Photos: Geelong FC; Richmond FC; Adelaide FC

With less than a month to go before finals, some contenders have blown golden opportunities to sure themselves up in September.

The Inner Sanctum takes you through Round 20, complete from A-Z. The defining highs, lows, and controversies surrounding Round 20 of the 2022 AFL Premiership season.

A is For Air Fogarty: Late in the first quarter of the Crows-Blues encounter, Darcy Fogarty pulled down a screamer. He climbed the back of former teammate – Mitch McGovern – and nailed the set shot from the boundary.

B is For Bragging rights: Brothers Angus and Andrew Brayshaw faced off on Friday night as Melbourne defeated Fremantle by a staggering 46 points. Angus walked away with bragging rights, who goes well ahead four to one in the sibling rivalry.

C is For Crow blow: Carlton may have just blown its top four chances in a 29-point loss to Adelaide. The Blues led at the first break, but were then overrun and outplayed by the home side. Carlton has struggled at Adelaide Oval, still unable to claim its first win at the venue. It now has Brisbane, Melbourne and Collingwood for its run home, sitting only four points clear of eighth.

D is For Diamond in the rough: After a troubling five years with the Gold Coast Suns, amassing 25 games, Will Brodie has thrived in purple. Brodie has boosted the Dockers midfield, producing big numbers in his first season with his new club. In 2022, Brodie is averaging 28 disposals, 4.7 tackles and 5.9 clearances per game.

E is For Eric shows good signs: Brisbane may not be flying home with the four points, but 11 goals in the first half speaks to a forward line that’s starting to click just nicely. Joe Daniher kicked three goals, and Charlie Cameron and Lincoln McCarthy two each, but it’s Eric Hipwood that the Lions really want to get up and running. A return of 4.3 was his best since his return from a knee reconstruction, and just the fillip that he needs in the run into finals.

F is For Fightback: During the first quarter it looked as though the 17th placed Eagles were in for a long day against Gold Coast, with the margin climbing to five goals at half time. Leaders such as Jack Darling (six goals) and Shannon Hurn (28 disposals) refused to let that happen, with the game going down to the final moments. Performances like that will give Eagles fans some hope for the seasons ahead. 

G is For Geelong Great’s Game 350: Joel Selwood has had a much decorated career, and his Cats lifted to claim victory in his milestone game. Selwood was quiet himself, but the night was a fitting tribute to his fine career to date. There is little he hasn’t done in the game, and can be considered one of the all-time Geelong greats.

H is For Home away from Home: The Demons have flourished on enemy soil in recent seasons, and this trend has continued in Western Australia. Their current streak at Optus Stadium consists of two wins over the Eagles, two finals from last season and their latest triumph of the Dockers. The five-game win streak is the longest current win streak at Optus Stadium, three better than any other club.

I is For Inspired fightback: Having been behind by seven goals in the second quarter against Brisbane, Richmond’s season showed signs of needing life support. There seemed to be a flicker of life late in the second term however, and buoyed by milestone men Shane Edwards (300 games), and Damien Hardwick (500 games as player and coach), the Tigers registered six goals to two in the third term to turn for home just 11 points down. History shows that they hit the front late in the final quarter and went on to record a famous win that just might kickstart a late-season charge.

J is For Just delivering at Marvel: Jake Stringer delivered his best work against the Kangaroos on Sunday afternoon at Marvel Stadium. He kicked an inaccurate five goals and three points, however he also had 14 disposals, three marks and seven tackles to help the Dons to a solid win. 

K is For Keeping AIA in business: Once again, the heart health of Collingwood fans is under threat, with yet another close win. Of their 10 wins in a row, eight have been decided by under two goals, and have gone down to the final seconds. The game against Port was no exception, with the Pies winning by six points and leaving fans on the edge of their seats.

L is For Let your footy do the talking: There’s rarely been a week where Jack Ginnivan hasn’t been the name on everyone’s lips. With constant scrutiny of the 19-year-old, he’d be forgiven for struggling with it. Yet he kicked three goals against Port Adelaide, has 32 for the year, and just keeps doing his bit for Collingwood’s finals push.

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M is For Move over Eddie: We lost an entertaining, highlights on repeat type small forward last year in Eddie Betts only to watch another one take over the mantle this season. Izak Rankine finished the game against West Coast with three goals from 12 disposals, which included goals that only certain talents can pull off. As a one touch, impact per possession player, he provides footy lovers plenty of joy. 

N is For Nucleus for the future: The Gold Coast Suns may have marginally missed the boat for a place in the finals this year, but this is a different Suns team to what we have seen in the past. Noah Anderson, Matt Rowell, Rankine, Touk Miller, and the matchwinner Malcolm Rosas will all continue to be key contributors to propel them forward. Mabior Chol is starring, and at only 25-years-old and will be joined by Ben King post an ACL injury. It may finally be time for the Gold Coast Suns to taste September in 2023. 

O is For Onslaught: The Dogs were great in the first half, and took a two goal lead into the major break. Few would have predicted the onslaught that was about to come. The Cats were unrelenting with their ball use and pressure in the premiership quarter, with eight goals to none to put the game out of reach. If the Cats can shift into that gear in any point in the finals, watch out!

P is for Pressure high, but not for long enough: The Dogs came out firing against the Cats, their pressure through the roof. This caused uncharacteristic Geelong errors and allowed the Dogs to pounce and score with ease in the first quarter. Unfortunately for Dogs fans, they were unable to sustain the effort and intensity. That level of pressure shown early, if sustained for longer, makes them a serious contender.

Q is For Quick thinking: Ben Keays used his quick thinking to capitalise on Carlton’s defensive errors. Seemingly predicting where the ball would travel, Keays found himself unmarked in the forward 50 multiple times – punishing the Blues time and time again. He booted three goals for the first time in his career.

R is For Rowan Marshalls his troops: With Tom Campbell being a late withdrawal, St Kilda big man Rowan Marshall was tasked with sole ruck duties against the Hawks. The 26-year-old relished the responsibility, accumulating a career-high 30 disposals (including 13 contested) to go with 35 hit-outs. Marshall was central to St Kilda’s midfield dominance, with the home-side winning the clearance count by 15. The Saints now find themselves inside the top eight.

S is For Son of a gun: With Port trailing in the final term, Jase Burgoyne picked the perfect moment to kick his first goal. The son of club legend Peter, Burgoyne’s goal put the Power back within a kick in the dying minutes, but ultimately they fell short.

T is For Too little, too late: Trailing St Kilda by seven goals at the midway point of the last quarter, Hawthorn appeared destined to succumb to a heavy defeat. However, five unanswered goals threatened to flip the script, drawing the Hawks within touching distance of an unlikely win. It wasn’t to be though as the Saints ran out deserved 12-point victors, having outplayed Sam Mitchell’s side for the vast majority of the night.

U is For Undisputed Brett Kirk Medal domination: Luke Parker was best on ground yet again in the Battle of the Bridge, winning an unbelievable third straight Brett Kirk medal in the process. Parker had 34 disposals to go along with seven tackles in the dominant win for the Swans against their cross-town rivals.

V is For Very damaging duo: Jy Simpkin and Cam Zurhaar combined in an almost outing for the Kangaroos on Sunday evening. Kicking three first half goals for a total of four throughout the game and having 18 disposals, Zurhaar was the main target up forward. Simpkin was the best of the Kangaroos in the midfield, racking up 41 disposals, six clearances, two marks and five tackles.

W is For Welcome back Dan: In his first AFL game since Round 23 last year, Dan Hannebery made a successful return to the top level against the Hawks. The injury-plagued midfielder made an immediate impact, gathering 27 disposals and contributing with seven score involvements. A first-quarter goal proved to be a real highlight, with Hannebery swamped by his St Kilda teammates in heart-warming scenes. 

X is For X-Factor in the forward line: Noah Cumberland has looked like a real talent from the moment he made his debut as a medical sub, but he has had his ups and downs in his first four AFL matches. He kicked inaccurately in a two-point loss to the Gold Coast, then played on rather than taking a set shot and was beaten by the final siren in the draw with Fremantle. Today though was Cumberland’s time to shine, and he didn’t waste the chance, kicking five goals straight in Richmond’s stirring seven-point victory.

Y is For Young Swans leading the way: In what was a masterful victory for the Swans, it was many of their youngsters that led the way. Errol Gulden kicked two goals and had 33 disposals, while James Rowbottom probably has his best game in red and white, collecting 23 disposals, 13 tackles and a goal. If these young Swans can continue to contribute in this way, who knows how far they can go in 2022.

Z Is For Zzz: After starting well under interim coach Mark McVeigh, the Giants have run out of steam. Their performance against the Swans could be considered a real snoozefest. There was little life to their game all day, and they were never in the contest. Giants fans would be hoping for a better showing to finish the season.

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