Dogs, Tigers flex muscles for AFL finals

The Western Bulldogs have beaten Adelaide, locking in seventh spot on the ladder for the AFL finals.
The Western Bulldogs have beaten Adelaide, locking in seventh spot on the ladder for the AFL finals.

The spirit of 2016 is alive and well at the Western Bulldogs ahead of the AFL finals.

Just like three years ago, the Bulldogs finished seventh and will bring ominous form into their cut-throat elimination final.

Richmond also made a significant round-23 statement, with their 27-point win over Brisbane, meaning the 2017 premiers would take a nine-game streak into September.

But the 12.10 (82) to 8.7 (55) win was not enough for the Tigers to snatch second spot and the qualifying final home advantage from the Lions.

West Coast and Essendon will open the finals series on Thursday week with their Optus Stadium elimination final.

Minor premiers Geelong will play Collingwood on the Friday night in their qualifier at the MCG, followed by the GWS-Bulldogs Saturday afternoon elimination final at Giants Stadium.

The Brisbane-Richmond qualifying final rematch will be on the Saturday night at the Gabba.

And Lions coach Chris Fagan is far from discouraged over that clash.

"I think the last time we played the Tigers here, it was 93 points so we've come a fair way," Fagan said.

"I don't think we had stage fright. I just thought we didn't use the ball as well as we should have."

Earlier on Sunday, the Bulldogs shut the door on Adelaide and the other teams vying for a top-eight berth with a thumping 18.13 (121) to 13.9 (87) win over the Crows in Ballarat.

Significantly for a team who had been struggling earlier this season in attack, it is the fourth time in their past five games that the Bulldogs have kicked 100-plus points.

Their barnstorming late-season form has them rated the most-dangerous team in this finals series.

There are echoes of 2016, when they stormed to their drought-breaking premiership from the same position.

Sunday was an ideal finish to the AFL regular season.

The league also boasts a season attendance record for the third year in a row, with a bumper crowd of 76,995 on Sunday at the MCG.

Heading into Sunday's last three games, the only confirmed top-eight finish was GWS in sixth spot.

But the Bulldogs' win tipped Hawthorn out of eighth place, which the Hawks held briefly after Saturday night's upset win over West Coast, and shut the door on Port Adelaide as well.

West Coast's disastrous 38-point home loss to Hawthorn cost the defending premiers a top-four berth and meant they would host the sudden-death elimination final against the Bombers.

Collingwood's 11-point win over the Bombers on Friday night ultimately put them into the top four.

Geelong's solid Saturday night win over Carlton was a welcome form boost and secured them the minor premiership at Brisbane's expense.

GWS also needed their home win over lowly Gold Coast after a big form wobble in the past few weeks.

Giants star Jeremy Cameron bagged nine goals to win the Coleman Medal, three clear of Ben Brown, who only managed two goals in North Melbourne's win over Melbourne.

Port Adelaide ended the regular season late on Sunday afternoon with a 14.20 (104) to 7.7 (49) dead-rubber win over Fremantle.

Australian Associated Press