In a round of upsets, it all started on Friday night with Carlton defeating traditional rivals Collingwood by 17 points. They were nearly three goals up at the long interval, and won 14.9 (93) to 10.16 (76).
Charlie Curnow led the way in attack with a six- goal haul, also leading the Coleman medal chase against Taylor Walker by the same margin.
Captain Patrick Cripps, Nic Newman, defender Jacob Weitering, small forward Jesse Motlop, rookie Oliver Hollands and before injury, Adam Cerra, were all pivotal for the Blues.
Collingwood endured just its third loss for the season and were well serviced by Darcy Moore, Josh Daicos, Nathan Murphy, Jeremy Howe, Nick Daicos and Jordan De Goey.
Fremantle followed this script in the early Saturday game at GMHBA Stadium (Kadinia Park) against last year’s premiers, Geelong.
Against the odds, and travelling across the nation, the Fremantle Dockers snapped a four-game losing streak, defeating their hosts by seven points, winning 10.11 (71) to 9.10 (64).
The Dockers were well served by Andrew Brayshaw, Caleb Serong and Luke Ryan who were the three leading possession winners in the contest. Dockers Captain Alex Pearce also played an important row.
For Geelong, its best was Tom Stewart, Mitch Duncan, Zach Guthrie and young defender Sam De Koning.
In the third upset from the first three games, GWS Giants came from 29 points down at half time at Mars Stadium in Ballarat to defeat the Western Bulldogs in a thriller by five points, 11.12 (78) to 10.13 (73).
Skipper Toby Greene inspired a colossal comeback by the Greater Western Sydney side, kicking five goals in the win, while Lachie Whitfield, Sam Taylor, Lachie Ash, Stephen Coniglio, Indigenous talent Tony Bedford, veteran Callum Ward, and Kieran Briggs, all had telling impacts.
For the Western Bulldogs, Tom Liberatore continued his All-Australian season, with Adam Treloar, Bailey Dale, Jack Macrae, Marcus Bontempelli and ruckman Tim English all having their moments.
In the latest Q-Clash, Gold Coast broke a run of nine successive losses to arch-rival Brisbane, winning by a 41-point margin at Heritage Bank Stadium on Saturday night.
The Suns out-worked their more fancied rivals to collect victory, 15.6 (96) to 7.13 (55). It was the first time Gold Coast had won a Q-Clash since 2018.
Gold Coast’s Touk Miller closed down Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale, while Noah Anderson and Ben King with five goals up forward led the way.
Will Powell, Matt Rowell with 13 tackles, and Sam Flanders, were also fine contributors.
Brisbane’s best was Josh Dunkley, followed by defender Keidean Coleman, Hugh McCluggage, Callum Ah Chee and Darcy Wilmot.
Despite conceding five goals to one in the final quarter, the Sydney Swans held on to defeat Essendon at Marvel stadium in a heart stopper by two points, holding on for a 15.11 (101) to 15.9 (99) triumph.
For the visiting Sydney Swans, Errol Gulden is an up and coming star of the competition. Jake Lloyd, Chad Warner, Braeden Campbell and Joel Amartey with four goals were key as well.
Essendon skipper Zach Merrett was their best, while Kyle Langford kicked five goals. Jye Caldwell, Darcy Parish and former captain Dyson Heppell were strong in the black and red.
A sad post script – legendary forward and competition superstar Lance Franklin suffered a career-ending calf injury.
Showdown LIV was a great night for the Crows’ faithful, as on the back of a seven-goal best on ground performance by Taylor Walker, Adelaide enjoyed a big 47-point triumph, 16.16 (112) to 9.11 (65).
Along with Walker’s heroics, captain Jordan Dawson, ball magnets Rory Laird and Matt Crouch, Brodie Smith and ruckman Riley O’Brien all had big games.
In his milestone 100th AFL game Connor Rozee was the Power’s best, with Zak Butters, Francis Evans with four goals and Dan Houston having their share of the ball.
Sunday’s results started with a more conventional finish, as St Kilda defeated Hawthorn by 19 points at Marvel Stadium, getting up, 19.8 (122) to 14.9 (93).
St Kilda’s finals hopes remain alive after they kicked their highest score of the season. For the Saints, Brad Crouch, Dan Butler with four goals, Jack Steele, Mason Wood, Jack Sinclair and Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera with a game-high 33 disposals were their best.
Luke Breust led the way with six goals for the Hawks, while Will Day, James Worpel, Jai Newcombe and Chad Wingard were all solid contributors.
Melbourne and Richmond fought out a tough and close contest for three quarters, before the Dees broke the game open in the final term to win by 32 points, 20.10 (130) to 15.8 (98). Harrison Perry, defender-turned-goal-kicker, was the game breaker with six goals.
Captain and ruckman Max Gawn, Jack Viney, Jake Melksham and Jacob van Rooyen – with four goals each – along with Trent Rivers, were standouts for the winners.
For the Richmond Tigers, co tenants at the MCG, Dusty Martin with three goals, the mercurial Shai Bolton, Tim Taranto, Dion Prestia and Liam Baker all made their mark in this game
In the final game of the round, between the 17th placed West Coast Eagles and 18th positioned North Melbourne Kangaroos, the hosts at Optus Stadium prevailed by five points, 10.12 (72) to 10.7 (67).
Holding on, despite conceding four goals to nil in the final quarter, Tim Kelly, recruit this year Jayden Hunt from Melbourne, Bailey Williams, Jason Cripps, veteran Shannon Hurn in defence, Oscar Allen and Jack Darling, who spent time in the back half, were the leading performers.
North Melbourne’s best was Luke Davies-Uniacke, followed by rookie of the year candidate Harry Sheezel. Paul Curtis with four goals, Jy Simpkin, ruckman Todd Goldstein and young Bailey Scott were all more than serviceable.