At this stage, as Round 9 looms, 12 teams are right in the race to be playing in the finals.
Melbourne – with the game against Essendon in hand – Sydney and Hawthorn are only six points behind eighth placed Collingwood and ninth placed Richmond but they will need to lift dramatically if they are to come into contention.
That is particularly the case with the Swans and Hawks, who have low percentages.
Although the outcome of matches has been quite unpredictable so far this year, the situation should be much clearer by the time Round 12 is completed on August 17.
The first of the concertinaed four rounds of matches commences with the clash between the Western Bulldogs and Richmond at Metricon Stadium on Wednesday night.
The Bulldogs go into the encounter with a five win-three loss record after defeating the Gold Coast by five points.
Marcus Bontempelli, who has endured considerable criticism this season, was superb in the midfield after starting in attack.
It is reasonable to say Bontempelli’s strong, leaping mark in the last minute was a match saver and he effectively silenced those who have been critical of him.
Another very pleasing factor was the return to the form of Easton Wood that had resulted in him taking mark-after-mark in defence in earlier seasons.
Coach Luke Beveridge says he is now “looking forward to playing a really good side” in Richmond but his Bulldogs will certainly be tested.
The defending premiers have four wins, three losses and a draw with Collingwood so far and will be desperate to show that they are again a force.
The Tigers were unable to handle the mercurial Toby Greene and were lamentable when kicking for goal – they scored 6.14 – in the 12-point loss to Greater Western Sydney,
Frustratingly the much talented pair of Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt are not paying dividends for Richmond in attack, which is becoming an increasing problem for the side and the selectors.
Coach Damien Hardwick said his players must continue to “hang tough” as the season progresses and they will be attempting to show this attitude against the Bulldogs.
Obviously much is going to depend on the efforts of Bontempelli, who seems to be troubled by a problem with his right hip, and Dusty Martin, who was his side’s best player against the Giants.
The odds might just be in Martin’s favour.
The Suns – a team most followers of the game would like to reach the finals – now go into a crucial clash with the Giants at Metricon Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
Both sides have incentive and, possibly, Gold Coast will be able to prove the club has a superior team to the ones to wear the red and gold jumpers in recent seasons.
Port Adelaide – still far from convincing as league leaders – has a golden opportunity to bounce back after the last quarter thumping from St Kilda against Melbourne at Metricon Stadium on Thursday night.
The “match of the round” comes up on Saturday night at Optus Stadium when West Coast hosts Geelong.
The Eagles, now on an upsurge after returning home to Perth, should win.
Last Week Tipped: 6
2020 Total: 36
Richmond by 10pts
Port Adelaide by 15pts
Carlton by 27pts
Brisbane Lions by 22pts
North Melbourne by 7pts
St. Kilda by 31pts
West Coast by 25pts
Gold Coast by 6pts
Collingwood by 30pts