Analysis, every club ranked and analysed, ladder, Round 6 preview, fixture, premiership favourites

Welcome back to the Power Rankings.

It’s coming, and you could call it the AFL’s Moving Day – a mouth-watering month featuring blockbuster games between the top eight, which’ll prove who really deserves to be there.

What are the Power Rankings? This is our attempt to rank every AFL club from best to worst. We take wins and losses into account, but also the quality of opposition faced and whether teams are likely to get healthier or improve going forward. It’s a little bit ‘who’s hot and who’s not’; part predictive, part analysis of what’s happened. If Team A is above Team B, we’d probably tip A to win if they were playing at a neutral venue this weekend.

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All times AEST.

Overhaul of draft points & more | 01:31

1. GWS GIANTS (5-0, 144%)

Last week: Ranked 2nd, def St Kilda by 1 pt

Much like last year we’re pretty convinced that there’s no clear and obvious No.1 seed in the premiership race. The Giants are back at the top by default, after we demoted them for a less-than-impressive showing against Gold Coast, which they followed up with… well, they were pretty good against St Kilda for 90% of the match. Then they switched off and needed James Peatling to save them. The Sam Taylor and Stephen Coniglio losses hurt but they’re balanced out by Carlton’s own injury issues, leaving Saturday’s clash a proper 50-50. We want to see the Giants win these types of games, because they might not have beaten a 2024 finalist yet. Blues (Marvel), Lions (Canberra), Swans (SCG), Essendon (Marvel), Bulldogs (home) and Cats (GMHBA) is a pretty telling stretch – get out of it 4-2 or better, and they’ll be very well-placed for a top two finish.

This week: Carlton at Marvel Stadium, Saturday 4:35pm

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Greene’s frank concussion admission | 00:40

2. PORT ADELAIDE (4-1, 139.9%)

Last week: Ranked 3rd, def Fremantle by 3 pts

We looked at Port Adelaide’s fixture pre-season and figured they were set up for a fast start, with four of their first five games at Adelaide Oval. (What are they, a Victorian club?) Five weeks in, and they should probably be unbeaten, but at least managed to split their two toughest games which both went down to the wire. They’re certainly not perfect but we like a lot of what the Power are doing and when you’ve got the top-end talent in the middle that they have, you’ve got finals-winning weapons. Most of the contenders’ draws pick up over the next month (because they’re all playing each other) and the Power are no different, copping Collingwood away off a bye, plus a tricky St Kilda, the Showdown and then Geelong in Geelong. Go 3-1 in that patch and they’ll be in a great spot.

This week: Collingwood at the MCG, Saturday 1:45pm

Surprising winner in Premiership Window | 01:48

3. MELBOURNE (4-2, 118.5%)

Last week: Ranked 1st, lost to Brisbane by 22 pts

So Melbourne did a Melbourne. Every so often over the last few years they just produce a random stinker – it always seems like it’s a night game at the MCG, too – and look offensively inept. Let’s keep in mind that Brisbane’s defence is pretty good, but the Dees’ forward line has always relied on the midfield winning them plenty of chances, and that didn’t happen either last Thursday night. It’s weird to see a team need a Round 6 bye so badly, but hopefully the freshen-up will help them recover. They should still take care of business on Anzac Eve, but then come Geelong and Carlton, where they’ll be seriously tested once again.

This week: BYE

Mid-quarter time out tactics revealed | 03:09

4. GEELONG (5-0, 138.4%)

Last week: Ranked 5th, def North Melbourne by 75 pts

Now it’s time to actually learn something about the Cats. They’ve done what they had to do, beating a few similarly-placed teams (based on last year) like Adelaide, St Kilda and the Bulldogs, plus the lowly Hawks and Kangaroos. But that was basically just a pre-season compared to the next five weeks – Brisbane (Gabba), Carlton (MCG), Melbourne (MCG), Port Adelaide (GMHBA) and GWS (GMHBA). Throw in Sydney away a couple of weeks later, and then another clash with Carlton after the bye, and eight of their next nine games are genuinely tough tests. Admittedly the Cats have played quite well in the past at the Gabba but a win up there still feels unlikely this time; yet the 2022 premiers could prove they’re true 2024 contenders with one big night.

This week: Brisbane Lions at the Gabba, Saturday 7:30pm

“This is promising”: Scott on HUGE win | 06:34

5. BRISBANE LIONS (2-3, 112.9%)

Last week: Ranked 9th, def Melbourne by 22 pts

There they are. That was Brisbane at its best last Thursday night – if you didn’t watch the game, or have forgotten, that margin is incredibly flattering for Melbourne. Their problem at 0-3 wasn’t that they were playing terribly, just that they were 0-3 and that they couldn’t make as many mistakes if they want to finish top four again. Beating the Demons, and avoiding a 1-4 hole, really helps. Champion Data’s Daniel Hoyne explained on SEN on Tuesday night the Lions are the best turnover team in the league right now – the most important scoring source there is – and particularly defensively, they’re doing a cracking job. They have to keep this going, and the next four weeks (Geelong home, GWS in Canberra, home QLD derby and Adelaide away) are tricky. But they’re good enough to storm through that block of games unbeaten and, if they do, they should be our flag favourites again. We just need to see it first.

This week: Geelong at the Gabba, Saturday 7:30pm

‘Players are trying to manipulate that’ | 00:45

6. SYDNEY SWANS (4-1, 126.9%)

Last week: Ranked 6th, BYE

After wobbling their way into the bye week, the Swans have a great chance to prove once again they’re legit threats by simply taking care of the Suns. Because they shouldn’t really be tested by Damien Hardwick’s young side, or by Hawthorn at the MCG a week later, if they’re true contenders. But there’s a very real possibility they win both games while looking shaky both times, proving very little but at least banking wins before their fixture gets much more difficult. Are they just being carried by a ridiculous, Brownlow-level Isaac Heeney season? Really, unless they absolutely smash Gold Coast, there’s nothing good we can learn about this team until the derby in Round 8.

This week: Gold Coast Suns at the SCG, Sunday 1:05pm

Longmire gives Luke Parker update | 00:30

7. FREMANTLE (3-2, 122.3%)

Last week: Ranked 8th, lost to Port Adelaide by 3 pts

Unfortunately, until the AFL changes the rules, four premiership points will continue to mean more than this columnist’s opinion. (Shame, really.) But Fremantle gained a huge amount over the last fortnight in our eyes, proving they are legitimate contenders over the course of two painful losses. The Port Adelaide defeat wasn’t the same as the Carlton game – the Dockers genuinely deserved to win the latter, whereas Saturday night was your regulation close one where the other team executed in the big moments (though Banfield definitely should’ve gotten a free kick in the Butters incident). But Freo had it on their terms, proving they could do it on the road against another contender, and while there is still room for improvement in terms of doing more damage when they get their opportunities, they’ve shown enough over a long enough period. As long as they remain at this level they should get their wins at home, and beat enough teams away, to return to the finals. The problem is if they drop-off, they’re especially vulnerable to teams like Brisbane and Collingwood coming back into the eight and knocking them out. Gotta start winning again.

This week: West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium, Saturday 8:10pm

7 teams already locked in to Top 8? | 01:16

8. CARLTON (4-1, 117.1%)

Last week: Ranked 4th, lost to Adelaide by 2 pts

Eighth is probably a bit harsh for a team that’s lost one game all year, and it was by a kick. But we’re looking at it in two ways; one, we just trust what the other teams above them have done more recently. And two, the Blues really should’ve lost two in a row, against a pair of 2023 non-finalists as well. Their only truly convincing win all year was against North Melbourne, who are North Melbourne. Now is when we’ll learn a lot about the Blues, who face a simply brutal five weeks – GWS (Marvel), Geelong (MCG), Collingwood (MCG), Melbourne (MCG) and Sydney (MCG). Even getting out of that 3-2 would be a huge result. But their draw doesn’t exactly get easier after that, because their double-ups are looking brutal. After facing the Giants, Cats and Magpies, the Blues have to face them once more each, plus they’ve got two games with Port Adelaide left. That’s nine genuinely loseable games. If Carlton makes the top four this year they will damn sure have earned it.

This week: GWS Giants at Marvel Stadium, Saturday 4:35pm

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Docherty’s drive to overcome ACL tear | 02:33

9. COLLINGWOOD (2-3, 87.9%)

Last week: Ranked 7th, BYE

Inactive but sliding down a few spots because of Brisbane’s big win and Fremantle’s continued proof of legitimacy, the Magpies hopefully worked things out over the bye because they head right into a difficult three weeks. We’re not expecting them to smash Port Adelaide at the MCG like they did early last year, but even a comfortable win would rebuild our faith in the premiers. If it’s close, or a loss, then suddenly Anzac Day and a Friday night blockbuster against Carlton get even more massive.

This week: Port Adelaide at the MCG, Saturday 1:45pm

Collingwood v Port Adelaide LIVE in 4K on Kayo | SATURDAY 1:45PM | New to Kayo? Start your free trial today >

Murphy to take on off-field role at Pies | 02:04

10. ST KILDA (2-3, 102.5%)

Last week: Ranked 11th, lost to GWS by 1 pt

As it turns out, the problem with playing a bunch of low-scoring, close games is that you can’t just win them all. So while Saturday’s comeback wasn’t quite the same as a traditional close one that’s tight all day until one goal wins it, the Saints still had a chance to pinch four points they probably didn’t deserve, and they went begging. As long as they keep beating the teams they should beat, and especially the teams around them, they’ll be fine. They’re certainly good enough. It’s just that they’re a bit behind the eight-ball and if they fall to a Bulldogs side that’ll be revved up after last week’s flop and a week of pressure, they then cop Port Adelaide away, and the Saints would be a very real chance of falling to 2-5. They can recover from it – they have North and Hawthorn after that – but you don’t want to spend the season playing catch-up.

This week: Western Bulldogs at Marvel Stadium, Thursday 7:30pm

Max King to miss Bulldogs clash | 00:46

11. GOLD COAST SUNS (3-2, 105.5%)

Last week: Ranked 12th, def Hawthorn by 53 pts

For the Suns to play finals, they just need to take that next step – from good enough, to good enough to beat good teams, especially on the road. The underlying numbers from their opening five games under Damien Hardwick are pretty promising and they’ve made changes on the run, bringing in a swathe of young kids heading into Gather Round, and it worked a treat. Those highly-credentialed youngsters will keep getting better and could be the difference in a few key games. Games like this week, against a Swans side that limped into its bye. Win that, and with West Coast and North Melbourne to come over the weeks that follow, these Suns could be embedded well within the eight as we enter the midseason bye rounds.

This week: Sydney Swans at the SCG, Sunday 1:05pm

Lemmens handed 4-week ban for spear | 00:29

12. ESSENDON (3-2, 90.8%)

Last week: Ranked 13th, def Western Bulldogs by 29 pts

The unpredictable yet predictable Bombers rollercoaster continues, because of course they backed up looking horrific against Port Adelaide by stunning the in-form Bulldogs. Just par for the course with Essendon who’ll probably follow it up by disappointing against Adelaide, getting close to beating Collingwood on Anzac Day to regain the respect, nearly lose to West Coast in WA to lose it again, and then upset GWS at Marvel. Seriously though, their next three are genuinely all winnable, especially Anzac Day because we don’t think the Magpies are flying. The Bombers haven’t been 6-2 in over a decade but it’s doable, and at that point we would have to start buying into them a little bit. Until then we remain cautious.

This week: Adelaide Crows at Adelaide Oval, Friday 7:40pm

Will Dylan Shiel play against Adelaide? | 01:01

13. WESTERN BULLDOGS (2-3, 111.6%)

Last week: Ranked 10th, lost to Essendon by 29 pts

The doom-and-gloom narrative around the Bulldogs is the prime example of Friday night footy having a huge impact on the weekly narrative. Yes, they ended the game badly, looking limp and ineffective. It was a bad loss. But they’re still the exact same mid-table team everyone expected them to be coming into the year. Seriously – in past years people have bought into the Dogs as a top-four chance but there’d barely be an expert out there who picked them for a double chance in 2024. It’s unreasonable to say they’re not living up to that standard because no-one had them at that standard. Keep in mind Bulldogs CEO Ameet Bains said he thought the club had a top-four list after Round 16 last year, when they were sixth and outside the top four on percentage. It wasn’t an unreasonable take at the time. Let’s just all calm down.

This week: St Kilda at Marvel Stadium, Thursday 7:30pm

‘Total fiction’ Bevo selection quizzed | 01:24

14. ADELAIDE CROWS (1-4, 81.8%)

Last week: Ranked 15th, def Carlton by 2 pts

There it is. Against Carlton, the Crows looked much more like… well, the Crows. They made the changes to the midfield rotation everyone and their mother were calling for and, what do you know, they worked! Also keep in mind that while a 16.4 to 14.14 win looks like goalkicking was the main factor, but expected score proves it wasn’t. The Crows did a fantastic job of taking their shots from dangerous positions whereas the Blues’ misses were mostly from long range; the sides basically kicked exactly what they should’ve. It was a fully deserving and bloody important win; beat the Bombers, and then with North Melbourne to come after that, Matthew Nicks’ men can be 3-4 heading into a mouth-watering Showdown. That at least gives them a shot at turning this season into what we all expected.

This week: Essendon at Adelaide Oval, Friday 7:40pm

MRO explains Crouch & Butters incidents | 00:57

15. RICHMOND (1-5, 79.5%)

Last week: Ranked 14th, lost to West Coast by 39 pts

They were due a bad game, and the injuries just got too much. That’s our read on what is otherwise a really bad loss, against a West Coast side that should be nowhere near a Richmond team at full strength. Unfortunately the Tigers are mid-strength at best, and maybe just alcohol free. Thankfully they get the Round 6 bye – which is the stupidest part of the Opening Round deal, but it works well for them given their issues – to recover. They’ll be back to what they were against sides like St Kilda, Sydney and Port Adelaide once they’re not completely broken.

This week: BYE

Chief: Lead out, chest mark, kick a goal | 05:07

16. HAWTHORN (0-5, 64.8%)

Last week: Ranked 16th, lost to Gold Coast by 53 pts

Unfortunately for the Hawks their bad loss to the Suns was widely televised, instead of the quieter timeslot you’d usually expect for a game like that, which has made the reaction to it larger. Are we really that worried about one bad game? It followed two pretty good ones – they were much closer to Geelong than the margin claims, and they nearly beat Collingwood again. Let’s take everything in its proper context. The Hawks are still very young and still need time and talent. This is what they are and this is, unfortunately, how long a rebuild takes when you take your time to commit to it.

This week: North Melbourne at Marvel Stadium, Sunday 4:05pm

Is it the WORST time for Hawks rebuild? | 04:38

17. WEST COAST EAGLES (1-4, 65%)

Last week: Ranked 18th, def Richmond by 39 pts

They did it! They’re off the bottom! And it was a well deserved win to cap off a strong few weeks, with the performance against Sydney impressive and even the loss to the Bulldogs better than everyone (except us) thought it was. Harley Reid is obviously a gem but it also helps that the mature talent who we’ve known were there for years, yet weren’t doing enough, are firing – especially Elliot Yeo, while Jake Waterman took full advantage of the Tigers’ lack of talls. Look, let’s be real, Richmond was injury-ravaged and a prime target heading into their bye. But a win’s a win and it was comprehensive, too. Nice of the Eagles to look competitive heading into a Derby they should realistically lose by plenty.

This week: Fremantle at Optus Stadium, Saturday 8:10pm

Larkey not looking to jump ship | 00:28

18. NORTH MELBOURNE (0-5, 56.5%)

Last week: Ranked 17th, lost to Geelong by 75 pts

To be fair, the Kangaroos were done over by the AFL fixture people. There’s a very good chance all five of their opponents so far play finals, and games like Geelong away are some of the toughest tests in footy. In a way it’s not the worst thing in the world, because many of their toughest games are over and done with, but it also must be flattening to cop such tough opposition week after week. Now comes a breather, with the Hawks, plus Adelaide in Hobart and St Kilda at Marvel. Throw in the two Eagles games they’ve got left, and another meeting with Hawthorn, and the potential wins exist. But, as always with North these days, they just have to wait.

This week: Hawthorn at Marvel Stadium, Sunday 4:05pm

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