Heroes & Villains, R16: Can anyone catch the runaway Tigers?

Did this year's finals and premiership race get just a tad clearer?

It certainly appeared that way after another cracking round of footy.

Up the top of the ladder, the Tigers did what they seemingly always do these days -- withstood a spirited challenge from a rival at the MCG, lifted several notches when the game was there to be won and walked off with another four points and top spot on the ladder still in their hands.

Can anyone stop this Richmond juggernaut? As unlikely as this would have sounded at the start of the season, perhaps the biggest challengers are Port Adelaide and Collingwood after they survived tricky assignments against St Kilda and Essendon respectively.

The Power have now won five in a row and boast weapons across all lines, although the knee injury to star defender Tom Jonas may have significant ramifications should it be a lengthy spell on the sidelines.

The Magpies, meanwhile, won their seventh game on the trot after a torrid battle against the Bombers at a sodden MCG. Their army of fans can now start to dream big, although we'll know more about their legitimacy after the next month of footy - the Pies play West Coast at home, North Melbourne, Richmond and Sydney in the next month.

The Cats also bolstered their finals hopes with a powerful win against an injury-hit Sydney at the SCG, the Lions mauled a woeful Carlton outfit while the Demons, Hawks, Kangaroos and Eagles all secured vital wins as the race to September heats up.

Here are your heroes and villains from Round 16.


Jordan De Goey: Much of De Goey's stat line from Sunday's gritty win against Essendon -- 20 possessions, five marks and three tackles -- can hardly be called match-winning, but his three goals when the game was on the line was just that as the Pies won their seventh match on the trot.

In a titanic, see-sawing battle at the MCG, De Goey dragged the Pies over the line with some incredible individual efforts after he was stationed forward after the main break in front of a crowd of 69,868.

The 22-year-old booted his trifecta of goals either side of three-quarter time, helping Collingwood wrest the momentum from their fierce rivals and retain their spot second on the ladder behind Richmond.

In his first match after knocking back a 'Godfather offer' from North Melbourne and instead re-signing for two more years in black and white, DeGoey's clutch performance showed just why the Kangaroos were comfortable throwing bags of cash at him and why the Magpies were so relieved when he signed to stay on.

His ability to dominate from inside 50, coupled with his explosiveness through the midfield makes him a rare dual-position threat much like Dustin Martin, Patrick Dangerfield, Robbie Gray and Co. While he's got a long way to go to reach that trio's level of consistency and longevity, Collingwood have a beauty on their hands in someone who has shown a liking for the big moments.

Cruising Tigers: Is everyone else playing for second? It may be a tad premature to say the Tigers have a second successive premiership in the bag but all things considered through 16 rounds, it's almost impossible to see them not going back-to-back.

In beating last year's grand finalist Adelaide by 47 points at the MCG on Friday night, the Tigers retained their spot at the top of the ladder, and it appears they're all but a lock for a top-two finish and therefore home ground advantage in the finals.

Friday's win was Richmond's 17th straight at the 'G -- equalling the all-time win streak at the venue and while that daunting home record is far short of the all-time home streak of 30 set by Geelong from early 2008 to mid-2010, it's a situation which doesn't bode well for every other team in the league. If the Tigers can secure a top-two finish, they're almost guaranteed to make the grand final ... which will also be played at the home of football.

It's a scary situation for the other sides in the mix to play finals because Richmond seemingly cruise to victory most weeks without getting out of third gear. Dustin Martin is yet to hit his straps (despite racking up 30 touches and kicking two goals against the Crows), Daniel Rioli is beginning to impact games again after his absence and the defensive unit is working incredibly well - and will no doubt get better with Nick Vlastuin's return.

It begs the question: are the rest just making up the numbers?

Hawk forwards: The week began with the shock news of Hawthorn four-time premiership great Cyril Rioli calling time on his illustrious career and the way that it ended was absolutely fitting as Rioli's forward line partners ran riot against the Bulldogs.

Jarryd Roughead, Luke Breust and Jack Gunston combined for 14 of Hawthorn's 19 goals against Luke Beveridge's improving Dogs on Saturday night - comfortably the trio's greatest collective haul this season. In fact, it was the first time since Round 7, 2014 against St Kilda that all three of them had booted four-plus goals in the same game.

Breust, who kicked 6.2 on the night to take his season tally to 36 goals, sits third in the race for the Coleman Medal. Gunston and Roughead both kicked four majors in the win and also find themseves inside the top 20 in the league for goals after 16 rounds.

In a season where goals have proven hard to come by, Alastair Clarkson and Hawthorn fans must be thrilled with the output from their forward line in recent weeks having averaged 97.5 points per game in the past month of footy.

With a kind run home, the Brownlow Medal favourite in Tom Mitchell and a forward line that's firing, don't count the Hawks out of it just yet.


Inaccurate Cats: We know what you're thinking... didn't the Cats beat the Swans on Thursday night? Yes, they did, but they also missed out on a prime opportunity to boost their percentage ahead of what looms as one of the closest finishes to an AFL season in recent memory.

At the end of Round 16, just 10 points and about 10 percentage points separate second from 10th on the ladder, meaning that while every win helps, winning big is critical.

Yes, the Cats gave their September prospects a boost by securing the four points, but kicking a terribly inaccurate 8.23 for the match could come back to haunt them. Admittedly there were six rushed behinds, but key forward Tom Hawkins was the main culprit from a Geelong perspective, slotting 2.5 on the night.

While the Cats have a healthy percentage now (they sit seventh at 123.1 percent), their run home isn't the easiest. Geelong have to travel to Adelaide to play the Crows before facing Richmond and Hawthorn at the MCG. A large win on Thursday night could be the difference between finishing eighth or ninth, or sixth and with a home final or seventh and without, or fourth and with the double chance or fifth and without.

In fairness, they do play their final two games at GMHBA Stadium but Cats fans only need to ask their Melbourne-supporting counterparts about missing finals by a whisker, after the Demons suffered a last-minute heartbreak last year when they missed out on the top eight by half a percentage point.

The insipid Blues: When the team sitting second last can thrash the bottom side by 65 points, you know there's a serious problem.

The Blues have had some shockers in season 2018. There was the 86 point mauling by the Kangaroos in Tassie, the 109 point humiliation against the Dees and who could forget when they entered halftime trailing 77-7 against the Dockers? But perhaps Carlton's worst collective effort and performance came on Saturday afternoon when the 17th-placed Lions were made to look a finals contender in another one-sided rout.

Brisbane controlled the game, smashing the Blues in disposals (442-297), contested possessions (133-112) and marks (147-65) and from late in the opening term to midway through the third, kicked nine unanswered goals to leave Brendon Bolton scratching his head and Carlton fans scrambling for the remote control.

The fact Bolton said post-match that he wanted his side to base its game on manic pressure was even more confusing considering most of his 22 played like witches hats against the Lions, much like they did in the previously mentioned shockers earlier this season.

In a familiar tale, the Blues seemed to have far too many passengers against Brisbane: 13 of them finished up with less than 15 disposals -- something only four Lions did -- while 11 players had two marks or less for the game.

It might be hard to watch for Carlton fans but there is a silver lining: the No. 1 draft pick is almost certainly in their hands.

The zero-tackle Dons: When it comes to pressure, tackling isn't the be-all and end-all but it certainly shows an intent to work hard without the ball and to perform the sacrificial duties that teamwork is based on.

For the most part of Sunday's thriller against Collingwood, Essendon played with the desperation needed for a team needing to stay in touch with the top eight.

But one look at the stats column post-game won't be pleasant reading for some of the Dons' most experienced players. Because while the total tackle numbers were shared at 56-apiece at the game's conclusion, Michael Hurley, Brendon Goddard, Jake Stringer, Adam Saad and Ben McNiece combined for a grand total of ... zero tackles. Yep, zero.

McNiece is in his first year of AFL footy so can be cut some slack, but the senior quartet who couldn't lay a single tackle between them might need some serious reflection after the Bombers dropped away in the final term.

They only need to look to the work put in by teammate Devon Smith (13 tackles, to go with 31 touches and eight marks) for inspiration for the final seven rounds of the year.

Coincidentally, Smith is a clear No. 1 in the league for average tackles, at 8.4, ahead of Dayne Zorko, Ed Curnow and Clayton Oliver, who average just over seven per game.

Maybe he can take Hurley, Goddard, Stringer and Saad aside during the week to share some of his secrets ahead of Essendon's trip to Metricon Stadium against Gold Coast.