THEY SAID IT: "I'd rather risk the disappointment of not quite getting there every single year - and it's a shocking feeling when we don't quite get there - I'd take 100 of them to try and pull it off once" - Geelong coach Chris Scott is embracing the pressure as his Cats aim to win a second flag in his 12th season in charge, having secured the minor premiership with a 60-point win over Gold Coast.
PLAYER OF THE ROUND: Tom Lynch was unstoppable in Richmond's 61-point thumping of Hawthorn, kicking an equal career-best eight goals by three-quarter-time. Tigers coach Damien Hardwick believes the key forward is in career-best form and that looms as a dangerous prospect for rivals now Richmond have booked their place in the finals.
THE MOMENT: Melbourne pocket rocket Kysaiah Pickett pounced on the crumbs from a marking contest and snapped the winning goal under pressure in the dying seconds of Saturday night's five-point victory over Carlton. The Blues had been on the verge of confirming their finals spot when Charlie Curnow's goal gave them an eight-point lead just minutes earlier. But Jake Melksham kicked his fourth goal of the night and Pickett added his second to get the Dees home in a thriller.
THE MOMENT PART II: Ben Cunnington had a tear in his eye when he pulled on the North Melbourne jumper for his AFL return after two bouts of testicular cancer. The inspirational midfielder had 17 disposals in the Kangaroos' loss to Adelaide and enjoyed the moment with his family. North Melbourne caretaker coach Leigh Adams said Cunnington's return gave his side an emotional lift at the end of a tough season, in which they will likely be handed the wooden spoon.
TALKING POINT: Where will Alastair Clarkson end up next season? The four-time AFL premiership coach with Hawthorn has reportedly been offered a minimum five-year contract to return to North Melbourne - where he began his senior playing career in 1987 - and has also met multiple times with the GWS hierarchy. A decision might not be too far away.
STATS THAT MATTER: In the AFL era, no team has sat inside the top-eight all season before falling out in the final round. Carlton are in danger of becoming the first. The Blues started with three straight wins under Michael Voss and were 8-2 at one stage, but have not won consecutive games in the back half of the season. A loss to Collingwood in round 23 coupled with a Western Bulldogs win over Hawthorn would knock Carlton out.
TRIBUNAL WATCH: The Western Bulldogs' Zaine Cordy was sent directly to the tribunal over a bump that concussed GWS youngster Tanner Bruhn, while St Kilda midfielder Brad Crouch was handed a one-match ban for his high bump on Brisbane's Darcy Gardiner. Melbourne's Kysaiah Pickett was fined $5000 for rough conduct over his tackle on Carlton's Liam Stocker, Adelaide's Tom Doedee was fined $3000 for forceful front-on contact against North Melbourne's Cameron Zurhaar and Gold Coast's Sean Lemmens received the same penalty for rough conduct against Geelong's Jeremy Cameron. West Coast forward Liam Ryan was fined $3000 for striking Fremantle's Brandon Walker in a fiery western derby, with a dozen players fined a total of $19,000 for engaging in melees during the Dockers' win.
INJURIES: J Webster (hamstring), C Sharman (corked leg), T Bruhn (GWS, concussion), S McAdam (Adel, hamstring), J Ziebell (NM, shoulder), J Stephenson (NM, back), J Anderson (NM, concussion), P Curtis (NM, shoulder), L Keeffe (GWS, groin), S Day (GC, knee), I Rankine (GC, shoulder), R Stanley (Gee, adductor), R Lobb (Frem, shoulder), J Jones (WC, back), J De Goey (Coll, hip flexor), J Ginnivan (Coll, hamstring), J Graham (Rich, foot).
WHAT'S NEXT: The Gabba will be rocking on Friday night when Brisbane and Melbourne face off with top-four spots on the line. On Sunday, the Western Bulldogs take on Hawthorn in Launceston needing a win to put pressure on Carlton for a top-eight spot. The Blues meet arch-rivals Collingwood in a genuine blockbuster later in the day, with up to 90,000 fans tipped to descend on the MCG. Port Adelaide and Adelaide will be playing for pride in Saturday night's Showdown.
Australian Associated Press
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