The Melbourne Football Club go to bed on Saturday night without knowing whether a Mad Monday is just around the corner. Instead they face something of a Mad Sunday after their surprise loss to Collingwood left their finals dreams entirely dependent on the outcome of other games on the last day of a capricious home-and-away season.
Looking to end their 11-year finals drought, the Demons needed to beat the Magpies in what would have been their 13th victory to guarantee September action. But now they face a nervous wait with the final score and margin in Sunday’s late game between West Coast and Adelaide almost certain to decide their destiny.
With Essendon widely expected to be good enough to defeat out-of-sorts Fremantle in the early game at Etihad Stadium on Sunday – allowing the Bombers to join Melbourne on 12 wins but push above them on percentage – the Eagles have the chance to snatch Melbourne’s finals spot if they upset the Crows by a big enough margin.
It’s tight in points for and against language with the Demons only heading West Coast by 0.9 per cent. An Eagles win by about four goals against a Crows team without Taylor Walker and Daniel Talia in the final game at Perth’s Domain Stadium might be enough to ensure some Demons heartbreak. For example, if West Coast score 110 points and their winning margin is 24 points it would leave them with a percentage of 105.39 per cent, narrowly ahead of Melbourne’s mark (105.22 per cent). Get your calculators ready.
Then there’s the St Kilda scenario. Should the Bombers and Eagles lose – leaving them both with 11 home-and-away victories – the Saints could jump into eighth spot with an against-the-odds victory over finals-bound Richmond at the MCG.
St Kilda’s percentage (98.9 per cent) ain’t that flash but that won’t matter if they secure their 12th win of the year. A shock Essendon loss to Freo also would leave Melbourne fans smiling as St Kilda simply has too much ground to make up to surpass Melbourne’s percentage.
It all makes for a tense final day if what has been a remarkable, topsy-turvy AFL season. Heading into the final round all key finishing positions on the AFL ladder were up for grabs with Adelaide and GWS Giants still in the mix for the minor premiership, top four spots up and the double chance still up for grabs, the last two positions in the top eight undecided and the wooden spoon only determined after North Melbourne’s convincing 51-point win over the Brisbane Lions at the Gabba.
That victory meant the Kangaroos were set to finish 15th (assuming Gold Coast didn’t pull off an unlikely victory over top four contender Port Adelaide) instead of the ignominy of finishing at the bottom of the table for the first time since 1972.
Sunday morning will dawn with news too of whether the GWS Giants have pulled off a victory in a tricky away match against Geelong. Four points to the Giants would mean Adelaide must notch a win against West Coast to reclaim top spot and claim their first minor premiership since 2005. And if bragging rights are important to Crows fans, you can be certain the Demon faithful are desperately hoping Adelaide has something extra to play for out west late on Sunday.