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How the Suns and Giants got the best of both worlds

The television commercial starts with a boy and girl arguing across the dinner table: what would be better, soft taco shells or hard? It ends with the whole family celebrating their young sister’s simple suggestion: why don’t we have both?

It's unlikely Gold Coast's list-management strategy was inspired by an Old El Paso advertisement. In fact the Suns swear it wasn't. But four years ago, when Gary Ablett became the first player to leave his club for an expansion team, the AFL got its first taste of future trading, through compensation picks. Mapping where those picks have travelled since they were first handed out leads, more often than not, to the Gold Coast. And after that, western Sydney. The new teams got the uncontracted players, 13 of them. They also got most of the picks handed out to make the players' old team feel better about losing them.

It didn't happen by chance. The Suns' draft concessions were tied into one draft year - players born in 1992. Having signed 12 17-year-olds in 2009, they then had nine of the first 15 picks in the 2010 draft. But they knew they couldn't build their list on the basis of one draft. Had they, everyone would have been coming out of contract at the same time, looking for pay hikes at the same time, becoming free agents and retiring together.

The club didn't have enough coaching staff to give an entire squad of 18-year-olds the attention they would need, and knew their draftees would start to stall if forced to spend more than a season or two in the reserves. They wanted to spread the age of their list - to not just keep drafting players, but keep drafting elite players.

The Suns weren't sure how other clubs would react when, having just pinched their players, they then went and asked for the compensation pick. But when they're trading, clubs spend more time contemplating what they're getting and giving than what anyone else might be stockpiling. And to get those picks back, Gold Coast did have to work them into tempting deals.

Geelong was the first club to hand one over, trading the better of their two Ablett picks, the mid first-round one, to the Suns at at the end of 2010. The Cats could have used the pick themselves, but rules protecting the expansion teams' dominance of the 2011 and 2012 drafts meant it would have been pushed to the end of the first round for those two years.

Waiting would have moved the pick up in the order - it was placed at No. 9 when Melbourne eventually used it in the 2013 draft - but the Cats were a top-eight team that wanted to get started on a new player sooner than that. They got pick 15 in the 2010 draft in return, choosing Billie Smedts, and held on to the second one. Wisely, as it turned out. It meant they had more to offer than any other club for Josh Caddy when he was considering new clubs at the end of 2012.

Brisbane used its picks quickly, too. The Lions ended up with three: one for Michael Rischitelli, one for Jared Brennan and another from the Western Bulldogs, who had lost Jarrod Harbrow but wanted Justin Sherman, and traded the Harbrow pick for him.

The Lions packaged one of their picks - the Brennan one - with pick 10 in the 2010 draft, sending them to Gold Coast so that they could slide up to No. 5. With that pick, they drafted Jared Polec. With the two other picks thrown into the deal, they chose Patrick Karnezis and Ryan Lester. They used the Bulldogs' pick to draft Elliott Yeo at the end of 2011, when waiting would have moved the pick from 30 up closer to 20. They used their end-of-first-round Rischitelli pick to draft Marco Paparone, when that pick might have moved up one or two spots through waiting another year.

It's easy to see where they were coming from, though. Their list was a mess at the end of 2010, after the Brendan Fevola debacle. Trading the Brennan pick almost got them three good players for two picks. Yeo is a good player and Paparone is on the improve. The Lions set up their recovery nicely, before last year's mass walk-out set them back again.

Port Adelaide moved itsNathan Krakouer pick on promptly, too; a little too soon, as it turned out, though it's difficult to criticise many of that club's recent recruiting decisions. The Suns basically got the pick for free, able to trade Simon Phillips as a previously listed player, and not planning to use the pick 35 they threw in. Phillips didn't work. Pick 35, Ben Newton, has had injury problems, but played his first game for a very strong senior team this year.

The Bulldogs wisely waited to activate their Callan Ward pick, a first-rounder, until the start of 2012. They were desperately unlucky that was all they were given for him. They knew where they were at, and were able to kick their rebuild along by drafting Jackson Macrae as well as Jake Stringer. They had learnt a very rough lesson, though, overestimating where they were placed at the end of 2010 when they rushed to send the Harbrow pick to Brisbane. There was competition for Sherman at the time, from Sydney, but Sherman was gone after two years, delisted and paid about $350,000 not to be there in 2013.

Like Geelong, Melbourne got two picks for Tom Scully. Both picks ended up at the Giants, and that the Demons didn't rush into using them at the end of 2011 worked in their favour. They used one to draft Jimmy Toumpas at No. 4 in 2013, knowing they also had pick No. 3 up their sleeve. That was used to get Jesse Hogan, in the second 17-year-old mini-draft.

When you look back through all of their related trading at the end of 2012, the Demons ultimately lost Scully and gave up Jordan Gysberts, picks three, 14 and 20 and a couple of late choices for Toumpas, Hogan, Dom Barry, Chris Dawes and Cameron Pedersen. They also got Jack Viney, a top 10 prospect, in the second round as a father-son pick, something that wouldn't have been possible had Gold Coast not landed the rights to 17-year-old Jack Martin, and used its No. 2 pick in 2012 to instead bid for Viney.

That needs to be factored in when considering the Demons' total haul. Losing Scully also meant the Demons had money to spend on Mitch Clark, though Clark did cost them a decent first-round pick.

Another intriguing decision was made by West Coast. Through a trade with Collingwood at the end of 2010, the Eagles got the third-round Josh Fraser pick for pick 45 in that year's draft. They then traded the Fraser pick to the Suns at the end of 2013 for pick 43 in that draft, an upgrade of just two spots. The benefit to the Suns is obvious - they weren't going to use 43, and got another pick they could use to keep spreading the age of their list. Like most, they considered the 2014 draft to run deeper than it did in 2013. Add this to their list of "something for nothing" trades.

West Coast's rationale was that it liked the 2013 group, wanted to take four picks, and wanted to pick as high as possible. With the Suns' pick 43 in hand, they were able to make four selections inside 45. We'll know more when we see how their choice at 43, Tom Barrass, turns out.

Not many clubs that didn't lose players, aside from the Suns and the Giants, found a way to get involved. Richmond is really the only one that did. The Tigers got Adelaide's Nathan Bock pick, an end-of-first rounder, for Richard Tambling at the end of 2010, with the Crows' pick 50 thrown in. They used 50 straight away, drafting the since delisted Dean Macdonald, then traded the Bock pick to Gold Coast in 2011, for pick 26 and the Krakouer compensation pick.

The Tigers wanted to get another young player in and, with Port Adelaide looking like a bottom-four side, knew a second-round pick attached to the Power wouldn't be placed too far from where the Bock pick would have been. It ended up being a difference of six spots - when the Suns used the Bock pick in 2013, they drafted Jack Leslie at No. 20. But the Tigers also got pick 26 from the Suns in that deal. Effectively, they split the Krakouer pick over two players, Todd Elton and Kamdyn McIntosh, drafted in 2011.

What clubs perhaps didn't realise, at that point, was how gathering those picks enabled both the Suns and Giants to get additional picks for virtually nothing. The Port Adelaide-Gold Coast trade is one example: pick 15 in that the 2010 draft wasn't as valuable to the Suns as it would have been to other teams, given they had so many top 10 picks already.

At the end of 2011, GWS got Adelaide's Phil Davis compensation back for zilch. The Giants sent Luke Brown to the Crows in that trade; Brown had nominated for a previous draft, which meant GWS had first call on him. They also gave Adelaide second choice - Brad Crouch - in the 17-year-old mini-draft. In addition to the Davis pick, an end-of-first-round choice, the Giants' got Adelaide's pick 10 in the 2011 draft. They used that to draft Liam Sumner, then later went on to use the Davis pick in a deal that landed the club picks three and 14 from Melbourne in 2012, for pick 20, Dom Barry and the rights to Jesse Hogan.

The upshot? They Giants gave away two 17-year-olds they weren't allowed to keep, a zone player (Barry) they didn't want, a previously nominated player (Brown) they were happy to give away, and a pick they didn't really value (20) for picks three and 14 (Lachie Plowman and Aidan Corr).

The Suns did even better. Since 2010, they have recouped and reused seven compensation picks. One was used last year to draft Leslie, they'll use two more this year and save the last for next year's draft, when its five-year life is up and it must be used.

They have been able draft from a strong position for four years now, reducing the size of their list but replacing their delisted players with higher-credentialled talent each time, and were always well placed to land Jaeger O'Meara and Martin in the two mini-drafts. No other club could match their offer for O'Meara, which was pick four and the mid-round Ablett pick (they got it for pick No. 15, you may recall, a selection they didn't really need given they were dominating the 2010 draft.) That's two first-round picks, but they could afford it and he looks worth it.

The Suns had given up pick five in the 2010 draft to get their Brennan compensation, as well as two second rounders they weren't planning to use. But they got No. 10 in the same draft (Daniel Gorringe) back as part of that. They were then able to package the Brennan pick with pick two in the 2012 draft for Martin. In effect, they got Martin for pick two, a pick that had cost them a slide from pick five to 10 in the 2010 draft they were dominating anyway, and two more picks they wouldn't have used.

But wait, there's more. As part of the Martin deal, the Suns squeezed the Rhys Palmer compensation pick out of the Giants. A small bonus, but a pick that had one extra year's life on the Brennan pick. Gold Coast will use it in the 2015 draft.

Gold Coast entered the competition with some very generous concessions. The Giants arrived with even more. Should they have been allowed to trade for the compensation picks? Should the Giants have been forced to trade O'Meara, Crouch, Hogan and Martin for established players, not more draft picks?

Possibly. Probably, if you ask the other clubs. But the Suns found a way to turn a good deal into a better one, and the Giants liked their plan. They were able to make themselves and each other stronger, but only with the help of others. It's worth remembering, with the Suns on their way to September and the Giants doing their best to keep up.

9 comments so far

  • And in two or three years or four years they'll both have a premiership; much to the chagrin of established teams that haven't had one in over 50 years! Dammed AFL! Dammed concessions!

    Roger Mayfair
    Date and time
    May 16, 2014, 8:16PM
    • I'm sorry Emma, the Suns had a good win against the inconsistent kangas, but the other wins were against the bottom four, lets not put them in September action yet. Next year the suns enter their fifth season, by which time the Eagles and Port finished on top of the ladder. Their games against the top teams this year suggest they are so very far away from that.

      Date and time
      May 17, 2014, 2:43AM
      • Who was the last team to win a flag with a bunch of high draft picks? Demons? Blues? It doesn't work. The last two premiers have the highest number of recycled players. How many high draft picks have the Swans and Hawks had in the last eight years?

        Date and time
        May 17, 2014, 3:16AM
        • Dont mind the suns so if they do well out of it I dont mind as long as Carlscum still rot at the bottom. Pity the AFL couldnt wangle the horks bottoming out for 10 to 30 years too. Oh well.

          Date and time
          May 17, 2014, 7:50AM
          • What a terrific analysis, well done. And a clear example of a few clubs being proactive and exploiting the (hidden?) cost/price inequities of those special drafts.

            And, right there, is why Emma Quayle is a proper journalist - using publicly available information, a proper 'pull on this string' analysis....and no 'OMG' drama, thanks for that good read and thinking.

            not just picks 1 to 10
            Date and time
            May 17, 2014, 10:21AM
            • I think the majority would agree, that when the AFL established the Brisbane Bears, the botched it by asking all clubs to release players to them. Naturally they released players that would be more likely to play mainly reserves if they stayed. Having realised they should have done better by the Bears the AFL now with Giants and Suns went to far the other way, giving them to much.

              Go Blues
              Date and time
              May 17, 2014, 10:25AM
              • hey we've got a football world cup coming up very soon but we still get boring, AFL-centric drivel like this article...lift your game THE AGE.

                Date and time
                May 17, 2014, 12:34PM
                • Hey Soccer reporting is found boring to most Victorians and Australians, stop covering Soccer and cover AFL more. Lift your game The Age

                  Go Blues
                  Date and time
                  May 19, 2014, 4:30PM
                • Hmmmm Might go bag Soccer in a soccer article and look like a fool. What's your thoughts unbelievable?

                  Stick to your sport, stay out of ours
                  Date and time
                  May 19, 2014, 8:03PM

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              AFL 2015

              Round 1
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              CAR 78 vs RIC 105 Report Stats
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              MEL 115 vs GCF 89 Stats
              SYD 72 vs ESS 60 Stats
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              WBU 97 vs WCE 87 Stats
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              ADE 140 vs NTH 63 Stats
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              COL 63 vs ADE 90 Report Stats
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              ESS 78 vs HAW 76 Stats
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              Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
              COL 140 vs STK 66 Stats
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              CAR 84 vs ESS 105 Stats
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              Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
              RIC 51 vs MEL 83 Stats
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              STK 81 vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
              ESS 49 vs COL 69 Report Stats
              GWS 119 vs GCF 53 Stats
              PTA 99 vs HAW 91 Stats
              FRE 74 vs SYD 60 Stats
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              BRI 65 vs WCE 118 Stats
              GEE 67 vs NTH 83 Stats
              WBU 125 vs ADE 68 Stats
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              Round 5
              Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
              CAR 45 vs COL 120 Stats
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              RIC 76 vs GEE 85 Stats
              SYD 73 vs WBU 77 Stats
              GCF 118 vs BRI 54 Stats
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              Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
              MEL 50 vs FRE 118 Stats
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              Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
              COL 59 vs GEE 100 Stats
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              NTH 109 vs RIC 74 Stats
              WBU 87 vs STK 94 Stats
              GWS 108 vs HAW 98 Stats
              GCF 78 vs ADE 119 Stats
              MEL 50 vs SYD 88 Stats
              FRE 80 vs ESS 52 Stats
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              CAR 75 vs BRI 84 Report Stats
              PTA 68 vs WCE 78 Stats
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              Round 7
              Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
              ESS 82 vs NTH 93 Stats
              Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
              ADE 119 vs STK 73 Stats
              HAW 155 vs MEL 50 Stats
              CAR 57 vs GWS 135 Stats
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              WBU 88 vs FRE 101 Stats
              RIC 105 vs COL 100 Report Stats
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              Round 8
              Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
              GEE 140 vs CAR 63 Report Stats
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              STK 78 vs WCE 131 Report Stats
              GWS 108 vs ADE 84 Report Stats
              GCF 63 vs COL 132 Report Stats
              HAW 69 vs SYD 73 Report Stats
              FRE 115 vs NTH 42 Report Stats
              Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
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              Round 9
              Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
              SYD vs CAR 19:50SCG
              Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
              HAW vs GCF 13:45AS
              MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
              WBU vs GWS 16:35ES
              RIC vs ESS 19:20MCG
              ADE vs FRE 19:40Adelaide Oval
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              BRI vs STK 13:10G
              COL vs NTH 15:20MCG
              WCE vs GEE 16:40Domain Stadium
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              Round 10
              Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
              FRE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
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              CAR vs ADE 13:40MCG
              GCF vs SYD 16:35MS
              ESS vs GEE 19:20ES
              PTA vs WBU 19:40Adelaide Oval
              Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
              GWS vs BRI 13:10Spotless Stadium
              NTH vs WCE 15:20BA
              STK vs HAW 16:40ES
              Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
              MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
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              Round 11
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              PTA vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
              Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
              GCF vs FRE 13:40MS
              WCE vs ESS 16:35Domain Stadium
              NTH vs SYD 19:20ES
              Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
              COL vs GWS 13:10MCG
              STK vs MEL 16:40ES
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              Round 12
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              ADE vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
              Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
              RIC vs WCE 19:50MCG
              Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
              CAR vs PTA 13:40MCG
              GWS vs NTH 16:35Spotless Stadium
              WBU vs BRI 19:20ES
              Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
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              Round 13
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              FRE vs COL 20:10Domain Stadium
              Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
              SYD vs RIC 19:50SCG
              Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
              HAW vs ESS 13:40MCG
              BRI vs ADE 16:35G
              STK vs WBU 19:20ES
              Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
              CAR vs GCF 15:20ES
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              Round 14
              Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
              SYD vs PTA 19:20SCG
              Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
              COL vs HAW 19:50MCG
              Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
              RIC vs GWS 13:40MCG
              GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
              WBU vs CAR 19:20ES
              MEL vs WCE 19:40TIO
              Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
              ESS vs STK 13:10ES
              ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
              FRE vs BRI 16:40Domain Stadium
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              Round 15
              Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
              PTA vs COL 19:50Adelaide Oval
              Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
              RIC vs CAR 19:50MCG
              Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
              ESS vs MEL 13:40MCG
              WBU vs GCF 16:35CAZ
              NTH vs GEE 19:20ES
              WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
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              GWS vs STK 13:10Spotless Stadium
              HAW vs FRE 15:20AS
              BRI vs SYD 16:40G
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              Round 16
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              NTH vs ESS 19:50ES
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              GEE vs WBU 13:45SS
              GCF vs GWS 14:10MS
              COL vs WCE 16:35ES
              SYD vs HAW 19:20ANZ
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              PTA vs ADE 15:20Adelaide Oval
              STK vs RIC 16:40ES
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              Round 17
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              CAR vs HAW 19:50ES
              Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
              GWS vs GEE 13:45SO
              ADE vs GCF 14:10Adelaide Oval
              RIC vs FRE 16:35MCG
              ESS vs PTA 19:20ES
              BRI vs NTH 19:20G
              Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
              WBU vs COL 13:10ES
              MEL vs STK 15:20MCG
              WCE vs SYD 16:40Domain Stadium
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              Round 18
              Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
              HAW vs RIC 19:50MCG
              Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
              GEE vs BRI 13:45SS
              COL vs MEL 14:10MCG
              SYD vs ADE 16:35SCG
              CAR vs NTH 19:20ES
              GCF vs WCE 19:20MS
              Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
              PTA vs STK 13:10Adelaide Oval
              ESS vs WBU 15:20ES
              FRE vs GWS 16:40Domain Stadium
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              Round 19
              Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
              ADE vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
              Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
              COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
              WBU vs PTA 14:10ES
              BRI vs GCF 16:35G
              GEE vs SYD 19:20SS
              WCE vs HAW 19:40Domain Stadium
              Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
              MEL vs NTH 13:10MCG
              GWS vs ESS 15:20Spotless Stadium
              STK vs FRE 16:40ES
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              Round 20
              Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
              SYD vs COL 19:50SCG
              Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
              ESS vs ADE 13:45ES
              NTH vs STK 14:10BA
              PTA vs GWS 16:35Adelaide Oval
              GEE vs HAW 19:20MCG
              BRI vs CAR 19:20G
              Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
              RIC vs GCF 13:10MCG
              WBU vs MEL 15:20ES
              FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
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              Round 21
              Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
              HAW vs PTA 19:50ES
              Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
              COL vs RIC 13:45MCG
              GWS vs SYD 14:10Spotless Stadium
              GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
              STK vs GEE 19:20ES
              ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
              Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
              NTH vs FRE 13:10ES
              CAR vs MEL 15:20MCG
              WCE vs WBU 16:40Domain Stadium
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              Round 22
              Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
              GEE vs COL 19:50MCG
              Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
              GWS vs CAR 13:45Spotless Stadium
              HAW vs BRI 14:10AS
              NTH vs WBU 16:35ES
              ESS vs RIC 19:20MCG
              GCF vs PTA 19:20MS
              Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
              ADE vs WCE 13:10Adelaide Oval
              STK vs SYD 15:20ES
              FRE vs MEL 16:40Domain Stadium
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              Round 23
              Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
              COL vs ESS 00:00MCG
              RIC vs NTH 00:00ES
              HAW vs CAR 00:00MCG
              GEE vs ADE 00:00SS
              SYD vs GCF 00:00SCG
              MEL vs GWS 00:00ES
              BRI vs WBU 00:00G
              PTA vs FRE 00:30Adelaide Oval
              WCE vs STK 02:00Domain Stadium
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              AFL 2015
              Overall standings
              Team P W L D % Pts
              Fremantle 8 8 0 0 155.29 32
              West Coast Eagles 8 6 2 0 158.17 24
              Sydney Swans 8 6 2 0 127.36 24
              GWS Giants 8 6 2 0 118.87 24
              Collingwood 8 5 3 0 129.90 20
              Adelaide Crows 8 5 3 0 116.32 20
              Hawthorn 8 4 4 0 145.81 16
              Richmond 8 4 4 0 107.64 16
              View all
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