Former AFL coaching great Mick Malthouse has broken down the premiership race in a column for the Herald Sun.
Malthouse has put a line through Essendon and Adelaide, declaring each side would need a minor miracls to climb into eighth spot.
The triple premiership coach has also ruled Sydney out of flag contendership, who currently sit sixth after their stunning two-point win over Collingwood on Saturday night.
“Yes, they rallied last year, but it was “same old, same old” — get the ball out of the centre through Josh Kennedy, handball to Luke Parker or Dan Hannebery and kick the ball to within the vicinity of Lance Franklin,” Malthouse column reads.
“That system is broken.
“It may well take years to recover because of its reliance on older players — Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh, Hannebery, Heath Grundy and Franklin — who are now, unfortunately, past their best.”
Malthouse believes that Port Adelaide’s tough run home, including clashes with West Coast (home), Collingwood (away) and Essendon (home), has them missing the eight all together.
He states that Mebourne’s healthy percentage and North Melbourne, Geelong and Hawthorn’s favourable draws will aid all four teams to bottom-half finals spots.
That leaves Richmond, West Coast, GWS and Collingwood finishing top four in Malthouse’s eyes and the only teams he deems capable of winning the flag, while adding that each side has their flaws.
Malthouse affirmed that key injuries to the Eagles and Magpies could potentially hurt their chances and questioned whether or not GWS have hardened up from their recent September shortcomings.
And despite their momentum and superiority, he is not yet sold on Richmond being a sure thing to go back-to-back.
“I think it’s too easy to say Richmond is a shoo-in to win back-to-back premierships,” said Malthouse.
“It won’t be long before the lack of a second genuine ruckman will come back to haunt it.
“The Tigers have been quite reliant on a strong, last-quarter finish to get over the line against top-line opponents.
“It only takes one day not to have that resilience and the game can get away from you.
“Given that, I do think the Tigers have enough hunger, and the team effort is strong enough to win another Cup.”
Malthouse’s final top eight
2. West Coast
8. North Melbourne