Heroes & Villains, R18: Hawkins, Tuohy inspirational; Swans awful

Every year we seem to say it but just how good is this season's race for the finals?

Remarkably, with just five rounds remaining, 12 teams are still a genuine chance of making the top eight. Despite a last-gasp win over Melbourne, the Cats find themselves outside the eight while the Swans, who suffered a shock-loss to the Suns on Saturday, could also slip out with another loss.

On the other side, the Giants have come from absolutely nowhere to jump to sixth after a tight win over the Power, while the Bombers are still not out of contention despite a horrific start to the season.

Heroes & Villains, Round 18.

HEROES

Tom Hawkins and the Cats: If you're in the camp that the AFL needs a rule overhaul then please go and watch a replay of the Geelong vs. Melbourne game on Saturday night, as that ought to change your mind. From momentum swings to lead changes, miracle goals to heroic individual efforts, it was without doubt the clash of the season.

After a three quarter-long arm-wrestle, the Demons opened up a 29 point lead early in the final term and looked as though they were on track for just their second win in Geelong in the AFL era. But Chris Scott's side flicked a switch, kicking seven of the last nine goals -- including a Zach Tuohy set shot after the siren -- to record a famous two point win and keep their top four hopes alive.

It seems that when they are under duress, the class of the Cats rises and that was again the case at GMHBA Stadium. Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood sensed the occasion but perhaps not as much as Tom Hawkins, who on his 30th birthday was instrumental in the turnaround. The Cats spearhead booted four goals in an epic last quarter to finish with a season-high seven for the game. The Demons just couldn't contain Hawkins who time and time again proved far too strong.

Tuohy, who was thrown forward late, deserves a lot of credit for displaying nerves of steel to kick truly after the siren to complete the miracle comeback. And what about Gary Ablett? Once again written off by plenty, the master produced a vintage final quarter collecting 14 disposals and sending the ball inside 50 on five occasions.

Clinical Collingwood: After last week's loss to the West Coast Eagles at the MCG, Collingwood's top four aspirations were firmly thrust into the spotlight. But on Saturday, against North Melbourne -- a club desperate to stay in the hunt for the top eight -- normal transmission resumed for Nathan Buckley's men, who played the beautiful and clinical brand of footy we've come to expect from them in 2018.

Last week, Collingwood went at 71 percent disposal efficiency -- their lowest since Round 4 -- and were -26 in total marks. Against North, the Pies controlled the ball, going at an equal season-high 79 percent disposal efficiency and finishing +33 in marks, something which indicates the footy was played on their terms and with expert precision.

So good were the Pies that even skipper Scott Pendlebury couldn't miss a target when he went to bounce the footy in the middle of the MCG.

As for the spread of contributors? The Pies continue to share the love up forward; Brody Mihocek and Jordan de Goey kicked four each, while Jaidyn Stephenson and Will Hoskin-Elliott both snagged three majors -- something which could make them a genuine contender come the pointy end of the year.

Orazio Fantasia: Could Essendon's slim chance of featuring in September hinge on Orazio Fantasia? It's not such a far-fetched notion.

When Shaun McKernan went down with what looks to be a serious hamstring injury, some might have thought the Bombers would go on to cough up a potentially season-ending loss to the Dockers, but Fantasia stepped up enormously to remind fans what they've been missing for a large part of 2018.

Fantasia kicked five goals for Bombers -- four of which came after McKernan was taken from the ground -- including both the opener and sealer. His class, clean ball use and pace was a problem for the Dockers and in the end the difference between the two sides.

It's no coincidence that Essendon has won seven of the 10 games Fantasia has played in 2018. Fantasia has also kicked nine goals from his last two outings and if he can build some form and remind everyone why he kicked 39 goals in 2017, the Bombers might not be done and dusted just yet.

VILLAINS

SCG Swannies: One of 2018's most bizarre form lines continued on Saturday when the Gold Coast Suns caused the upset of the year in defeating Sydney at the SCG.

It's something the Suns had never managed before, having lost every single one of their eight prior matches against the Swans by at least five goals, but the shock result was also Sydney's fifth loss at their home ground in a year in which they've only lost six times.

The Swans made a scintillating start to the match, kicking the first five goals and looking particularly ominous, but the Suns stifled the home side who then went goalless for a staggering 70 minutes of game time.

Lance Franklin was brilliantly held goalless by unheralded Gold Coast fullback Rory Thompson, while former Port player Aaron Young (four goals) and prized recruit Lachie Weller (23 touches and two goals) were irresistible for the Suns.

The complacent effort and subsequent loss now places into jeopardy the Swans' top four chances, but looking at their form lines away from home, maybe finishing seventh or eighth wouldn't be the worst result...

AFL coaches: By Round 18 you'd think AFL coaches would have learnt that you need to put some time into Tom Mitchell. The Hawthorn ball-magnet has shortened into odds on favouritism to win the 2018 Brownlow Medal after a dominant first three quarters of the year, yet the majority of coaches still opt not to run with him.

This week it was Carlton's Brendon Bolton who decided against going with a tag and the Blues were made to be punished. Mitchell racked up 46 disposals, won six clearances, took nine marks, laid nine tackles and booted two goals as the Hawks thrashed the Blues by 72 points in yet another best on ground performance.

It's really quite remarkable that Mitchell is left to run alone so often given that he leads the competition in disposals and clearances. In fact, there's really only been two occasions this year where a coach has gone with a hard tag on Mitchell for an entire game. In Round 5 North Melbourne's Ben Jacobs kept him to just 19 possessions before Sydney's George Hewett restricted him to 20 touches. Hawthorn lost both games.

AFL coaches, you've been warned.

Port Adelaide: After suffering a horrible loss to Fremantle last weekend you would have bet every last dollar you owned on a response from Port Adelaide when they returned home to face the Giants.

However, apart from a brief final quarter burst, it was much of the same as the limp Power outfit went down by 22 points to GWS, recording their first back-to-back losses since rounds four and five.

Without Paddy Ryder in the ruck, Ken Hinkley's side was smashed in the clearances (52-30) and failed to win the ball with contested possessions also skewing significantly in GWS's favour (129-160).

Put simply, too many Port players failed to have any impact. Sam Powell-Pepper finished with just 11 disposals, Jack Watts had 10 and zero goals, while Lindsay Thomas also failed to kick a major from his eight possessions. Even the mercurial Chad Wingard couldn't get into the game as a midfielder, raising questions about where he's more valuable as a player.

With their top four hopes now in doubt, will we finally see some ticker next week when they play the Dogs in Ballarat?