Squiggle on Round 22

The most exciting thing that happened this round was the stars aligning for North Melbourne to play Brisbane for last place on the ladder. As such, today’s commentary will be heavily Spoonbowl-tilted.

Look at those two teams, heading for each other like they knew this day was coming. It’s a club on the rise vs a club that rose to half-mast in the first 10 rounds before deciding it was all too hard:

Let’s also take a moment to appreciate that these aren’t the two worst teams. The worst teams are Fremantle and Gold Coast. A Spoonbowl involving Fremantle and Gold Coast would be genuinely terrible. What Brisbane and North Melbourne offer us, by contrast, is a real chance of a decent game. You know how people are always suggesting insane changes to the finals, like wildcard playoffs between 9th to 12th: Spoonbowl 2017 offers a glimpse into that world, where deeply flawed but not completely inept teams battle for something not really that great but still a lot better than the alternative. That is Spoonbowl 2017.

North Melbourne don’t deserve the wooden spoon: For the first half of the season, they were about as good as Melbourne is now, but without winning any games. In the first five rounds, they fell 1 point short of Geelong, 3 points short of the Bulldogs, and got done by 5 points in Perth by the Dockers. In fact, in four games against the Dogs & Dockers this year, North Melbourne have managed to lose the lot by a combined total of 13 points. They have a percentage of 84.8, which is better than four other teams, and not far off Hawthorn (89.8).

Brisbane don’t deserve the spoon, either. Their second half of the year has had a clear upward trajectory, which defies the basic concept, which is that spoons are for terrible teams in terrible situations with no future so sit down and have a cry and a spoon. Other teams have tried to mess with this in the past, by “strategically” “moving” their “players” at “key moments” in order to “fucking cheat,” but Brisbane is the lighter side of that: a side on the rise that’s genuinely tried all year.

Remember that neither of these teams care a whole lot about defending, and it will be glorious. It will be a beautiful, amazing game.

Tip: Brisbane 110 – 104 North Melbourne

In other news:

Richmond finally generated a decent score, albeit against an indecent team. The Tigers are a little flattered by their accuracy in kicking 25.5, and the chart can’t adequately capture the way Fremantle players spent the second half jogging half-heartedly around the field like they were thinking about the load of laundry they had to do when they got home and whether they needed to stop off for milk. Still, it was a great performance by the Tigers, and made even clearer their year-long improvement.

We didn’t learn a whole lot from Adelaide vs Sydney, other than that it was about as competitive as expected. The Crows shouldn’t be too unhappy with that game, which they lost only due to some wayward goalkicking.

Essendon should be unable to cock up a finals berth from here, since they host the Dockers next week. And the current top 4 and top 8 will more likely remain unchanged. But there’s a crazy raft of possible scenarios on offer:

Richmond have a big chance of finishing 3rd (if they defeat St Kilda) and 6th (if they don’t). They are much less likely to finish 4th or 5th, because Port and Sydney have highly winnable games and will overtake them.

Similary, North Melbourne will probably finish 15th if they win Spoonbowl 2017 and 18th if they don’t.

If Melbourne and Essendon don’t claim 7th and 8th, the Eagles are most likely to slip in there, but it’s still possible in a benevolent universe for the Bulldogs and Saints.

Only the Giants can take top spot from Adelaide, and this scenario requires them to defeat Geelong at Kardinia while the Crows do a repeat of 2016 and drop their final game to West Coast.

The top 6 cannot change; that is, no-one currently lower than 6th can break into it, and none of the top 6 can fall out of it.

Similarly, the block of teams currently 7th to 11th is fixed, with only the order within that block still to be decided.

Here’s an animated tower, which shows Carlton’s last-minute leap to safety, and the final snuffing of Hawthorn:

Flagpole this week is mostly notable for Richmond’s little jump and some new clarity around who’s likely to play finals:

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