to both a poor percentage (just 101.1) and a tougher draw to come. They’ll need to win against both the Lions and Swans, and rely on either a) Carlton losing both of their last two games OR b) Richmond winning just one of their final two clashes.