Heroes & Villains, R17: Shocking haircuts; Max Gawn a Charlie chance?

Well, we're another round down but no closer to knowing which teams will feature in the finals after a number of teams in the running lost games they probably should have won.

Geelong squandered a chance to cement themselves into September calculations, Collingwood lost to the Eagles (at the MCG!), the Tigers opened the door for other teams to steal the minor premiership, and Hawthorn did exactly what we said they couldn't afford to do in losing to the Brisbane Lions.

Special mention to big Buddy Franklin, too, who became just the ninth player in history to kick 900 VFL/AFL goals. Here's to at least another one hundred more!

Heroes & Villains, Round 17.

HEROES

Max Gawn: Every year, footy commentators try their best to mount a case for someone other than a genuine midfielder winning the Brownlow Medal. In the past, Buddy has been touted as "a chance", Alex Rance has been in vogue, and there were even murmurs about Todd Goldstein's chances back in 2015.

But surely it is Max Gawn who has the best chance of causing a positional upset in the race for the Charlie. On Saturday against the resurgent Bulldogs, the Demon's ruckman was huge -- both literally and figuratively.

Gawn's stellar form is no new thing; the bearded beauty boasts an impressive line of stats for 2018, headlined by him being the No. 1 tap ruckman in the league.

Gawn averages 46.4 hitouts per game (six more than the second-placed Aaron Sandilands and eight more than the next non-giant-sized human, Brodie Grundy), has amassed a league-leading 227 hitouts to advantage through 16 rounds, and averages the most marks (4.8) and marks inside 50 (1) among full-time rucks.

While Gawn was not up against super opposition against the Dogs on Saturday (Jordan Roughead had to carry the load), what was noticeable about Gawn's game was his willingness to get back and help out in defence. Of his seven marks, four were contested, and of his 17 touches, nine were contested and eight were in defensive 50. Is he a sneaky chance for the Charlie?

Brisbane's youth: The Lions would have taken one win over the Hawks in 2018 at the beginning of the season, but in the end they've managed to snare two for the first time since 2006. Just as they did at the Gabba in Round 9, Brisbane matched Alastair Clarkson's side early before pulling away in the second half to record a 33-point win and make Hawthorn's chance of playing finals, 50-50 at best.

While the experience of Dayne Beams, Dayne Zorko, Mitch Robinson and Daniel Rich were all important, a lot of the credit for Brisbane's latest win has to go to their younger brigade. Last year's No. 1 draft pick Cam Rayner -- along with 2016's No. 3 and No. 17 selections Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry -- was enormous for Brisbane, showing signs that the Lions are on the fast-track to a successful rebuild.

Rayner kicked three goals from his 19 possessions including a critical major late in the game that gave his team valuable breathing space. McCluggage and Berry were both prolific in the midfield, combining for 53 disposals, 10 tackles, nine marks while both kicking goals. And then there's a fellow by the name of Eric Hipwood who backed up his career-best outing against the Blues with another three goals and an impressive marking display.

The win makes it three on the trot for Brisbane and it's fair to say their future looks bright.

Nic Nat-less Eagles: Winless against the Magpies at the MCG since 1995, the West Coast Eagles had a lot to prove to their fans and the media in Sunday's top-of-the-table clash against Collingwood, and after star ruckman Nic Naitanui went down with a suspected ACL before half time, few would have guessed the Eagles would run away with a 35-point win.

Instead of dropping their heads with the expectation of being run over, the whole West Coast team stood up in response, with Scott Lycett admirably carrying the load in the ruck against Brodie Grundy, who no doubt would have been licking his lips at the prospect of a Naitanui-less West Coast outfit.

The Eagles had strong forward contributions from Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy and Willie Rioli (who all kicked three majors), while Mark Hutchings' tag job on Steele Sidebottom (18 touches) went a long way to curtailing the Magpies' run through the middle.

As for the MCG hoodoo? West Coast have won two from two at the venue this year, while they now sit equal on points with ladder leader Richmond.

VILLAINS

Geelong's 'bottom five': There may not be a team in the competition that has as many A-grade players as the Cats. From Patrick Dangerfield to Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett to Tom Hawkins, there is quality and class wherever you look in this Geelong outfit.

For many, it's a wonder that Chris Scott's side isn't firmly locked in the top four of the AFL ladder instead of scrapping away in the middle of the pack. However, Thursday night's 15-point loss to Adelaide demonstrated a key issue with the Cats in 2018; their bottom five players.

Cam Guthrie had a 'mare, notably giving the ball away on three occasions which resulted in three Adelaide majors. The returning Dan Menzel booted an early goal but did little else for the rest of the game, while forwardline partner Wylie Buzza dropped a number of routine marks at crucial stages. And then there are youngsters Jermaine Jones and Sam Simpson who combined for just 14 possessions.

Compare that to the Crows' less experienced names and it's like night and day. Playing just his seventh game, Lachlan Murphy booted three huge goals while fellow first-year player Jordan Gallucci kicked two, including the sealer in the dying stages. Tom Doedee impressed yet again in the backline with 20 disposals at 80 percent efficiency while Alex Keath, who looked nervy at times on Dangerfield, was still able to contribute by clunking a couple of crucial marks late in the game.

Taylor Walker: Oh, Tex. Did you not learn anything from Jeremy Cameron's silly brain fade in Round 14?

With the Crows in such a precarious position on the ladder, Walker's head-high hit on Geelong's Zach Tuohy in the first quarter on Thursday night was simply inexcusable. The Adelaide skipper was slapped with a one-match ban for his actions and can probably consider himself fortunate as it could easily have been two or three weeks had the hard-nosed Cat not played out the remainder of the game.

It was the beginning of a poor night for Walker who finished with just 10 disposals at 60 percent efficiency and one goal to his name, as he appeared a shadow of the player who single-handedly led the Crows to victory over the Eagles a fortnight ago.

Walker will miss Adelaide's danger game against the Lions at the Gabba next weekend. Could the hit prove costly?

Player haircuts: Without sounding too much like "old man yells at cloud", what on Earth is going on with some of the haircuts in the AFL at the moment?

On Friday night, viewers were treated to some hard-to-watch television, and that was before the camera's panned to Carlton's Dale Thomas, whose latest effort looks like he had to dash out of the barbershop halfway through his chop.

Thomas wasn't the only Carlton player to rock a weird 'do on Friday night; Jarrod Garlett's obsession with with his hair took another... interesting turn on Friday night, while we're all aware of Sam Petrevski-Seton's rat-tail setup.

However we can't just lay the boots into Carlton, as they do have plenty of on-field things to sort out without adding 'player haircuts' into the mix. On Saturday night, and in his first game for the Giants since Round 5, Toby Greene announced his return to footy with an unusual statement on his noggin.

Greene must have been reminiscing back to the early 2000s during his time away, because he turned up to Spotless Stadium with blonde tips in his hair.

Listening to NSYNC? Maybe. In sync with his teammates? Yes. Greene managed to kick two clutch goals and help the Giants to a vital win over the reigning premiers.

Special mentions are also in order for Fremantle's Cam McCarthy and Collingwood's Darcy Moore who also need to rethink their barber of choice, and as for Daisy's latest do, we're not sure if it's better or worse than what the Blues dished up on Friday night, but it is more palatable than what former Melbourne fullback Nathan Carroll embraced in the mid-2000s.