We are only five weeks away from finally seeing the 2021 ladder set in stone and until then, things are very volatile in the race for the top eight.
The Tigers finally broke their duck this week, whilst the Dees slipped against the Hawks and the Bombers continued their rise up the table.
With these results firmly at the forefront of our minds, let's see what bearings they will have on our power rankings chart.
1. Western Bulldogs (+1)
The Doggies had a hard-fought win against a tenacious Suns outfit who pushed them all the way to the final siren on Saturday.
Luke Beveridge's side ran out 11-point victors at Metricon Stadium and were constantly troubled by the gutsy Suns.
As one might imagine it was the class of the midfield that was the difference between these two sides, with Marcus Bontempelli, Bailey Smith and Jack Macrae all combining for 100 disposals, 26 clearances and two goals between them.
The first of many 💪 pic.twitter.com/3HJp2ZNHJz
— Western Bulldogs (@westernbulldogs) July 17, 2021
This win keeps them in the hunt for the minor premiership, with a home qualifying final being the minimum for what the Doggies deserve this year.
Round 19 sees them get a chance to go top of the ladder as they face the Demons in a swapped fixture round. Should they come out trumps against them, expect for the Dogs to be incredibly tough to dislodge from the top of the table.
2. Melbourne (-1)
The Dees slumped to a draw against a hungry Hawks side who seemed out of the contest early on.
It was the midfield engine room that were the main sticking point on the day, with Clayton Oliver (35 touches, nine clearances), Jack Viney (32 touches, 11 tackles) and Christian Petracca (33 touches, nine clearances) putting in big shifts in the middle of the park.
This week they have their biggest encounter of the year so far as they face the Bulldogs in a match that could determine the minor premiership. A win here would all but secure the Dees top spot barring any late slip-ups.
3. Geelong (+1)
The Cats were in fine form in the west, putting the Dockers to the sword and running out eleven-goal victors at Optus Stadium.
Without one of their main forward men Jeremy Cameron it was thought the Cats might struggle a bit, but hauls from Tom Hawkins (4 goals) and Patrick Dangerfield (3 goals) meant that Chris Scott's side were more than covered in that department.
— Geelong Cats (@GeelongCats) July 16, 2021
Cam Guthrie covered all bases with 35 touches and seven clearances in a best-on-ground performance whilst the superb Sam Menegola was too ever-industrious with 30 touches and seven clearances as well.
The Cats keep on winning and they are looking great value to solidify a top four position. They have a huge chance this week to get a further foothold inside the double-chance spots with a match against the suspect Tigers on the schedule.
4. Sydney (+1)
In a clash marred by the late withdrawal of key players from each week due to COVID isolation protocols, Swans coach John Longmire couldn't help shedding a tear after the match off the back of the hardships his side has had to endure in recent weeks.
Luke Parker continued his incredible 2021 form with a goal, 31 touches and nine clearances whilst midfield veteran Josh Kennedy was integral to the Swans resurgence with 30 touches and ten clearances.
— Sydney Swans (@sydneyswans) July 18, 2021
Sydney are looking incredibly dangerous this season and could be considered a premiership contender should they continue to impress. This week they go up against the Dockers on the Gold Coast and should be able to avenge their painstaking loss of Round 10.
5. Brisbane (-2)
The Lions were outlasted by a tenacious Richmond outfit who, by many accounts, were done for season 2021.
Despite the Lions pulling ahead in the second term they simply could not hold the lead, with the pressure of the Tigers of old seemingly coming back to the fore.
This loss casts even more doubts over Brisbane's flag credentials, with two losses in two weeks to sides below them knocking them out of the top four and into the sudden death spots.
Throw in a suspected shoulder injury to star Lachie Neale, and next week's clash against the Suns might not be quite the cakewalk many were expecting, with the Lions desperately needing a victory to get their year back on track.
The Power had a great win under the roof at Marvel Stadium on Saturday afternoon, getting over the Saints despite being challenged all day by Brett Ratten's side.
Young forward Mitch Georgiades was a big winner on the day with four goals in a starring performance down in attack that only served to further his Rising Star credentials.
Hey @AFL, can you be nominated for the Rising Star three times?
— Port Adelaide FC (@PAFC) July 18, 2021
With this, the Power are now inside the four despite not setting the world alight in season 2021 - a feat that coach Ken Hinkley would be extremely pleased with.
This week it's the Pies at 'home' for Port Adelaide, with the two clubs still not the best of friends following the prison bar-catfight that ensued earlier in the season. A win here, regardless of whether it's at Adelaide Oval or interstate, would only further Port's place inside the four and solidify their double-chance credentials.
7. West Coast (+1)
The Eagles had a good runout against the Crows on Sunday evening, finishing fast to run out 42-point winners at Adelaide Oval.
In an especially tumultuous period for the club, Adam Simpson's side was troubled in the first half but eventually flexed their muscles and claimed the victory comprehensively.
Jamie Cripps had one of his best games to date with five goals and 25 touches in a best-on performance whilst Elliott Yeo (22 touches, one goal) and Nic Naitanui (32 hit-outs, seven clearances) were industrious around the ground too.
Crippa has been sensational tonight!
Here's how he put through goal number five! pic.twitter.com/11WlFuS9it
— West Coast Eagles (@WestCoastEagles) July 18, 2021
This was a welcome reprieve for the Eagles off the back of some incredibly disappointing results, however it only papers over the cracks at the club.
Round 19 sees them go up against the tenacious Saints who would be keen to avenge their shortcomings in Round 18, with Adam Simpson's side needing to be at their best on the day to get a result.
8. St. Kilda (-1)
The Saints would have been bitterly disappointed with not being able to make it three on the trot and beat Port Adelaide, as they went down by 13 points at Docklands on Saturday.
Both sides had opportunities to gain the upper hand but subpar accuracy in front of goal meant that St. Kilda were left to rue their chances.
Jack Steele has all but tied up the club's best-and-fairest again this year with another inspired display finishing with 37 touches and seven tackles. Brad Crouch was too a heavy presence in midfield with 36 touches and 11 clearances.
Rowan Marshall was superb for his side too both in the ruck and down forward, booting two majors and gathering 19 touches despite missing a crucial set shot late on.
Although they came up short, the Saints are still a dangerous outfit that shouldn't be taken lightly. This week it's the Eagles in Perth and Brett Ratten would be expecting for his side to go for the jugular against a weakened giant.
9. Essendon (+2)
The Bombers were pushed all the way by the Roos, with Ben Rutten's side trailing by ten points at the half only to comeback and claim victory by three goals.
This encounter showed the character and spirit that the Bombers now have in them as they put their heads down and cracked on with it to win the arm wrestle of an encounter.
Zach Merrett and Darcy Parish for the umpteenth time this year could not be separated from the Sherrin, combining for 73 disposals, nine tackles and 17 clearances. Jake Stringer made another statement with three last quarter goals ultimately being the difference for the Bombers as he snatched his side the win.
"It's the best game I've seen from him."
Jason Dunstall says Jake Stringer was the difference between Essendon and Hawthorn 🔥
— Fox Footy (@FOXFOOTY) June 21, 2021
AFL TRADE NEWS: Bombers spearhead Jake Stringer nearing new deal
This week they go up against the Giants who, without the likes of Toby Greene, Josh Kelly and Matt De Boer for a mixture of reasons, are extremely vulnerable and should be beaten by an in-form Bombers side.
10. Richmond (+2)
The aforementioned Riewoldt was electric down forward in his milestone match booting a record six goals - the third player to do so on this particular milestone.
Six goals for Jack Riewoldt in game 300.
— 7AFL (@7AFL) July 16, 2021
Mabior Chol had one of his best matches in yellow and black with four goals on the night, whilst the returning Toby Nankervis (22 disposals, 25 hit-outs) and Jack Graham (19 disposals, seven tackles, two goals) were both instrumental for Damien Hardwick's side.
The main talking point however was Dustin Martin's kidney injury in the third quarter, with the three-time Norm Smith medalist ruled out for the remainder of the year and taking the shine off a well-fought victory.
This week will tell us a lot about whether the Tigers are over their blip or if their victory was a flash in the pan as they take on the Cats. A win here would put the Tigers firmly back into the finals conversation and potentially beyond.
11. Carlton (+2)
Carlton suffered a huge loss off-the-field during the week with the passing of club legend Sergio Silvagni during the week, however they channeled his spirit to push on and beat arch-rivals Collingwood in an emphatic victory at the 'G on Sunday.
Despite being behind by as much as four goals in the second term, the Blues found a way to come back and run over the top of Robert Harvey's side, winning by 29 points at an empty ground.
Sam Walsh was easily the best player on the day, finishing with 38 disposals and a goal as he continues to dazzle fans with his innate talent.
He's magic, you know.
— Carlton FC (@CarltonFC) July 18, 2021
It seems as if Carlton's season has a pulse, with the club now sitting only a win off of eighth after being classified as dead-and-buried only weeks ago. A win against North this round would only serve to fuel their finals credentials as they gather a head of steam.
12. GWS (-3)
The Giants were struck a cruel blow only minutes before the first bounce with superstar Toby Greene and tagger Matt De Boer both ruled out due to COVID-19 complications as the side slumped to a loss against their crosstown rivals.
Tim Taranto (27 disposals, seven tackles) and Jacob Hopper (23 touches, nine tackles were the main men for Leon Cameron's side on the evening. Harry Perryman too starred with 23 touches as well as a goal, whilst captain Stephen Coniglio was solid in his first game since Round 3 as he finished with 19 touches and seven clearances.
Things are so volatile for the Giants this year with opponents simply unable to gauge which side will show up to play. Their lack of consistency will be their downfall this season, however, don't be surprised if they somehow find a way to pull together and beat the Bombers this week.
13. Fremantle (-3)
The Dockers were given a shellacking by the Cats in the west this week, going down by 69 points to Chris Scott's side on a forgettable night for the club.
Sean Darcy was dominant in the ruck against the likes of Stanley and Blicavs, finishing with 37 hitouts whilst Andrew Brayshaw and Luke Ryan rounded out the best for the Dockers, finishing with 21 and 19 touches respectively.
Just when we thought the Dockers may have a chance of making finals in 2021, they go and serve up a shocker of a display to show they are still well off the mark.
14. Gold Coast (-)
The Suns' late-season form wasn't enough to get them the four points against premiership hopefuls Western Bulldogs, but it's not to say they didn't gain respect from this encounter.
Stuart Dew's side pushed the Doggies all the way, only falling short by less than two kicks at Metricon Stadium as they continued their run of impressive displays.
Touk Miller had another massive display with 38 touches and nine clearances as he continues his unbelievable 2021 form, whilst Jeremy Sharp's 30 touch performance earned him the Round 19 Rising Star nomination.
The Suns need to take that next step in season 2022, with next year no doubt being Stuart Dew's last chance to make finals with the incredibly talented squad he has at his disposal.
For now, they face the vulnerable Lions in the Big Q clash, and will be smelling blood with Chris Fagan's side coming off two losses in a row.
15. Adelaide (-)
The Crows had a disappointing time against a West Coast side that has been lacklustre in season 2021.
Matthew Nicks' side were in the match until the third quarter where they simply did not have the legs to stick with the Eagles despite their poor form.
Ben Keays had another stonking display with two goals and 30 touches from the middle, while his other midfield cronies in Paul Seedsman (27 disposals) and Rory Laird (34 touches, four clearances) were standouts on the day.
It just seems like for all the Crows' great early-season form they have regressed as they season has bore on. Matthew Nicks will be hell-bent on stringing some wins together in their remaining games to get the squads spirits back up.
On the agenda for this week they have a tough match against the Hawks and will be looking to put a pin in Alastair Clarkson's good run of performances.
16. Hawthorn (+2)
The Hawks were admirable in their draw against Melbourne this week, coming from behind against the premiership hopefuls to share the points in front of an empty MCG.
Alastair Clarkson's side were behind by as much as 27 points in the second term but dug deep and fought back thanks to some incredible pressure and determination from the side.
An example of the intent and work-rate of our boys on Saturday night via Dan Howe. 👏 pic.twitter.com/Mqezc1YnKP
— Hawthorn FC (@HawthornFC) July 19, 2021
Tom Mitchell silenced his doubters with a 39-touch, six tackle display complete with a crucial goal in the third term, with the 28-year-old being at the centre of everything good his team did.
Luke Breust snapped the equaliser in the dying moments of the game and put on a superb display with three majors whilst Jaegar O'Meara was ever-industrious with 25 touches and six tackles on the night.
This match showcased some of the grit of the Hawks' youngsters and of the team as a whole, with fans surely buoyed by the fight and resolve shown by the side.
Their next game comes against the Crows, with the encounter's exact location still to be decided as a result of the volatile COVID situation around the nation. A win here is likely and the side should take energy from the previous week's emphatic display into this one.
17. Collingwood (-1)
The Pies looked to be in control early on in the match, however were bore down by David Teague's side as the match wore on and eventually succumbed to the hard-working Blues.
Star man Jordan De Goey continued his great form for the Pies with 31 touches but couldn't do enough to prevent his side's collapse.
This result only shows the distance that Collingwood still has to go in order to be back at the top, with the club needing development both on-and-off the field.
Robert Harvey's men go up against Port Adelaide on Friday night with the location up in the air off-the-back of the COVID crisis. An upset here would be huge for the side's confidence, but is looking very unlikely.
18. North Melbourne (-1)
North came up second-best against the Bombers on the Gold Coast, going down by 18 points in a hard-fought encounter.
Jy Simpkin thrived in the middle of the park racking up 23 disposals, seven tackle and seven clearances, whilst Tarryn Thomas (23 touches, one goal) and Luke McDonald (26 touches) were also very important to North's game.
If there is one takeaway from season 2021 it is that there isn't a clear worst team in the competition, with all sides in the bottom five having their moments to shine throughout the year.
North Melbourne haven't had a great year by any stretch, but they have improved in many facets of their game since that catastrophic 128-point flogging from the Bulldogs on Good Friday.
This week they will play the Blues in Melbourne and could ruffle a few feathers with their style of play. Should they win here it would put a pin in Carlton's season for sure and only serve to benefit North's confidence.