Tom Lynch during the round 22 AFL match between Richmond and Hawthorn on August 14, 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Richmond Media)

Round 22 was full of crucial matches and season-defying moments, leading to plenty of talking points.

Sydney proved they are a genuine grand final chance, whilst Carlton slip further and further down the ladder.

Here are the 20 thoughts and opinions from Round 22...

  1. St Kilda need to allow Max King to get external help

It was a diabolical night for the Saints on Friday night, but in particular for key-forward Max King who kicked 0.5, costing his team what may be a spot in the top eight this season.

This isn't the first time big Max has struggled kicking the footy, however St Kilda coach Brett Ratten keeps persisting that external help is not required and believes the club has more than enough resources to fix the issue.

However, three years into his career, there has been little-to-no improvement. Despite the continuous suggestions of his high school coach Matthew Lloyd to give his former player a helping hand, St Kilda remain stubborn in believing they can fix the problem themselves.

2. Cam Rayner is a real threat heading into finals

With St Kilda struggling in front of goals, Cam Rayner decided it was the perfect time for him to become a hero and single-handedly get the Lions over the line, kicking three final quarter goals to keep the Lions in the top four.

The former number one draft pick is arguably in career-best form, and showed that with four goals and 18 touches on Friday night. The versatile midfield/forward shows massive X-factor in a side that may need that bit of extra flair heading into the finals series.

Cameron Rayner during the round 22 AFL match between St Kilda and Brisbane on August 12, 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

3. Marcus Windhager is going to be a gun

The first-year Saint claimed yet another impressive scalp on Friday night, keeping Brownlow fancy Lachie Neale to just 16 touches - his least as a Lion in regular length matches. Windhager did this while also collecting 21 disposals himself, which included five clearances.

The successful job done on Neale adds to his impressive recent collection of midfielder lockdowns, which includes keeping Tim Kelly to four disposals and Guthrie to 22. The Next Gen Academy product is going to be a very important player in the future for the Saints.

4. Ben Cunnington is an inspiration

This weekend's feel-good story goes to North Melbourne hero Ben Cunnington, who made his return to the AFL after 385 days due being diagnosed with Testicular Cancer last year.

Cunnington was pictured soaking in the moment hours before the match against Adelaide, showing how much the day meant to him. The midfielder went on to collect 17 disposals at 71% in a tough loss to the Crows.

5. Cats are near unstoppable heading into finals

Geelong have once again proven they are the powerhouse team of the competition this year, dismantling Gold Coast by 60 points at Metricon Stadium.

It shaped up to be an interesting battle with Metricon being a bit of a fortress this year. The Suns have knocked off Richmond, Fremantle and Carlton at home and came within a couple of kicks of taking down Melbourne.

However, Geelong are that good at the moment and the game was dead and buried by quarter time, and they never even gave the Suns a sniff, pushing the margin out to as much as 63 points in the fourth quarter. The premiership favourites are looking very difficult to defeat.

6. Mark Blicavs can be elite in any position

A big reason for the Cats' success this season is the perfomances of big man Mark Blicavs.

Arguably the most athletic player in the game, as well as the most versatile, the big man had 27 disposals and 2 goals on the weekend against the Suns. Blicavs also attended 30 ruck contests in what was arguably a best-on-ground performance.

The 198cm utility has been crucial in defence this year for the Cats, wgile spending plenty of time in the ruck, as well as up forward. On some occasions he has even found himself on the wing.

Blicavs is ranked elite for disposals, effective disposals, intercept possessions, tackles, pressure acts and even one-on-ones. He is a tremendous weapon that Geelong can deploy in any position on the park and will be a key player in their push for a premiership.

7. Carlton's counsel wasn't enough

After a mammoth double appeal from Carlton in an effort to overturn Patrick Cripps' suspension, the Blues were eventually successful and Cripps turned up to the MCG on Saturday night to hopefully secure a finals spot for his side.

Whilst the skipper and his team put in everything to get over the line against the reigning premiers, they fell just short and coughed up a two-goal lead with two minutes to go.

It puts the club in a sticky situation heading into the last round of the season, and a loss to Collingwood could see them drop out of the eight on the final day, after being there since the second night of the season.

8. Melksham still has something left in him

One of the main reasons that Melbourne got over the line on Saturday night was this man finding a purple patch of form.

30-year-old Melksham kicked four on Saturday night as Melbourne snuck past Carlton with a five-point win. Having only played eight games this season and being out-of-contract at the end of the year, the medium-forward has almost cemented his spot in the reigning premiers' side just in time for finals.

Melksham has only played eight games this year, but with the form he has hit it would be difficult to see him not offered a new contract.

9. Angus Brayshaw is one of the most valuable players in the competition

Arguably the most consistent player in the AFL, Brayshaw has been elite in any position he's been asked to play this season, and his best performance thus far may have come on Saturday night.

Brayshaw collected 38 touches with 19 being contested, as well as 12 clearances and six inside 50s. A massive performance for someone that has made the switch from half-back to the middle halfway through the year.

He has proved he can be consistently elite in defence or midfield, making him one of the most valuable players in the league. Brayshaw would be a real smokey to make this year's All-Australian team.

10. Sean Darcy is on his way to being one of the elite ruckmen of the AFL

If he wasn't already, Sean Darcy is seriously on his way to becoming one of the elite ruckmen of the competition.

2022 has been an up and down season for the big man, but Saturday night's Western Derby against the Eagles showed how good he can be.

The 24-year-old dominated one of the league's star ruckmen in Nic Naitanui, with 56 hit-outs to Naitanui's 24 .whilst also collecting 16 touches and a goal. He also received the Glendinning-Allen Medal on the night.

The key factor for Darcy now is consistency, and if he can keep that up then 2023 will be a massive year for him.

READ MORE: Essendon weighing up shock move for Clarko

11. Tom Barrass is making a late push for All-Australian

What a couple of months this man has had. Collecting scalp after scalp and arguably being West Coast's best player each week, Barrass had another corker of a game, keeping Rory Lobb goalless as well as having 14 intercept possessions for the game.

This adds to the collection of brilliant games Barrass has been having in the second half of the season, and his defensive work has been among the best overall in 2022.

In his last month of football, he has kept Rory Lobb goalless, Levi Casboult and Taylor Walker to just one and Max King to two, whilst averaging 9.75 intercepts a game. An All-Australian chance?

12. Richmond would have missed finals if it wasn't for Tom Lynch

One of the most important players on the Richmond team, Tom Lynch proved his worth once again on Sunday, kicking eight goals straight in a demolition of Hawthorn.

Lynch now sits equal third in the Coleman Medal race despite missing five games this year, five games in which Richmond really struggled in.

Richmond only won once when Tom Lynch was out injured, and it was a close two-goal win over Port Adelaide. Apart from that, they drew one and lost three without him. In nine out of the last ten games the key forward has played in, Richmond have won. The only loss being a three-point loss to premiership favourites Geelong.

This poses the question; would Richmond have made finals without Tom Lynch?

13. Cotchin can go around again 

How good has the old boy been recently?! Former Richmond captain Trent Cotchin has hit a purple patch of form at the perfect time. With uncertainty around his playing career at the end of the season, Cotchin has put in two terrific performances in the last two weeks and may possibly be thinking about hanging around in 2023.

Over the last two games, Cotchin has been averaging 30.5 disposals, 17 contested posessions, 7.5 score involvements, 6.5 inside 50's, and 7 clearances. Insane numbers from someone considering retirement at the end of the season. It's a definite possibility we could see Cotchin play on in 2023.

14. Maurice Rioli is undroppable heading into finals

Mauricie Rioli is possibly the most dangerous small forward in the competition right now, and it's all thanks to his forward pressure.

Rioli played a big part in Sunday's win over Hawthorn, kicking two goals along with nine score involvements and 20 pressure acts. These are pretty standard stats for a small forward, and it isn't like he is going out and kicking bags of four or five a game.

However, this stat right here is what almost makes the 19-year-old 'undroppable'.

Keep in mind that the young forward has only played 13 games this season. A very important player going into finals.

15. Hawthorn can't afford to have Sicily higher up the ground

In a bold move from Sam Mitchell, James Sicily was moved out of defence and into the midfield for the first half of the game. The result? An eight-goal haul from Tom Lynch.

Lynch proved too hot to handle for Hawthorn defenders Denver Grainger-Barras and James Blanck, and it wasn't until midway through the third quarter that Sicily was moved onto Lynch to stop the bleeding.

Lynch still kicked two more third-quarter goals on Sicily, but barely touched the ball after that as Richmond continued to kick away to a 61-point Victory.

It's quite clear that Sicily's leadership and quality is far too important to the Hawthorn defence to have him zoning further up the ground. A mistake that you would assume would not be made again.

16. Could tagging Nick Daicos be the key to stopping Collingwood?

The Swans ended Collingwood's run of 11-straight wins on Sunday and tagging a first-year player out of the game may have been a key factor.

Nick Daicos copped the dreaded Ryan Clarke tag and was kept well below his season averages because of it. The tag kept the young star to just the 20 touches (avg 26) and 60% disposal efficiency (avg 76%).

Daicos did get the better of the Clarke at times but his ball movement was restricted and was far less damaging off half-back than what he usually is. An interesting move from John Longmire that could possibly be repeated by other teams during the finals series.

17. Sydney look unstoppable at the SCG - Are they grand final bound?

Sydney are playing some fantastic footy recently - especially at the SCG, which could give them a massive advantage to heading towards a frand final this year.

All it would take for a home qualifying final would be a win over the struggling St Kilda at Marvel this weekend, then they become very, very tough to beat at home.

If they do defeat St Kilda, their opponents will be either Brisbane or Melbourne, and a win over either of them will send them to a home preliminary final at the SCG, where they have not lost since Round 8.

A grand final berth could be a serious possibility for the Swans as long as they keep up their incredible form.

18. Essendon have become an embarrassment again

After having such high expectations at the start of the season, Essendon crumbled under pressure and became the laughing stock of the league in the first half of the season.

They picked up their game after the bye and got some impressive results against St Kilda, Sydney and Brisbane, and things were starting to look up.

However, once again they have become an embarrassment and copped an 84-point loss to eleventh-placed Port Adelaide. It was a game that mirrored their form from the start of the season, showing a lack of effort and interest as they were steamrolled from a side that also crumbled over high expectations this season.

MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - APRIL 25: Bombers head coach Ben Rutten looks dejected after losing the round six AFL match between the Essendon Bombers and the Collingwood Magpies at Melbourne Cricket Ground on April 25, 2022 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

19. Racism is becoming increasingly worse among the AFL community

Racism is an issue that has unfortunately been apart of the AFL Community for years now, but recently it is just getting worse and worse.

Over the last 10 days we have seen Adam Saad, Callum Ah Chee and Kysaiah Pickett receive racial abuse either on social media or at a game.

Three seperate incidents in the last 10 days. 

It's a shame that Pickett will always look back on his incredible match-winning goal as one where he received a barrage of online racial abuse. It's a shame that this is still happening at all.

This has to stop and it has to stop now.

20. Carlton v Collingwood could be the biggest home-and-away game of the last decade 

A finals-shaping game. Between two groups of supporters that cannot stand each other. In the last round of the season. On the biggest stage.

A Carlton win would see the Blues make finals after almost dropping out, as well as result in the Pies finishing outside of the top four.

A Collingwood win would seal a top-four finish for the Pies, as well as possibly see Carlton drop out of the eight, dependent on a Bulldogs win earlier that afternoon.

Carlton v Collingwood on Sunday afternoon is going to be one of the biggest games in the last decade.