x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Essendon could miss trio through suspension

The final shape of the top eight was not definite until the last goal was kicked.

The final shape of the top eight was not definite until the last goal was kicked. That goal came courtesy of the Western Bulldogs captain Brad Johnson, who gave the Dogs a four-goal win against Collingwood and brought an end to Round 22, which was full of drama and shifting fortunes. The winning margin, 100-76, was two points more than the Bulldogs needed to take third spot from the Magpies, leaving them fourth and facing a tough start to the finals campaign with a match against St Kilda, the runaway leaders, in the first qualifying final on Sunday.

The Dogs now face second-placed Geelong in the second qualifying final on Saturday. Having beaten Geelong in Round 21 and narrowly losing to them earlier in the season, it is the Dogs' preferred route. But the match that really stood out was the one that saw the teams placed fifth and sixth swap positions after Adelaide, one of only two non-Victorian teams in the top eight, thrashed Carlton by 12 goals to win a home elimination final against Essendon, and a fair bit of favour for the match in September.

Essendon killed off the champions Hawthorn's chances of defending the title with a 17-point win, but may be taking on the in form Crows without their spearhead Matty Lloyd, impressive young ruckman Paddy Ryder and Sam Lonergan, all of whom were handed suspensions by an AFL tribunal. Lloyd will receive four weeks off if he pleads guilty to a head-high tackle that left Hawk Brad Sewell with bad facial injuries. Ryder and Lonergan have been offered one match each.

Carlton, who had suspended three of their own players for the Adelaide match for turning up late to a recovery session, now face a trip to Brisbane for the elimination final. The problems associated with traveling may well be negated by the fact that the Lions will be missing Simon Black, Daniel Bradshaw, Josh Drummond and Daniel Merrett for the meeting. pstafford@thenational.ae