Proof the game has never been more even
IT'S the socialistic system sought by the AFL, and never in the past 20 years has equalisation been more evident than the AFL ladder after Round 8.
Just one game separates Geelong in third place with five wins and the Western Bulldogs in 13th with four, as drafting, salary caps and professionalism ensure a more even playing field.
And for Rodney Eade, who knows a thing or two about the caper after 617 combined games as a player and coach over 40 years, it's why goal-kicking players become even more valuable.
"The salary cap and draft have kicked in even more, plus clubs are getting better at drafting and development. Yes, we've had the same process for a long time but clubs just haven't got it right," said Eade, 60.
"Clubs are closer together in what they can spend which is another leveller. And some say has the competition slipped, meaning the 12th and 13th teams are closer to the third and fourth teams?"
And according to Eade, that's where matchwinners come into play.
"In today's defensive era, the guys who can kick goals are even more valuable, or worth their weight in goals if you like. Daniel Menzel is a really good example," he said.
"Say the Geelong-Collingwood game last weekend where the Cats kicked nine goals to Collingwood's five. If you have a Menzel who can kick four, then you win the game.
"He doesn't have to be your best player, just someone who has that talent and knowledge in how to kick a goal. Menzel has got it and Gary Buckenara was the same. It doesn't even have to be a brilliant goal.
"I'm surprised Menzel didn't attract more interest last year. We are an industry that focuses too much on what players can't do, rather than what they can do. Would you rather have a bloke with six tackles or six goals?
"If he doesn't have the six tackles, it doesn't guarantee the opposition will score six goals."
As for the formation of the eight, in recent times only 2016 stands out as a year where the eight didn't change after Round 8.
So if you barrack for Greater Western Sydney, North Melbourne, Collingwood, Fremantle or Western Bulldogs, your finals dream remains alive.