x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Four-team bottleneck for remaining two spots

With five rounds to go before the finals, the third and fourth spot on the AFL ladder are still open to a field of at least four teams.

With five rounds to go before the finals, the third and fourth spot on the ladder are still open to a field of at least four teams. St Kilda's last-quarter demolition of the Western Bulldogs gives them a two-game lead over Geelong Cats, who were lucky to make it through their battle against the reigning premier Hawthorn with the full four points after the Brownlow Medallist Jimmy Bartel scored a minor after the siren to clinch the game by that one point.

But even with a lapse by the Cats, that saw them lose to St Kilda and Brisbane in consecutive weeks - the latter largely due to injuries - they sit four games clear in second spot. There's an intriguing bottleneck after that, with four teams - the Western Bulldogs, Collingwood, Adelaide and Brisbane - having scored 11 wins and separated only by percentage in that order. There is also a lot of inter-play left between the four teams, starting this weekend when Adelaide (fifth) meet Geelong, and Collingwood (fourth) meet Brisbane (sixth).

Here is a brief rundown of the race home for the top four contenders to those precious last two spots in the four (current ladder position in brackets): Western Bulldogs (3): Fremantle (15), West Coast (14), Brisbane (6), Geelong (2), Collingwood (4). Collingwood: Brisbane, Adelaide (5), Richmond (12), Sydney (11), Western Bulldogs. Adelaide: Geelong, Collingwood, Hawthorn (9), West Coast, Carlton (7).

Brisbane: Collingwood, Essendon (8), Western Bulldogs, Port Adelaide (10), Sydney. A prediction? The foursome should remain the same at the end of the season, but with Collingwood third and the Bulldogs fourth. pstafford@thenational.ae