With the finals approaching in the 2021 AFL season, round twenty one saw the teams at the top looking to consolidate their ascendancy – with limited success – and the glut of six teams scrapping for the final two post season berths pull off an upset or two.

Here at Vendetta Sports Media we’ll be covering the entire AFL season for you. In case you missed it, all our team previews, and this writer’s ladder predictions, are located here.

Match of the Week: West Coast Eagles vs Melbourne Demons

What was billed as a litmus test for both the Eagle finals chances and the Demons premiership holes turned into an extraordinary and somewhat bizarre spectacle as a lighting storm forced the players off the field for a half hour during the final term. Under AFL laws, if the game had been delayed for an hour, the leader at the time, in this case Melbourne by 33 points, would have been awarded the win.

In a wet and windy scene, both teams made late changes, ostensibly due to injury but given the conditions was more likely to bring in another smaller player.

The Demons got off to a flyer when Ben Brown kicked the 300th goal of his career on the back of a needless 50 metre penalty given away by Connor West. Jamie Cripps responded with a long set shot at the other end before the Demons took control of the game around the ground. They kicked a pair of goals through a long Christian Petracca snap off one step and a carbon copy through Brown with Alex Neal-Bullen roving smartly to add another in his 100th match. But for all their dominance – the Eagles unable to get the ball past centre wing for a good six or seven minutes – Melbourne were unable to convert it into scoreboard pressure.

Inevitably, West Coast found their footing and started to push the Demons back. Eventually, a strong mark on the lead and conversion by Josh Kennedy saw the Eagles break the Melbourne run.

Both sides were forced to use their substitutes at the quarter time break: West Coast replacing skipper Shannon Hurn who strained a hamstring, Melbourne subbing out speedster Jayden Hunt with a turned ankle.

In the 2nd term, the Eagles stepped it up further, doing to Melbourne what had been done to them in the opening quarter. West Coast monopolised the ball and put the Demons league-best defense under all sorts of strain. Jack Darling received a questionable free kick, steering his set shot home as West Coast continually won the ball in the centre of the park.

To their credit, the Demons were able to absorb most of the pressure coming their way and, combined with some disappointing misses from the Eagles, could have been in a far worse situation.

Cripps bagged his 2nd goal and when Zac Langdon ran into a relatively open goal, only to somehow miss a sitter, the Eagles had their first lead.

After being on the back foot for practically the entire 2nd term, Melbourne finally got another goal right on the half time siren when little Kysaiah Pickett slammed home a set shot after being collared by Elliott Yeo. The Melbourne lead was just four points at the main break.

The Demons put the foot down in the 3rd quarter, strangling the life out of the Eagles. An early goal to Neal-Bullen was answered by a fine boundary line goal from Jack Redden, but from that point on the term was all red and blue. A pair of classy goals to the returning Jake Melksham were sandwiched by majors to James Harmes – set up well by the influential Luke Jackson – and Brown’s 3rd as Melbourne suddenly found themselves 32 points up and the final change, with all the momentum. With spearhead Josh Kennedy down in the rooms attending to a knee complaint, the Eagles looked cooked.

The Demons added an early behind to their score before the match was remarkably halted and both teams sent back to their change rooms due to an impending lightning storm, with the Demons leading comfortably by 33 points. After a half hour delay, the teams re-emerged. We, the Eagles did, in any case. The men that came out wearing red and blue didn’t seem to know what to do with a football in their hands.

With 17 minutes to save the game, West Coast were rampant.

Josh Kennedy got things moving with a goal before Nic Naitanui, playing an intriguing game-within-a-game with Max Gawn, marked and steered through his set shot. When Connor West was the beneficiary of a lack of awareness from young Demon Jake Bowey, the lead was all of a sudden down to 17 points.

The Demons finally began to find themselves as they looked to slow the play down and burn some time off the clock. West Coast, as they had to, remained in attack mode. Jack Darling and Oscar Allen had missed good chances to goal before Darling managed to bring the margin down to just nine points with a little over a minute remaining.

Naitanui won the ensuing centre bounce, but Melbourne star centreman Clayton Oliver ran hardest at the ball to win the clearance and getting the ball forward. West Coast was able to mount one last charge, but had ran out of time on what would have been a comeback for the ages.

Oliver and Petracca (28 possessions apiece) continued their formidable double act, whilst Jackson and Harmes were influential. Ben Brown continued his career resurgence and looks to have secured a spot in the Demons best XXII.

Yeo was back to his brilliant best for the Eagles with 31 possessions and 14 clearances. Naitanui, beaten for most of the night by Gawn, was instrumental in the attempted comeback. For his part, Gawn was a driving force behind Melbourne’s dominant 1st and 3rd quarters.

The win put Melbourne back on top of the heap, securing their 1st top four finish since 2000, when they made the Grand Final.

For the Eagles, this loss could have massive ramifications.

They play the exciting Dockers in the Derby next week before closing the home and away season at Brisbane. Given the Lions class, a loss against the Dockers could see the Eagles miss out on the finals for the first time since 2014.

West Coast Eagles: 8 Goals, 17 Behinds (65)

Melbourne Demons: 13 Goals, 6 Behinds (84)

Goals

West Coast: Cripps 2, Kennedy 2, Darling 2, Redden, Naitanui, West

Melbourne: Brown 3, Melksham 2, Neal-Bullen 2, Petracca, Harmes, Pickett

Best

West Coast: Yeo, Naitaniu, Redden, Kelly, Cripps, Sheed

Melbourne: Petracca, Oliver, Harmes, Brown, Jackson, May, Bowey

Onto the other games of round twenty one of the AFL season.

Geelong Cats 8 goals, 17 behinds (65) lost to Greater Western Sydney Giants 13 goals, 6 behinds (84)

Goals

Geelong: Henry 2, Ratugolea 2, Kolodjashnij, Blicavs, Hawkins, Tuohy

GWS: Greene 4, Brown 2, Taranto 2, Himmelberg 2, Buntine, Sproule, Bruhn

Best

Geelong: Bews, Selwood, Stewart, Henry, Kolodjashnij

GWS: Taranto, Greene, Taylor, Cumming, Whitfield, Himmelberg, Ward

The Giants, with 18 injured players on their list, produced a gutsy performance to earn a famous win in Geelong. Cats defender Jake Kolodjashnij opened the scoring just 37 seconds in with the 1st goal of his 127 game AFL career. The Giants managed to hold the Cats at bay before launching a swift counter punch, kicking four goals in six minutes to take the momentum and the lead into quarter time. Tom Hawkins and Mark Blicavs, answering an early Zac Sproule goal for GWS, got the Cats back into the contest in the 2md term, though the curious genius of Toby Greene saw GWS take control of the game after half time. He had two in an early run of three goals that visibly deflated Geelong. Though they were able to mount a late challenge to the tiring Giants, Geelong ultimately fell short by 19 points. The win keeps the Giants inside the top eight, whilst the Cats lost an opportunity to go to the top of the AFL ladder. Both Greene and Cats skipper Joel Selwood – each a controversial individual from time to time – will both come under scrutiny for high hits on opponents.

Carlton Blues 8 goals, 9 behinds (57) lost to Gold Coast Suns 11 goals, 10 behinds (76)

Goals

Carlton: Honey 2, C. Curnow, E. Curnow, Betts, Silvagni, Martin, McKay

Gold Coast: Miller 2, Townsend 2, Ellis, Jeffrey, Sexton, Fiorini, Smith, Corbett, Powell

Best

Carlton: Newman, Walsh, E. Curnow, Kennedy, Honey

Gold Coast: Miller, Powell, Anderson, Fiorini, Sexton

A week after a stirring win over the Saints, Carlton fell in a hole. Conversely, the Suns followed up a 98 point shellacking with a hard fought win. Good luck tipping an outcome this season! Touk Miller (35 disposals, two goals) led the Suns in a see-sawing contest against the desperate Blues. The Suns dominated possession early, but a Brandon Ellis goal aside couldn’t convert that into points as the Blues finished strongly to lead at the 1st break. The Blues maintained their narrow lead in a tight 2nd term before Gold Coast started to regain control midway through the 3rd term, Zac Smith’s goal finally restoring their lead. Ed Curnow leveled things up for Carlton early in the final quarter before Jacob Townsend, Josh Corbett and Miller gave the Suns a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Miller and Wil Powell lead from the front with 29 touches. Carlton received a scare when Coleman Medal leader Harry McKay injured his shoulder late in the game. His status remains uncertain.

Richmond Tigers 13 goals, 11 behinds (89) defeated North Melbourne Kangaroos 8 goals, 8 behinds (56)

Goals

Richmond: Edwards 2, Riewoldt 2, Baker 2, Coleman-Jones 2, Bolton, Rioli, Parker, Ralphsmith, Prestia

North Melbourne: Zurhaar 4, Larkey, Scott Mahoney, Taylor

Best

Richmond: Graham, Prestia, Cotchin, Baker, Vlastuin, Nankervis

North Melbourne: Simpkin, Davies-Uniacke, Zurhaar, Hall, Anderson

Much improved in the 2nd half of the season, North Melbourne sensed the opportunity for another late season upset, coming out swinging against the wounded reigning champs. They kicked the only three goals of the opening term before Callum Coleman-Jones finally got the Tigers on the board early in the 2nd quarter. The Roos responded through a pair of Cam Zurhaar majors to take a 26 point lead before veteran forward Jack Riewoldt scored right on half time for Richmond. Whatever coach Damian Hardwick said to his troops at the main break must have been Churchillian because it was a different Richmond that emerged from the sheds. They went of a six goal to one run to open the 3rd quarter, taking their first lead. Jack Mahoney put the opening goal of the final term through to give the Kangaroos a lift, but the Tigers responded swiftly, kicking four goals in six minutes to put the game out of reach and keep their slim finals hopes alive. Jack Graham was fantastic with 36 possessions, while Trent Cotchin and Toby Nankervis lifted in the 2nd half. Luke Davies-Uniacke (38 possessions) and Jy Simpkin (34) were the Roos best.

Adelaide Crows 7 goals, 9 behinds (51) lost to Port Adelaide Power 7 goals, 13 behinds (55)

Goals

Adelaide: McHenry 2, Fogarty, Himmelberg, Keays, Mackay, Lynch

Port Adelaide: Butters 2, Dixon, Fantasia, Georgiades, Powell-Pepper, Wines

Best

Adelaide: Laird, Schoenberg, Butts, Seedsman, Jones, Keays

Port Adelaide: Aliir, Drew, Bonner Rozee, Boak, Burton, Butters

In the latest edition of the Showdown, the Crows took it to their fancied cross town rivals, but ultimately ran out of steam to go down by four points. Neither team could find an early advantage as the game didn’t get out of 1st gear. Adelaide finally found some semblance of rhythm through a pair of Ned McHenry goals late in the 1st half, taking a 30 to 11 lead into the main break. Slowly, but surely, the Power wrested control of proceedings after half time. Adelaide, to their credit, were able to counter every punch, responding to make it a three goal to two quarter. Eventually, Port’s class and maturity shone through as they dominated the last term. Orazio Fantasia goaling inside 30 seconds, Sam Powell-Pepper giving the Power their first lead since the opening term and Charlie Dixon putting the game beyond doubt.

St Kilda Saints 14 goals, 9 behinds (93) defeated Sydney Swans 10 goals, 4 behinds (64)

Goals

St Kilda: Higgins 4, Kent 3, King 2, Membrey 2, Sharman 2, Steele

Sydney: Gulden 2, Dawson 2, Papley 2, Hayward 2, Franklin, Florent

Best

St Kilda: Steele, Higgins, Marshall, Dunstan, Hill, Jones

Sydney: Parker, Dawson, Lloyd, Florent, Papley

Fighting for their finals lives, the Saints led for all bar two minutes early in the match to take a comprehensive victory over the Swans, who themselves lost any realistic chance of a top four berth. Errol Gulden opened the scoring for Sydney but when Cooper Sharman equalised, the Saints would not trail again. Rather than a glut of goals, it was sustained pressure all game that saw the Saints take this one, easing their way ahead. The match was still close until four goals on the trot late in the 3rd quarter saw the Saints take control. Sydney tried to mount a comeback but late goals to Sharman and Dean Kent saw the Saints keep themselves in the hunt for finals. The Saints forward line clicked with big men Sharman, Max King and Tim Membrey evenly sharing six goals, whilst small forwards Jack Higgins and Dean Kent thrived at their feet. Jack Steele was outstanding with 34 disposals, seven tackles and six clearances.

Hawthorn Hawks 15 goals, 7 behinds (97) defeated Collingwood Magpies 12 goals, 6 behinds (78)

Goals

Hawthorn: Koschitzke 3, Moore 2, Howe 2, Lewis, Burgoyne, McEvoy, Nash, O’Meara, Scrimshaw, Worpel, Mitchell

Collingwood: Ginnivan 3, Mihocek 2, Elliott 2, Henry, Macrae, Sidebottom, Grundy, Cameron

Best

Hawthorn: Mitchell, Hardwick, Ceglar, Wingard, Nash, Scrimshaw

Collingwood: De Goey, Adams, Crisp, Grundy, Howe, Macrae

The Alistair Clarkson Farewell Tour continued in earnest as the Hawks scored a win that moved them above the Magpies on the ladder. Hawthorn never trailed as they eased away through a four goal run that traversed the quarter time break. That set the pattern for the match as Collingwood would kick a steadying goal only to see the Hawks go on another run of three majors. Jacob Koschitzke’s 2nd of the day pushed the lead out to a game high 48 points midway through the 3rd term before the Magpies finally found a little bit of form, Brody Mihocek kicking a pair to reduce the margin. Despite outscoring the Hawks in the last term the damage was done as Hawthorn won by 19 points at a canter. Chad Wingard (30 disposals) and Jaeger O’Meara (27) ran hot for the Hawks, but it was that man Tom Mitchell who shone brightest, collecting 44 possessions and eight clearances to lead an otherwise balanced Hawthorn performance.

Western Bulldogs 12 goals,12 behinds (84) lost to Essendon Bombers 15 goals, 7 behinds (97)

Goals

Bulldogs: Bruce 3, Bontompelli, Duryea, English, Johannisen, Liberatore, Treloar, Naughton, Ugle-Hagan, Wood

Essendon: Wright 7, Francis 2, Draper, Guelfi, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Parish, Smith, Waterman

Best

Bulldogs: Macrae, Bontompelli, Williams, Dale, Bruce, Liberatore

Essendon: Wright, Parish, Merrett, Draper, Ridley, Shiel

With the Cats losing on Friday night, the Dogs had the chance to consolidate top spot on the AFL ladder, though the upstart Bombers, fighting for a surprise finals berth, had plans of their own. A strong Bulldogs start saw them kick three of the first four goal, though the Bombers responded with six of the next seven to take a narrow three point lead into half time, Peter Wright kicking three first half goals for Essendon. The speed and enthusiasm of the young Bombers had the usually dominant Bulldogs midfield on the back foot, every Dogs goal answered by a pair from the Bombers. Essendon took an 11 point lead into the final break and given the Bulldogs struggles late in games must have felt confident when Wright kicked his 5th. But quick reply’s by Tim English and Taylor Duryea had the margin inside a goal. The Bombers responded through Alec Waterman and when Wright steered home his 6th and 7th majors on a career day, Essendon looked home. Late goals to Josh Bruce and Marcus Bontompelli sent another scare through the Bombers camp but the clock ultimately expired with the Bombers holding on in an outstanding football match. The Dogs suffered a major blow with leading scorer Bruce going down with what was later confirmed to be an ACL tear in the dying seconds of the match.

Fremantle Dockers 8 goals, 6 behinds (54) lost to Brisbane Lions 18 goals, 10 behinds (118)

Goals

Fremantle: Colyer 3, Darcy, Taberner, Treacy, Meek, Henry

Brisbane: Daniher 4, McCarthy 3, Bailey 2, McStay 2, McInerney 2, Cameron 2, Cockatoo 2, Zorko

Best

Fremantle: Serong, Young, Mundy, Cerra, Brayshaw, Colyer

Brisbane: Zorko, Daniher, Bailey, McInerney, Andrews, Rich, McStay

An early Travis Colyer goal was as good as it got for the Dockers in this one as Brisbane overwhelmed their younger opponents. A six goal opening term – that for poor kicking should have been more – set the tone as Brisbane, who have seen their realistic chances at a top four finish slip through their fingers in the past few weeks, finally rediscovered their best. The Lions were micrometre, not quite at their exhilarating peak, but consistently suffocating the Dockers in possession and attacking efficiently on the counter. The fact that so few Lions goals came from midfielders demonstrated how easily they were able to pick out their forwards for easy marks and set shots. Fremantle showed signs of life early in the 3rd term but a quick spurt of three goals – including Joe Daniher’s 4th – saw the Lions suppress that charge. A comfortable 64 point win sees the Lions’ faintest of chances of snatching 4th place and with it the double chance. Freo are still technically in the bottle neck for the 8th and final spot in the post season, but a poor percentage, not helped in this game, sees them the outsider of that group.

Coleman Medal leader board

Harry McKay (Carlton) – 58 goals (1 goals this week)

Taylor Walker (Adelaide) – 48 (-)

Josh Bruce (Bulldogs) – 48 (3)

Tom Hawkins (Geelong) – 47 (1)

Jack Riewoldt (Richmond) – 47 (2)

Ben King (Suns) – 43 (0)

Charlie Dixon (Power) – 42 (1)

Lance Franklin (Swans) – 42 (1)

Bayley Fritsch (Demons) – 39 (0)

#ClubMPts%ForAgtThis WeekProjectedNext
1Melbourne2062130.7 %17031303Won @ WCE
72 – 63
1st: 66 pts, 131 %Saturday
vs Adel
2W Bulldogs2060138.1 %18931371Lost vs Ess
84 – 97
2nd: 64+ pts, 137 %Saturday
@ Haw
3Geelong2060129.1 %16831304Lost vs GWS
65 – 84
3rd: 64 pts, 127 %Saturday
vs St.K
4Port Adel2060121.3 %16781383Won @ Adel
55 – 51
4th: 64 pts, 119 %Saturday
vs Carl
5Brisbane2052128.1 %18641455Won @ Freo
118 – 54
5th: 60 pts, 130 %Saturday
vs Coll
6Sydney2052115.0 %17591530Lost @ St.K
64 – 93
6th: 56 pts, 115 %Saturday
@ N.M.
7WC Eagles204095.5 %16011676Lost vs Melb
63 – 72
7th: 44 pts, 93 %Saturday
@ Freo
8GWS Giants203896.4 %15731631Won @ Geel
84 – 65
8th: 42 pts, 96 %Saturday
vs Rich
9Essendon2036103.4 %17531696Won @ W.B.
97 – 84
9th: 40 pts, 103 %Saturday
@ G.C.
10Richmond2036100.1 %15931591Won vs N.M.
89 – 56
10th: 40 pts, 102 %Saturday
@ GWS
11St Kilda203688.2 %14661662Won vs Syd
93 – 64
11th: 40 pts, 90 %Saturday
@ Geel
12Fremantle203687.7 %14501654Lost vs B.L.
54 – 118
12th: 40 pts, 88 %Saturday
vs WCE
13Carlton203293.3 %16261743Lost vs G.C.
57 – 76
13th: 36 pts, 94 %Saturday
@ P.A.
14Gold Coast202882.9 %13511629Won @ Carl
76 – 57
14th: 32 pts, 84 %Saturday
vs Ess
15Hawthorn202682.7 %14821792Won vs Coll
97 – 78
17th: 26+ pts, 82 %Saturday
vs W.B.
16Collingwood202491.2 %14361574Lost @ Haw
78 – 97
15th: 28 pts, 90 %Saturday
@ B.L.
17Adelaide202480.3 %14551813Lost vs P.A.
51 – 55
16th: 28 pts, 81 %Saturday
@ Melb
18North Melb201870.4 %13271886Lost @ Rich
56 – 89
18th: 22 pts, 71 %Saturday
vs Syd