The A-Z of Round 22: Who held on? Who let it slip?

The moments that defined Round 22 of the AFL season. (Photos: GWS Giants/Twitter; Fremantle Dockers/Twitter; Carlton FC/Twitter)

There’s just one more round to go before finals begin for eight AFL sides.

This week, teams dropped out and stayed in contention, records were made and broken and huge margins broke the spirits of some of the competition’s greatest.

The Inner Sanctum takes you through the defining highs, lows, and controversies surrounding Round 22 of the 2021 AFL Premiership season, complete from A-Z.

A is for Aliir Aliir, Again! After his dominant performance against the Crows in Round 21, Port Adelaide defender Aliir Aliir was similarly commanding over the Blues’ hapless forward line on Saturday. As Carlton managed just seven behinds after going 23 points ahead in the second quarter, Aliir produced a massive aerial performance once again, with 19 disposals, eight marks, 14 intercepts, and five rebound 50s. His presence in the Power’s defensive 50 was immense as his side crushed the Blues at Adelaide Oval to help secure their top-four chances.

B is for a Baker’s Double. Liam Baker was a highlight in what was an otherwise dismal watch for Richmond fans in Round 22. Much of his work rate and adaptability as a player has gone unnoticed and unappreciated, but not anymore, as he earns a well-deserved shout-out for his efforts against the Giants. His two goals weren’t enough to close the gap between Richmond and GWS, but he certainly gave plenty of fight as his team was going down.

C is for Ceglar’s 100th. Hawks ruckman Jonathon Ceglar celebrated game 100 with an emphatic upset victory over the Western Bulldogs. Having been on an AFL list for a decade, it has been a long journey for Ceglar to reach 100 games. He finished the afternoon with 17 disposals and a game-high 34 hitouts in one of his best performances for the season.

D is for Depleted Pies get a proper look into the next generation. Collingwood was left with a depleted backline in its clash against the red hot Lions after losing Isaac Quaynor and Jeremy Howe. Although the scoreboard looked bad, Magpie fans got a look at the future with young stars Ollie Henry and Jack Ginnivan both converting majors and continuing their run of form. 

E is for Elite Ed. Melbourne midfielder Ed Langdon was everywhere on Sunday in his team’s 41-point win over Adelaide, finishing the game with 27 disposals. His work on the defensive side of the ground was crucial to Melbourne’s push off half-back. 

F is for First goals all around. A first goal is something to savour, and both Sydney and North Melbourne were able to get around a first goal during their Saturday night clash. Sydney’s Braeden Campbell slotted his first major in the first quarter of the match, followed by North Melbourne’s Charlie Comben kicking his first goal after the final siren. Both of them now have a memory to savour, regardless of the result on the night. 

G is for Goal of the year? With the Eagles closing to within a six-point margin in the early stages of the final quarter, the ball was bobbling along the boundary line in the Dockers forward 50. Refusing to let the ball trickle over the line, a desperate Caleb Serong punched it on, bouncing back to his feet and snapping what would prove to be the game-sealing goal from the impossible angle.

H is for Harleys out at the Gabba. The motorbike returned to the Gabba on Saturday night, with Charlie Cameron getting Lions fans out of their seats. Cameron finished with an equal career-high six goals and was a major headache for the already depleted Magpies defence.

I is for Inspirational Mundy still leading the way. In his 353rd and games record equaliser, David Mundy is still leading the way for the Fremantle Dockers. With a host of stars missing, and alongside young bull Caleb Serong, Mundy was huge in the midfield, collecting 28 disposals and laying six tackles as Fremantle kept their season alive with a big win in Derby 53.

J is for Jezza’s heroic return. After suffering a hamstring injury in Round 16, Geelong recruit Jeremy Cameron’s Round 22 return had a huge impact on the team’s win. In a huge first half effort from the first-year Cat, Cameron had three goals to halftime (as well as 11 disposals and seven marks) to have the side within a kick at the main break. While his third and fourth quarters yielded one touch in each term, he kicked the all-important game-sealing goal deep in the game to lock the Cats into the top four.

K is for Kelly’s contract justified. Many were perplexed over the length of Josh Kelly’s eight year contract, but with how he played in Round 22, it’s no wonder the Giants want to keep him around that long. He impressed in the midfield, delivering a season-best performance with 32 disposals and a game-high 11 tackles. His mammoth outing helped ensure his team was one step closer to finals, beating, and closing the curtains on the reigning premiers’ dynasty.

L is for Ladder-Leaders. Melbourne took down a valiant Adelaide side by 41 points at the MCG on Sunday afternoon to leap to the top of the table going into the final round of the season. A fierce third-quarter fightback from the Crows was stifled as the Demons regained control to run away with it in the end. Bayley Fritsch starred with a seven-goal haul.

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M is for Murphy’s Massive Milestone. It was a day of few highlights for the Blues, but former skipper, and now 300-game club legend Marc Murphy brought up the triple-ton in what will also be his final AFL game. Murphy signed off from AFL-level footy with 24 disposals, 10 contested possessions and 323 metres gained. As a humble and loyal servant of the club, Murphy certainly wouldn’t have wanted to go out this way, but there are plenty of things from his career for the 34-year-old to look fondly upon.

N is for Not-quite North. North Melbourne, after falling 38 points down against Sydney in its match at Marvel Stadium, clawed it’s way back in style to be only four points down in the last quarter. It took some class and composure from Sydney to hold North at bay and resign the club to its first wooden spoon since 1972. But North showed enough during the match, and throughout the second half of the year to suggest it won’t be there for long. 

O is for Onslaught. There’s no other way to describe it. After Carlton skipped out to a 23-point lead midway through the second quarter, it was all Port Adelaide for the rest of the game. The Power piled on 19 unanswered goals as the Blues failed to register a major after the 14-minute mark of the second term. It puts a sour full stop on the Blues’ season and elevates Port Adelaide firmly into top-two contention at the end of round 22. 

P is for Patrick’s cracking contested work. Geelong’s Patrick Dangerfield had a field day at GMHBA Stadium in Round 22, and was especially vital in his team’s second-half comeback. Across the contest against St Kilda, he had 31 disposals, though 24 of them were contested – 11 more than anyone else on the ground. The number of contested possessions is his equal-fourth-highest career tally and the most since Round 2, 2019. He also had a game-high nine clearances, took six marks, and laid six tackles in the match, as well as kicking an important late goal.

Q is for Quick thinking. Two goals for North Melbourne came off the back of a bit of party tricks from some of its star young forwards. Cam Zurhaar squeezed North’s first goal through with no room to spare, and then Jaidyn Stephenson had just enough time to get the ball on his foot to keep North in the game in the second quarter. Both goals were impressive feats of skill, and clear highlights of its eventual loss to Sydney. 

R is for Record setter. Touk Miller has been one of the few positives to shine through for Suns fans in the wake of some dismal losses throughout the season. With the Bulldogs’ Jack Macrae dropping his streak earlier in the year, Miller now holds both the longest active streak and overall record of games with 30 or more disposals. Give the man an All-Australian blazer!

S is for Super Seedsman. Arguably one of Adelaide’s best in 2021, Paul Seedsman started Sunday’s game against Melbourne on fire with 15 disposals. Despite losing his way slightly as the match wore on, he finished with a career-high 36 at 81% efficiency and kicked a goal in the second quarter from outside 50 as he did his best to keep his Crows in it all day. 

T is for Timmy Time. With GWS’ leading goalkicker Toby Greene out of the side, someone needed to stand up and take his place. That person was Tim Taranto, who kicked four goals in the Giants’ 39-point victory over the Tigers. To accompany his four-goal haul, Taranto also finished with 18 touches, three tackles, and eight score involvements for the evening.

U is for Untying the Package. While Jake Stringer’s form continues to bounce around, he was back at his match-winning best once again as the Bombers cruised to a massive victory over the Suns. He kicked just shy of his career-high haul with five goals, adding 17 disposals, 11 score involvements, and three inside 50s in a big day out.

V is for Victory in a Derby at last. After 11 losses in a row, in front of a packed home purple army, Fremantle broke its Derby losing streak in spectacular fashion. An eight goal to three first-quarter set up the win and in the process, kept the Dockers’ season alive and severely dented the finals hopes of their cross-town rivals.

W is for Western Bulldogs’ minor premiership lost? After consecutive shock defeats to both the Bombers and the Hawks in the past two rounds, the Bulldogs’ chance of achieving a minor premiership are over. Now six points behind the Demons and four points behind the Cats and Power, the Bulldogs will rue missed opportunities for a top of the ladder finish and a home final.

X is for X-ploding out of the blocks. St Kilda had a quick start to its Round 22 game, kicking the first five goals at GMHBA Stadium before Geelong got on the scoreboard, leading 31-0 after 23 minutes. Taking advantage of turnovers and entries forward, the Saints, lead by Max King, looked lively. Leading and crashing packs, he kicked two first-quarter goals and five marks (three contested). Unfortunately for King, he went down with a late injury as the Saints too fell, surrendering their lead to the Cats that in turn ended their finals aspirations.

Y is for York Park send-off. Round 22 would mark the final time Alastair Clarkson would coach in Tasmania. The 27-point victory over the Bulldogs would be a fitting way for Clarkson to end his time in the state, with the venue being a happy hunting ground for Clarkson and his Hawks. He’d receive a classy send-off from Hawks fans at the end of the game in addition to being amongst the players for the team song after the game.

Z is for Zipping up finals. With a barnstorming win over Gold Coast, Essendon look all but set to have zipped up its finals chances in 2021. A Fremantle victory over the West Coast Eagles in Sunday evening’s Derby didn’t do much to hurt those chances either. A win next week against Collingwood seals the Bombers in the top eight. The Giants are the only other team that can drop out, but a win over the Blues will similarly lock the top eight in for good.

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