Carlton is cruising after Cats crushing, the Swans have set a new standard, and the ‘bull’ the Bombers need as they set sail for finals is firing.   

Here are the biggest talking points from every game of round 15.

1. Carlton shows it is here to stay in trouncing Geelong

For the last three decades, Carlton and Geelong have enjoyed completely different fortunes. 

Since the Blues won their last AFL premiership by thrashing Geelong in the 1995 grand final, the Cats have won four premierships to Carlton’s zero. 

If Friday night’s clash between the two teams is anything to go by, the two clubs’ fortunes look to have flipped. 

Carlton has carried itself like a genuine finals contender for most of the season, but Friday’s 63-point win against Geelong showed that the Blues won’t simply be making up the numbers come September.

Carlton captain Patrick Cripps was at his unstoppable best as the Blues midfield absolutely battered Geelong on Friday night.(Getty Images: Michael Willson)

The Blues dominated every single facet of the game, handing Geelong one of its ugliest losses in the Chris Scott era, and the match had a real vibe of a baton being passed. 

Carlton’s inspirational skipper Patrick Cripps was as brilliant as ever, simply bullying a Geelong midfield which featured the returning Patrick Dangerfield, racking up 41 disposals and a whopping 14 clearances in the win.

For so long, the bulk of Carlton’s grunt work was left to Cripps, but now the Blues talisman has more than enough running mates to shoulder the load. 

Cripps was one of three Blues to notch over 30 disposals in the win over the Cats, as Sam Walsh (33 disposals) and Matthew Kennedy (31 disposals) also enjoyed solid outings, while ruckman Tom De Koning continued his ascension into the upper echelon of big men in the AFL, finishing with 25 disposals, 34 hitouts and seven clearances.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Patrick Cripps (Carlton)

2. Tom De Koning (Carlton)

1. Sam Walsh (Carlton)

2. Fans fed up as more holes appear in Port Adelaide’s premiership case

Port Adelaide has been a team that fans have found hard to trust for a number of years, despite consistently performing well during the home and away season.

Saturday’s home clash against the resurgent Brisbane Lions provided a great opportunity for Ken Hinkley’s men to show they are legit, and they failed the test miserably.

In what should’ve been a grand occasion for Port, which celebrated the 20-year anniversary of its sole AFL premiership, Hinkley’s side put forward a low-energy performance right from the outset in what should be alarming for the veteran coach. 

Brisbane came into the match sitting 13th in the ladder, but it was Port Adelaide which looked like cellar-dwellers for the majority of the afternoon, as the Lions put the game to bed with a breathtaking 12-goal run that spanned the second and third quarters.

Connor Rozee of the Power leads his team off after losing the round 15 AFL match between Port Adelaide Power and Brisbane Lions at Adelaide Oval, on June 22, 2024, in Adelaide, Australia.(Getty Images: Mark Brake)

The natives in Adelaide were restless from the opening minutes, and they weren’t fooled as Port Adelaide kicked the first two goals of the contest.

Eventually as Brisbane got well on top, groans turned into boos, before fans eventually decided they’d seen enough and left the ground well before the final siren.

Hinkley was defiant after the match when he was asked about the reception from the home fans, but even he will know this is the kind of performance that is a coach-killer.

It is hard to know where Port Adelaide goes from here. The Power have enough talent to be in and around the finals, but remain a cut below the league’s legitimate contenders. Are they content with being in no-man’s land, or do they finally make some shrewd moves in a bid to get closer to a premiership? 

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Lachie Neale (Brisbane)

2. Oscar McInerney (Brisbane)

1. Joe Daniher (Brisbane)

3. Sydney answers Carlton’s challenge by laying another smackdown

For the majority of Sydney’s clash against crosstown rivals GWS it seemed as if the Swans were playing against another opponent — the second-placed and highly-touted Blues.

As Sydney rammed on 10 straight goals on the Giants to get out to a game-high 58-point lead, it was as if Swans had listened to Carlton’s coronation on Friday night and decided to show the entire league why they remain at the top of the ladder.

The Swans only wound up beating the Giants by 27 points, but this was the classic case of the final margin not telling the full tale, with GWS never really looking like threatening at any point in the second half.

Carlton has been impressive, but the fact of the matter is it will be a boilover of epic proportions if the Swans don’t come out of this season holding the premiership cup. 

Caiden Cleary of the Swans is congratulated by Isaac Heeney of the Swans after kicking a goal on debut during the latest ‘Battle of the Bridge’ between Sydney and GWS.(Getty Images: Cameron Spencer)

In a league that is very even, it has been a while since a single team has been this dominant compared to the rest of the competition. 

The way Sydney is playing brings back memories of the 2007 Cats or the 2000 Bombers, absolutely laying waste to the rest of the AFL, and the Swans will be hell-bent on ending the season as those two great teams did.

It was the usual suspects that did the damage for the Swans against their bitter rivals, with star wingman Errol Gulden finishing the match with 41 disposals, seven score involvements, seven inside 50s and 973 metres gained to go along with a goal. 

Off-season recruit Brodie Grundy continued his renaissance season with a 28-disposal, 31-hitout, four-clearance performance against Kieran Briggs.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. James Rowbottom (Sydney)

2. Errol Gulden (Sydney)

1. Brodie Grundy (Sydney)

4. North dominates the midfield but lacks one key piece

Five of the top six ball-winners in North’s stunning comeback against the Demons were Kangaroos players.

Now that doesn’t mean much if the possessions are backwards, sideways, or otherwise plain rubbish — but that’s not at all what we saw from North Melbourne on Saturday night.

For big chunks of the game, and particularly in the last quarter, the future of North Melbourne was very much on show.

Luke Davies-Uniacke was brutally slick, Harry Sheezel incredibly efficient, George Wardlaw was a bull at a gate, and Tristan Xerri made life a nightmare for Max Gawn.

Luke Davies-Uniacke was at his brilliant best as the Roos almost pulled off one of the upsets of the year.(Getty Images: Dylan Burns)

While the forwards and backs had some shaky moments at times, Aidan Corr played brilliantly in defence, and Cam Zurhaar and Eddie Ford made up for a quiet night from Nick Larkey.

So what was missing? From the cheap seats, it felt like they were one classy small forward away from nabbing that game. A Tyson Stengle, or a Tom Papley, or a Kozzy Pickett.

It’s rarely a position that’s seen as crucial in footy, but on a night when they were so close to causing the upset of the year, it felt like North had every other spot covered, except that one.

Either way, it was a thrilling performance, and while the Demons will be happy to bank a crucial four points, they won’t be thrilled with their shaky finish.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Luke Davies-Uniacke (North Melbourne)

2. Jack Viney (Melbourne)

1. Cameron Zurhaar (North Melbourne)

5. Bombers find their bull in Sam Durham — his best can change games

If you want to see what Sam Durham brings to Essendon, look no further than the Bombers’ 11th goal of the game against West Coast on Sunday.

The Eagles had got the margin back to 10 points early in the third quarter, when the Bombers tapped a centre bounce forward. Durham outbodied Reuben Ginbey to get to the ball, then got his hand to it, ahead of a second Eagles player, then palming it forward away from a third while keeping his balance.

Reuben Ginbey of the Eagles tackles Sam Durham of the Bombers during the round 15 AFL match between Essendon Bombers and West Coast Eagles at Marvel Stadium, on June 23, 2024, in Melbourne, Australia.(Getty Images: Quinn Rooney)

He then kept running and was in position to pounce on the ball again and handballed sidewards to Jake Stringer as he was being crunched in a tackle. The ball went forward and Matt Guelfi kicked the goal, but nine-tenths of that score was down to Durham, his fierce attack, speed and reading of the game.

That was just one element of a stellar performance by the Bombers’ number 22, who took the game by the scruff of the neck and was a major reason why this team ends round 15 just half a game out of the top two instead of out of the eight.

Brad Scott was happy to talk after the game about the winger and his rapid improvement.

“If I’d sat here two years ago, saying that Sam Durham would be doing what he’s doing now, no one would have believed me, even though we could see that upward trajectory he was on,” he said.

“He’s just one example of how quickly things can change.”

Where can Durham take his game in the next nine rounds (plus finals)? Opposition teams will not want to find out.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Sam Durham (Essendon)

2. Jye Caldwell (Essendon)

1. Jake Stringer (Essendon)

6. Fremantle midfield answers coach’s challenge with powerful display

You’ve heard this before, but a week can be a very long time in football. Just ask the Fremantle Football Club and it’s midfield in particular.

This time last week the Dockers were in shock after a thumping 67-point loss to the Bulldogs, prompting coach Justin Longmuir to read the riot act to his players, saying they were playing for stats rather than for the team’s best interests.

The spotlight went right on the stars in the middle, and remained on them as Fremantle faced up to Gold Coast at home in Perth with a top eight spot on the line.

They had a tough start, conceding the first two goals to the Suns — but then things turned around, and the midfield stats were more than just for show.

They won the clearances — overall, in the centre and at stoppage — against the Suns midfield group, and more importantly they took it on themselves to help their team out in the area that’s been their longest problem — scoring.

Hayden Young led the way with three goals, while there were singles for Andrew Brayshaw, Caleb Serong and Sean Darcy. That’s half of Fremantle’s 12 goals for the game, meaning less burden on Josh Treacy and the forward line. This quartet also racked up 30 of the Dockers’ 44 clearances, and 18 inside 50s.

They drove the Dockers on, and although the home side had to withstand a late surge from the Suns, it provided the perfect reminder of what this group is capable of when they put things together.

Now the Dockers are up to fifth. If the midfield can keep producing like this, it will go a long way towards getting them into September action and giving a big boost to their coach.

ABC player of the year votes:

3. Hayden Young (Fremantle)

2. Andrew Brayshaw (Fremantle)

1. Sean Darcy (Fremantle)

ABC Sport player of year top 10

1. Nick Daicos (Magpies) — 20

2. Isaac Heeney (Swans) — 18

3. Marcus Bontempelli (Bulldogs) — 17

4. Patrick Cripps (Blues) — 15

=5. Noah Anderson (Suns) — 14

=5. Sam Walsh (Blues) — 14

7. Caleb Serong (Dockers — 13

=8. Max Gawn (Demons) — 12

=8. Brodie Grundy (Swans) — 12

=8. Chad Warner (Swans) — 12

Posted , updated