x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Hawthorn can sneak finals spot

The final round of the home and away season has panned out nicely for the league, and for lovers of the game.

The final round of the home and away season has panned out nicely for the league, and for lovers of the game. The reigning champions Hawthorn have the chance to steal a spot in the finals today when they meet Essendon, who are only two points ahead on the ladder in eighth spot due to their draw with Brisbane in Round 19. There are some fairly telling ins and outs among the big guns for this encounter, with the return of Matty Lloyd for the Bombers, but Hawk Buddy Franklin rubbed out for two after knocking out the Tigers' Ben Cousins last weekend. The Hawks and Franklin lodged a failed appeal bid on Thursday night.

A lesser chance to take the Bombers' place in the finals are Port Adelaide, also only two points behind in 10th place, but the Power would have to make up a fair amount of percentage. Port host North Melbourne today, coming off a triumph over the Saints last weekend. The teams making up the top seven are there to stay, but there is still a chance of some movement. Carlton (5th) face Adelaide (6th), but it would take a fair old trouncing for either team to threaten the Western Bulldogs for fourth spot if they go down to third-placed Collingwood in the last match of the regular season tomorrow.

The Blues have shown just what a professional unit they have become under their captain Chris Judd by suspending three players for this important match. The goal sneak and cult figure Eddie Betts, tall forward Cameron Cloke and Jeffrey Garlett were all suspended for a week for turning up late to Carlton's recovery session on Sunday morning after the Blues beat Melbourne. The Pies and Dogs have named unchanged teams for their meeting at Etihad Stadium, apart from the extended interchange benches.

pstafford@thenational.ae