At the beginning of the season, next to no one would have thought it but the Brisbane Lions are in the box seat for their first minor premiership. What is going on?
The top eight is all but set but the South Australians will hope to have something to say about that as the exciting finish to the season ramps up.
Here are the big talking points from Round 22 of the AFL in 2019.
‘YOU ARE JOKING’: AFL WORLD ERUPTS
When you change the rules of the game it can blow up in your face and again this weekend it has done so to the AFL as twice in the classic between Richmond and West Coast, Jack Riewoldt was pinged for a studs up mark.
The first was midway through the second quarter and Riewoldt blew up deluxe.
“You are joking,” Riewoldt screamed at the referee.
The change in the rules was made due to controversial GWS star Toby Greene putting his studs up into an opponent’s chest last season but now umpires are calling it when players protect their space and launch from behind the pack — an no one is happy.
“You are joking … arghhhhh,” Riewoldt screamed at the umpire, while former Richmond star Matthew Richardson said on Fox Footy commentary. “They have to change this rule, it’s bad for footy.”
Collingwood president and commentator Eddie McGuire said the decision was not what the game needed.
“I was in the meeting when they came up with this rule and that’s not what it was designed for,” he said.
Richardson responded: “You don’t change a rule because one bloke does something one day, because of Toby Greene.”
On 3AW Football, Collingwood premiership captain Tony Shaw said it was “one of the worst calls I’ve seen”.
Wayne Carey said “our game is stuffed” if the AFL approved the studs-up decisions.
Social media also erupted to slam the ruling.
The lashing continued with Tigers coach Damien Hardwick demanding post match that the AFL brings in some “common sense”.
“I don’t think that’s what the rule was brought in for,” Hardwick told reporters at his press conference.
“If you don’t want high marks in the game, come on. I don’t think it’s a good look personally.
“At the end of the day, the rule was brought in for the guy who kicks someone in the head. The last time I looked, that player’s head wasn’t on his hamstring. Have some common sense.
“I didn’t know why we needed the rule in the first place to be honest, we seem to have a very reactive nature at stages. The game of AFL is so tough on these blokes. Don’t give them so many rules.”
LIONS’ REMARKABLE COMEBACK
The Brisbane Lions are on the verge of history — if they can beat the Richmond Tigers next week.
A one-point win over the Geelong Cats has the Lions on top of the ladder with one round left, setting up a blockbuster at the MCG to wrap up the regular season.
A win will hand the Lions their first ever minor premiership.
While the Lions have a poor record at the AFL’s showpiece venue, their win over the Cats sealed a remarkable top four spot.
The 2017 wooden spooners have ended a 10-year absence from the finals in style and veteran Luke Hodge has been given plenty of plaudits for how he has influenced the club.
On ABC’s Offsiders, veteran AFL journalist Caroline Wilson admitted the four-time premiership winner could add a fifth.
Kelli Underwood said Lions players speak about how nervous they were to “train alongside a player of that calibre”.
Former Australian cricketer Alex Blackwell said Hodge shows the mark of a true champion.
“There are good athletes out there but great athletes are able to be part of winning teams and bring young players along with them,” she said.
Wilson added: “And he’s committed to the place, he’s bought a house in Brisbane and will be a development coach there next season. He definitely won’t play but the way they’re looking at the moment, they’ll be hosting a final for the first time since the first season Michael Voss coached them. I think he could go out with another premiership and that would be one of the remarkable stories of the last two decades.”
‘ABSOLUTELY PATHETIC’: PORT PUNISHED
Former Port Adelaide star Kane Cornes rubbished his former side after a complete capitulation to North Melbourne.
Ben Brown kicked 10 goals to put the Power to the sword, as the first Kangaroos player to hit double figures since 1997.
The Kangaroos dominated the Power but it was a baffling result considering Port had it all to play for.
Sitting in eighth spot after round 21, the Power were anything but powerful in the 86-point loss, decimating their percentage and dropping the side to eleventh.
And playing the Kangaroos who had the lowest score ever recorded in the near-100 year history of the club last week, it was a shocking turn of events.
It leaves the side clinging to an outside hope of making the finals, needing the Hawks to lose to the Eagles and the Crows to beat the Bulldogs, while picking up two percentage points in their match against the Dockers.
Cornes slammed his former side, who laid down at Marvel Stadium.
“It was an absolutely pathetic performance from a side that could have pretty much sewn up eighth spot tonight,” he told AFL.com.au’s ‘The Round So Far’.
“They didn’t want to be there, which is a pretty strong thing to say about a football club.
“I think on the whole, up until this point, it’s been a reasonable year for Port Adelaide with the young players they’ve developed, considering the players that left in the off-season.
“Prior to this, I would’ve definitely given them a pass mark.
“Now, they still may make finals … but that was completely unacceptable tonight.
“They need to take a hard look at themselves, it was a player issue that they looked like they didn’t want to be there, they didn’t want to apply any pressure and North Melbourne were far too hungry around the footy.”
WHAT A FAREWELL PARTY
Retiring Hawthorn champion Jarryd Roughead booted six goals as the Hawks farewelled the star style with a 70-point smashing of hapless Gold Coast.
With former premiership teammates Luke Hodge, Jordan Lewis and Lance Franklin in attendance, 31,331 fans wildly applauded Roughead’s every move in Sunday’s emotion-charged 18.10 (118) to 7.6 (48) win.
But while it was almost certainly Roughead’s swan song in Melbourne, the four-time premiership star contributed well enough to suggest he might keep his spot for the round 23 clash with West Coast.
While he played like a youngster, the 32-year-old was feeling it after the day out.
“I’m cooked, I am absolutely cooked but I could not ask for a better day,” Roughead said.
“The game we had, the boys played unreal, hopefully I got a couple of good photos out of it.”
When it came to whether that was the last time Hawks fans would see him Roughead cracked a joke but he was chaired off the ground.
“You have to ask the top coach (Alastair Clarkson) — I’ll get him in a headlock later.”
There have been several emotional farewells this week, with the Dockers’ Hayden Ballantyne and Aaron Sandilands farewelling their home crowd together.
Carlton’s Dale Thomas also announced his retirement from the game after he was informed he wasn’t going to get a contract for 2020.
It adds to the avalanche of announcements we’ve already had and ABC’s Offsiders had a great farewell to some of the retiring stars.
— with AAP