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Welcome to the Den: James Madden

4:28pm  Aug 14, 2018

Coaches Wrap: Round 21

2:02pm  Aug 14, 2018

Weekly Update: Round 22

1:09pm  Aug 14, 2018

Nailbiters: How we fare in the close ones  June 28, 2017 9:40 AM

After four games in a single weekend decided by three points or fewer, many have hailed Round 14 one of footy's best.

The Swans, Dogs, Demons and Cats were the teams smiling after clinching the nailbiters, while the Dons, Roos, Eagles and Dockers were left to curse their luck and/or lack of composure. has gone through each club's respective records in close contests. We've tallied up every match your team has played during the past five years with a final margin of 10 points or less, including draws. Then we've picked five of the nailbiters that really counted.

The results show who's cool in the clutch and who's quick to turn to water.

Matches: 19 Wins: 8 Losses: 11 Draws: 0

Having kept the core of their team together, the Crows have learned how to close out tight games. Since 2015, they have a 4-2 record in games decided by 10 points or fewer compared to 4-9 in 2013-14. However, the Crows have a mixed record in close games under Don Pyke. Since Pyke was appointed in 2016, the Crows have won one of three close games. They are yet to have a game decided by 10 points or fewer this season.

Five that matter

Hawthorn, round five, 2016, MCG, 17.7 (109) v 17.10 (112)

The Crows led by 15 points at the 18-minute mark of the final term before the Hawks rallied, Paul Puopolo kicking his fifth goal in the dying stages to secure victory.

Western Bulldogs, elimination final, 2015, MCG, 16.13 (109) v 14.18 (102)

Skipper Taylor Walker produced two crucial plays – kicking a clutch goal and setting up Charlie Cameron for the sealer – at the end of the game to ensure the Crows kept their season alive.

Carlton, round 10, 2015, MCG, 14.15 (99) v 14.6 (90)

After losing five close games in a row, the Crows were finally able to close one out for the first time since round 6, 2014.

North Melbourne, round 22, 2014, Blundstone Arena, 13.16 (94) v 14.17 (101)

The Crows slipped out of the top eight, and would ultimately miss the finals, as the Kangaroos stormed home with five goals to three in the last quarter.

North Melbourne, round nine, 2013, Etihad Stadium, 18.17 (125) v 19.10 (124)

Sam Kerridge was the unlikely hero, booting six goals as the Crows staged a remarkable comeback to rally from 30 points down at the last change. - Lee Gaskin

Matches: 16 Wins: 12 Losses: 4

For a club that has struggled in recent years, the record in close games is quite remarkable. In Justin Leppitsch's three years in charge, the Lions won a total of 14 games, but were seven out of nine in the 'close' ones. They have often sprung surprises against top-eight calibre teams, including Geelong, Essendon, North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs. So, despite a lack of wins, the Lions can hang their hat on being a solid team under pressure.

Five that matter

Gold Coast, round one, 2017, Metricon Stadium, 15.8 (98) v 14.12 (96)

The Lions kicked the game's first seven goals but had to steady in the final quarter after Gold Coast worked their way in front. What a start for new coach Chris Fagan.

North Melbourne, round 15, 2014, 10.10 (70) v 9.12 (66)

Champion forward Jonathan Brown retired earlier in the week and the Lions harnessed the emotion to win against a strong Roos outfit. This match will also be remembered for a post-siren altercation between Tom Rockliff and Brent Harvey.

St Kilda, round six, 2014, 10.12 (82) v 11.13 (79)

New coach Justin Leppitsch had to travel to New Zealand for his first win in charge. In the first match for premiership points outside Australia, Jack Billings missed a late chance to steal victory for the Saints, and the Lions clung on.

Geelong, round 23, 2013, 17.9 (111) v 15.22 (112)

Two weeks after Michael Voss was sacked, and fresh from Essendon being disqualified from playing finals, the Lions were a mathematical chance to make the top eight entering the final round. Despite a brave fight, a Ryan Lester snap on the siren fell agonisingly short of a great upset.

Geelong, round 13, 2013, 15.13 (103) v 14.14 (98)

Ash McGrath's bomb from outside 50m after the siren completed a fairytale Lions comeback in his 200th game. The Gabba was rocking after the home team overturned a 52-point third quarter deficit. - Michael Whiting


Matches: 26 Wins: 10 Losses: 15 Draws: 1

The Blues have struggled to win many games in the past five seasons, particularly when the contest is close, but their record appears to be improving under Brendon Bolton. Since he took over at the start of last season, Carlton's record in close finishes is 50 per cent (4-4). Their most recent wins against the Giants and Suns showed great character, coming from behind to snatch victory. Although there are plenty of youngsters in the team, the cool, experienced heads of skipper Marc Murphy, Bryce Gibbs, Kade Simpson and Matthew Kreuzer, along with emerging leaders Sam Docherty and Patrick Cripps, know what to do at the right time.  

Five that matter 

Greater Western Sydney, round 12, 2017, Etihad Stadium, 10.11 (71) v 9.16 (70)

Inspired by ruckman Matthew Kreuzer in his 150th game, Carlton fought hard to hold off the Giants and deny them top spot. Important to win at Etihad Stadium, where the Blues have not enjoyed much success.

Port Adelaide, round eight, 2016, Etihad Stadium, 14.9 (93) v 13.13 (91)

A wounded Kreuzer was again the hero, kicking the winning goal late in time-on of the last quarter after the Blues trailed for most of the match. Lost Levi Casboult early and showed grit with several other players battling injury.

Fremantle, round five, 2016, Domain Stadium, 10.12 (72) v 9.14 (68)

A rare victory on the road and the Blues' first win under new coach Brendon Bolton. Skipper Marc Murphy and Patrick Cripps played starring roles.

Port Adelaide, round 12, 2015, MCG, 17.8 (110) v 16.10 (106)

After a horrible first half of the season, the Blues held on to score their first win under interim coach John Barker, who had taken over after Mick Malthouse was sacked about a month earlier.

Port Adelaide, round 23, 2013, AAMI Stadium, 15.14 (104) v 15.13 (103)

With a finals spot on the line, Murphy produced a virtuoso performance to help lift his side to victory after the Blues trailed by 29 points at the final change. - Howard Kotton

Matches: 18 Wins: 6 Losses: 12 Draws: 0

To succeed, teams generally need to win the close ones and have a good run with injuries. In the Nathan Buckley era, the Magpies have come up short in both areas. Their inability to seal the deal was never more evident than in a three-week patch in mid-2015 when they suffered narrow defeats to top side Fremantle (by seven points at Domain Stadium), eventual premiers Hawthorn (10 points) and Port Adelaide (three points at Adelaide Oval). A lack of composure at critical stages has continued to dog Collingwood. Though they upset Sydney in a cliffhanger at the SCG in round three, the Pies have been hurt by heartbreaking losses this year to quality opponents Greater Western Sydney and Melbourne.

Five that matter

Melbourne, round 12, 2017, MCG, 15.10 (100) v 15.14 (104)

Despite being without injured stars Jamie Elliott and Daniel Wells, the Pies surged to a 28-point lead in the second term and had their sights on a top-eight spot, only to concede eight of the last 12 goals.

Greater Western Sydney, round eight, 2017, Spotless Stadium, 15.9 (99) v 15.12 (102)

The Pies led by 26 points at quarter-time and were still three points in front when Steve Johnson's brilliant crumbing goal with just 40 seconds left denied them what would have been a belief-building victory.

Sydney, round three, 2017, SCG, 11.14 (80) v 11.13 (79)

Collingwood led by a game-high 21 points at the first change and wasn't headed until late in the last quarter, before Will Hoskin-Elliott's exquisite long-range set shot proved the difference and avoided a disastrous 0-3 opening.

Richmond, round two, 2016, SCG, 13.9 (87) v 12.14 (86)

Pilloried for their insipid effort in an 80-point loss to Sydney at the SCG in their season opener, the Pies trailed by 17 points deep into the final term but slotted the last three goals, with Brodie Grundy nailing the matchwinner with just four seconds left.

Hawthorn, round 14, 2015, MCG, 12.19 (91) v 15.11 (101)

The Pies had the chance to leapfrog Hawthorn to reclaim a spot in the top four and despite blazing 2.9 in the third term, they kicked the first three goals of the last quarter to lead by nine points, only for the eventual triple premier to snare the last three goals. - Ben Collins

Matches: 22 Wins: 15 Losses: Draws: 1

Essendon's record in tight games is strong in the past five seasons. They were particularly good in the 12 months between round 16, 2014 and round 15, 2015, when they played in seven games decided by 10 points or less and didn't lose any (one was a draw). The Dons have also had a surprisingly good record in tight games interstate. In their six tight games interstate in the featured period, the Dons have come home with the points on four occasions, including two at Domain Stadium. 

Five that matter

Sydney, round 14, 2017, MCG, 11.20 (86) to 12.13 (85)

Friday night's epic encounter saw Essendon somehow squander a 19-point lead with fewer than five minutes left in the game. Gary Rohan's goal after the siren sank the Bombers in a shattering loss.

Hawthorn, round two, 2015, MCG, 12.6 (78) to 11.10 (76)

Cale Hooker pushed forward and snapped a brilliant goal in the dying moments to hand Essendon a famous victory in front of a joyous crowd. The Hawks were set to win the lead back before the siren rang.

Carlton, round 23, 2014, MCG, 13.12 (90) to 14.6 (90)

The first draw of 2014 took until the final round to come, when the fierce rivals met in a classic at the MCG. Both sides led by four goals at different stages before Blues defender Zach Tuohy's shot levelled the scores with less than a minute remaining.

West Coast, round 14, 2013, Domain Stadium, 13.13 (91) to 15.8 (98)

Jobe Watson defied the jeers of West Coast supporters to lead his team to a strong seven-point win in Perth. Dyson Heppell sealed it with a goal late in the game.

Fremantle, round three, 2013, Domain Stadium, 10.12 (72) to 9.14 (68)

An emotional and stirring victory for the Bombers as the supplements scandal began to explode with revelation after revelation. Essendon trailed by 37 points in the second half and would have lost if Docker Chris Mayne's shot didn't hit the post in the final few seconds. - Callum Twomey

Matches: 18 Wins: 13 Losses: Draws: 1

The Dockers have been masters of the nailbiting finish under Ross Lyon. Extending the timeframe out to the start of 2012 when Lyon took over, Freo has played in 22 games decided by 10 points or fewer and won 15 of them. A 10-point semi-final defeat in 2012 against Adelaide was a heartbreaker, but they say finals failure is required to steel a group and Fremantle reached a maiden Grand Final the next season. In 2015 when the Dockers finished on top of the ladder, they won all five of their close matches – including a close qualifying final against Sydney. Fremantle is in a rebuilding phase this season, but winning three of four narrow games has been positive for a developing group.

Five that matter

Geelong, round 14, 2017, Simonds Stadium, 10.14 (74) v 11.6 (72)

It looked mission impossible without Nat Fyfe or Aaron Sandilands but the Dockers – fielding their youngest team for 2017 with five of this year's six debutants – were a straight Michael Walters kick from pulling off one of the great victories.

Melbourne, round 4, 2017, MCG 15.14 (104) v 16.10 (106)

Coming off a stunning upset of the Bulldogs, the Dockers booted nine goals in the third quarter, coughed up the lead and had to come from behind late with Cam McCarthy's toepoke sealing a stunning win at the home of football to resurrect the season.

Sydney, Qualifying Final, 2015, Domain Stadium, 10.9 (69) v 7.18 (60)

After finishing on top of the ladder, Freo survived a gutsy effort by the undermanned Swans to book a second home preliminary final in three seasons.

Richmond, round 17, 2015, MCG, 10.18 (78) v 12.10 (72)

Trailing for almost the entire game, Freo snatched a heartstopper when Bachar Houli's kick-in was intercepted and the ball eventually landed in the hands of David Mundy, who kicked the match-winner in the final minute. Mundy broke Tiger hearts again in round eight this year with an after-the-siren major.

Port Adelaide, round 23, 2014, Domain Stadium 16.9 (105) v 14.13 (97)

Needing a win to secure fourth spot and the finals double-chance ahead of Port, Fremantle kicked away by 38 points 12 minutes into the last quarter and then had to hold-on grimly as the Power surged but fell just short. - Travis King

Matches: 27 Wins: 19 Losses: Draws: 1

The Cats have an enviable record in tight matches under Chris Scott. Luck has played a part, as it always does, in many of the wins but so has the decision making under pressure of experienced players as well as a commitment to fight out games until the very end that is part of the Cats' DNA. They have won their past five games decided by less than a goal, and in two of those it has taken an inaccurate kick from the opposition to get Geelong over the line. However, with Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield in the team, the Cats will always be hard to get past.

Five that matter 

Fremantle, round 14, 2017, Simonds Stadium, 10.14 (74) v 11.6 (72)

Down to one fit man on the bench and with its skipper out of the game the Cats reeled in a 19-point lead then hung on, just, relying on a missed shot at goal from the Docker Michael Walters with one second remaining to win.

Port Adelaide, round 10, 2017, Simonds Stadium, 11.15 (81) v 11.13 (79)

A last-minute miracle from Patrick Dangerfield got the Cats over the line and it could be the difference between a final at home or interstate by season's end.

Hawthorn, qualifying final, 2016, MCG, 12.13 (85) v 12.11 (83)

Isaac Smith's missed set shot that gave the Cats' victory pushed Geelong into a preliminary final and caused the Hawks to go out in straight sets after losing to eventual premier the Western Bulldogs. It meant the Cats came out of the season feeling better about themselves, despite losing to the Swans in the Preliminary Final.

Isaac Smith's missed shot saw Geelong advance to 2016 preliminary final. Picture: AFL Photos

North Melbourne, semi-final, 2014, MCG, 13.14 (92) v 14.14 (98)

The Cats stormed home but fell short meaning they were out of the finals in straight sets. It gave the team the impetus to continue its resetting strategy.

Hawthorn, preliminary final, 2013, MCG, 14.18 (102) v 15.7 (97)

The classic Sliding Doors moment that set the Hawks on course for a three-peat, ending the 'Kennett Curse' and denying many current Cats a shot at the title. The loss still burns deep. - Peter Ryan

Matches: 17 Wins: 5 Losses: 11 Draws: 1

The Suns have a poor record in these matches, regardless of who coached or where they were played. There are no glaring capitulations and no trend of blowing leads, but with a young team for much of its existence, Gold Coast can point to a lack of cooler heads in some of these matches.

Five that matter 

West Coast, round 11, 2017, Metricon Stadium, 11.14 (80) v 11.11 (77)

Peter Wright's long-range goal inside the final two minutes proved the winner in this one. Gold Coast had surrendered the lead, but fought hard to win it back and keep its finals chances alive. 

Brisbane Lions, round one, 2017, Metricon Stadium, 14.12 (96) v 15.8 (98)

A terrible way to start the season, the Suns conceded the first seven goals of the game and fell just short of a big comeback. A game that could haunt them at the end of the season.

West Coast, round 18, 2015, Metricon Stadium, 12.11 (83) v 11.17 (83)

On a wet night at Carrara, star forward Tom Lynch stepped up to tie the game with a set shot from 35m as the siren sounded. It was a great result for the home team against the Grand Final-bound Eagles. 

Collingwood, round 16, 2014, Metricon Stadium, 11.14 (80 v 10.15 (75)

The best win in club history. Gold Coast overcame the dislocated shoulder to superstar Gary Ablett and played the final quarter with no fit players on the bench, but held on to keep its spot in the eight. 

Collingwood, round 17, 2013, Metricon Stadium, 13.7 (85) v 11.12 (78)

A breakthrough win against a big club for the Suns, Ablett was a colossus, racking up 49 disposals and kicking two goals, including the match-sealer when he sidestepped Nick Maxwell to snap from 40m. - Michael Whiting

Matches: 20 Wins: 9 Losses: 11 Draws: 0

Getting hold of the tight ones has been something the Giants have significantly improved this season, especially when compared to what they achieved in 2016. They made it to the finals for the first time last year and finished in the top four but dropped four out of five for the season, including a heartbreaker to the Western Bulldogs in a home preliminary final. Compare that record to 2017 and Leon Cameron's men have turned it all around, winning four out of five, with wins over Collingwood and Richmond at the death, and a huge win over the Eagles in Perth. 

Five that matter

Western Bulldogs, preliminary final, 2016, Spotless Stadium, 12.11 (83) vs 13.11 (89)

GWS had a maiden Grand Final appearance in their sights but couldn't hold off the Dogs in the last term, and lost a thriller to the eventual premiers. 

West Coast, round 10, 2017, Domain Stadium, 14.14 (98) vs 14.6 (90)

The injury-riddled Giants knocked off the Eagles for the first time, inspired by Toby Greene's last-term heroics in the west. 

Hawthorn, round six, 2015, Spotless Stadium, 16.12 (108) vs 14.14 (98)

Arguably the club's most significant win at the time, Jeremy Cameron's seven goals helped the home side to a stirring win over the soon-to-be three-time reigning premiers. 

Collingwood, round eight, 2017, Spotless Stadium, 15.12 (102) vs 15.9 (99)

Another half dozen from Cameron, 36 touches for Josh Kelly, and a piece of Steve Johnson magic on the siren helped GWS to a stunning win.

West Coast, round 21, 2016, Spotless Stadium, 14.12 (96) vs 14.13 (97)

A late Nic Naitanui goal stole the game for the Eagles and cost the Giants a home qualifying final at Spotless Stadium, although it proved inconsequential when they smashed the Swans across the road. - Adam Curley

Matches: 22 Wins: 15 Losses: 

With one notable exception, the Hawks have been pretty good in the clutch. A series of close losses at the start of the decade, with the 2011 preliminary final the most painful, sparked the Hawks into action and it was during a fact-finding visit to the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs one summer that coach Alastair Clarkson came up with the idea of installing a countdown clock at Waverley Park in order to practise what to do in the final minutes. The preliminary final win over Geelong in 2013 ensured it was worth every cent they paid. 

Five that matter

Geelong, preliminary final, MCG 14. 18. (92) v 15. 7 (97)

Shaun Burgoyne was magnificent in the final quarter as the Hawks finally snapped the 'Kennett Curse', coming from 20 points down at the final change.

Essendon, round two, 2014, Etihad Stadium 13. 12 (90) v 12. 14 (86)

Full house, closed roof and the Bombers a goal and bit clear with only two minutes to go. Yet quick goals to Luke Breust and Cyril Rioli stole it for the Hawks. 

Sydney, round 17, 2016, SCG 11. 9 (75) v 10. 10 (70)

Goals in the last two minutes to Burgoyne and a monster from Rioli gave the Hawks a sweet win and sent them to the top of the ladder.

Geelong, qualifying final, 2016, SCG 12. 11 (83) v 12. 13 (85)

A titanic struggle against the Cats (as always) but after moving the ball swiftly from end to end in the dying seconds, Isaac Smith missed the set shot after the siren that would have seen the Hawks into another preliminary final.

Sydney, round 10, 2017, SCG 11. 10 (76) v 10. 10 (70)

New skipper Jarryd Roughead's finest moment of his comeback season. A long kick from 50m out to sink the Swans in what was a heated, almost spiteful clash between the great modern rivals. - Ashley Browne

Matches: 16 Wins: 7 Losses: Draws: 0

Simon Goodwin has made a point of declaring any past results irrelevant, including various hoodoos and hefty losses. However, with the Demons considered legitimate finals contenders this year, it's pertinent to examine how the team has fared in tight tussles in recent matches, given numerous September contests are decided by less than a kick. Melbourne's two-point loss to Fremantle in round four was deflating and the Demons then failed to overrun Hawthorn in round seven, going down by three points. Thankfully for Goodwin, Melbourne has found itself on the other side of the ledger in its past two close matches, beating Collingwood in round 12 by four points, and West Coast – thanks to Tom McDonald's late heroics – by three points last weekend.

Five that matter

West Coast, round 14, 2017, Domain Stadium, 15.9 (99) to 14.12 (96)

Down by 16 points with only six minutes remaining, the Demons booted the last three majors of the match – including Tom McDonald's stunning effort from the goalsquare – to win their fourth-straight game.

Collingwood, round 12, 2017, MCG, 15.14 (104) to 15.10 (100)

Jack Watts was the hero for Melbourne, kicking a pressure-filled goal with less than two minutes to go to give the Demons victory in a thriller at the MCG.

Hawthorn, round seven, 2017, MCG, 14.7 (91) to 14.10 (94) 

The Hawks turned back the clock and built a 35-point lead early in the third quarter. Melbourne staged a late comeback but Hawthorn's defence stood firm in the final frantic moments.

Ben Stratton offers a hand to Jordan Lewis after the Hawks' round seven win. Picture: AFL Photos

Fremantle, round four, 2017, MCG, 15.14 (104) to 16.10 (106)

Fremantle outlasted a fast-finishing Melbourne, surging to a 22-point lead at three-quarter time. The Demons led by 27 points in the second term and appeared to have the game in their keeping, but allowed the Dockers back into the match.

West Coast, round 18, 2016, Domain Stadium, 8.12 (60) to 10.6 (66)

Melbourne should have won this game, there are no doubts about it. The Demons led at every change, led the inside-50 count (66 to 37) and had 20 scores to the Eagles' 16. It was the Demons' 17th straight loss at the venue, a streak finally broken by last Saturday night's heroics. - Ben Guthrie

Matches: 22 Wins: 8 Losses: 14 Draws:

The Kangaroos' horror run in tight matches this year – four defeats by under a goal – is a throwback to the 2013 season, when they had a 1-6 record in games decided by 10 points or fewer. They were a win short of finals that year, so it proved costly. The issue seemed to be solved when North went 7-4 in those matches between 2014 and 2016, although it lost the last two of those in what may have been a revealing precursor to 2017. Kangas coach Brad Scott has an unsightly 1-9 record overall in one and two-point contests.

Five that matter

Fremantle, round 5, 2017, Domain Stadium, 9.8 (62) v 9.13 (67)

A third loss by five points or fewer in four rounds consigned the Roos to an 0-5 record – the club's worst start in 45 years – and was made worse by the fact they were 29 points up in the third term. 

Sydney, round 22, 2016, Blundstone Arena, 10.16 (76) v 12.13 (85)

North's 9-0 beginning was a long way in the rear-view mirror by this stage, but the match against the eventual grand finalist represented a wasted opportunity to kickstart its campaign on finals eve. 

West Coast, round 10, 2015, Blundstone Arena, 13.7 (85) v 10.15 (75)

The Kangaroos took just a six-point buffer into three-quarter time and kicked into a strong wind in the final term, but hung tough to level their season ledger after consecutive defeats entering the contest. 

Geelong, semi-final, 2014, MCG, 14.14 (98) v 13.14 (92)

This shouldn't have been a nailbiter, with the Cats steaming home from 32 points down at the 14-minute mark to get within a goal of North Melbourne, which advanced to its first preliminary final since 2007. 

West Coast, round eight, 2013, Domain Stadium, 13.10 (88) v 12.18 (90)

Two words: Nic Naitanui. The boys from Arden Street led by 15 points 11 minutes into the last quarter and Sam Wright hit the post on a potential sealer, but a huge Naitanui pack mark and goal with 30 seconds to go completed the Eagles' comeback. - Nick Bowen

Matches: 29 Wins: 10 Losses: 19 Draws: 0

The Power will want to rectify their ability in close games if they are to be considered a genuine premiership contender. Coach Ken Hinkley has been in charge for the past five seasons. Of the biggest concerns is the Power's recent record, with eight losses in their past nine games decided by 10 points or less. The only win in that span was a three-point victory over Collingwood in round 15, 2015 – the first game since the death of former assistant coach Phil Walsh. 

Five that matter

Geelong, round 10, 2017, Simonds Stadium 11.13 (79) v 11.15 (81)

Cats superstar Patrick Dangerfield booted the match-winning goal with less than two minutes on the clock to deny the Power a famous victory.

Adelaide, round 16, 2015, Adelaide Oval 17.11 (113) v 18.8 (116)

On an emotional night, the Crows survived an epic fightback from the Power to win their first game since the death of coach Phil Walsh.

Taylor Walker after the Crows narrowly beat Port soon after Phil Walsh's death. Picture: AFL Photos

Hawthorn, preliminary final, 2014, MCG 13.16 (94) v 15.7 (97)

The Power kicked five goals to two in the last quarter, but fell short against the reigning premiers.

Carlton, round 23, 2013, AAMI Stadium 15.13 (103) v 15.14 (104)

The Blues staged an amazing comeback, rallying from 39 points down in the third quarter to snatch a place in the finals.

West Coast, round five, 2013, AAMI Stadium 12.12 (84) v 10.19 (79)

The Power overturned a 41-point deficit to remain unbeaten after five rounds. - Lee Gaskin

Matches: 22 Wins: 8 Losses: 14 Draws: 0

Richmond's inability to close out games under Damien Hardwick has received plenty of scrutiny and the Tigers have not won any of their last seven matches with a margin of 10 points or fewer. Their most recent tight win was against Sydney in round eight last year, when Sam Lloyd nervelessly slotted a goal after the siren to give his side a one-point victory. In 2017, four games have come down to the wire and three of those were against teams that made at least the preliminary final last year: Western Bulldogs, Sydney and Greater Western Sydney.

Five that matter

Greater Western Sydney, round nine, 2017, Spotless Stadium, 10.15 (75) v 11.12 (78)

Richmond coughed up a 31-point lead when the Giants went end-to-end, with Jeremy Cameron slotting a late goal to consign the Tigers to a third-straight close loss.

Fremantle, round eight, 2017, MCG, 10.10 (70) v 10.12 (72)

Brandon Ellis snapped a brilliant left-foot goal to put his side up with 21 seconds left but poor defending from the next centre bounce allowed Docker David Mundy to mark and boot a goal after the siren.

Sydney, round 23, 2014, ANZ Stadium, 10.8 (68) v 9.11 (65)

The Tigers recovered from a 3-10 record to win nine straight games, the last of which was against eventual grand finalist Sydney, to claim a finals spot.

Carlton, round 21, 2013, MCG, 14.12 (96) v 16.10 (106)

Kicking eight goals in the opening term is normally a sign a team will post a comfortable victory. The gritty Blues came back and the loss cost Richmond fourth spot and the crucial double chance in finals.

Gold Coast, round 16, 2013, Cazalys Stadium, 6.17 (53) to 6.8 (44)

In 2012, the Tigers produced what premiership coach Paul Roos described as the "worst 47 seconds in footy" to inexplicably lose to Gold Coast in Cairns. Damien Hardwick's men returned to the venue the following year and despite wayward kicking on a windy day, redeemed themselves. - Nathan Schmook

Matches: 16 Wins: 6 Losses: Draws: 1

The Saints haven't made finals since 2011 so they have not been involved in many matches of significant consequence in recent times. However, they won 12 games last year and were on the cusp of finals, and sat in eighth spot ahead of round 15 this season. Interestingly, their closest game in a hotly-contested 2017 was against Collingwood, when they beat the Magpies by 14 points in round four. They will surely have closer matches against opponents also in the finals race, with Fremantle, Richmond, Essendon and Sydney to come in the next month.

Five that matter

Geelong, round 14, 2016, Etihad Stadium 14.9 (93) v 13.12 (90)

Not only was this the breakout game for Jade Gresham after he snapped a great late goal from the boundary, the win gave St Kilda a scalp against one of the best teams in the competition.

North Melbourne, round seven, 2016, Etihad Stadium 11.9 (75) v 11.16 (82)

This game is remembered for Roo forward Mason Wood exploiting the shot clock to run out time, but in hindsight, the eventual eight-placed team beat ninth. Only percentage split the sides at the end of the season.

Hawthorn, round four, 2016, University of Tasmania Stadium 13.6 (84) v 13.9 (87)

St Kilda looked like it would knock off the three-time reigning premiers when young forward Paddy McCartin took a brilliant pack mark from four-deep with a tick over four minutes left. However, his behind was the last score of the game.

Western Bulldogs, round six, 2015, Etihad Stadium 14.10 (94) v 13.9 (87)

Down by 55 points early in the third quarter, Jack Billings inspired the Saints with four second-half goals in what was the finest game of his career to that point.

Greater Western Sydney, round two, 2014, Etihad Stadium 15.5 (95) v 13.10 (88)

A clash between the eventual 16th and 18th-placed teams doesn't exactly get the blood pumping but if St Kilda won one more game that season, it would have held the second pick in the NAB AFL Draft, instead of the No.1 selection it used on McCartin. - Dinny Navaratnam


Matches: 19 Wins: 8 Losses: 10 Draws: 1

The Swans haven't won fewer than 16 games in a season since 2011 and that’s despite a reasonably poor record in the close games. They won 19 of 26 games last season but went 3-4 when it went down to the wire, but they've improved slightly this year at least, going 2-2. Perhaps the most alarming stat is their record at home, especially over the past two seasons, when they've won just two of six tight games at the SCG. Sydney look to have steadied this season however with two-straight comeback victories against Richmond and Essendon.

Five that matter

Fremantle, qualifying final, 2015, Domain Stadium, 7.18 (60) vs 10.9 (69)

With Lance Franklin, Luke Parker and Kieren Jack all missing, inaccurate kicking blew any chance of an upset and a week off, and the Swans crashed out in straight sets the following week. 

Richmond, round 23, 2014, ANZ Stadium, 9.11 (65) vs 10.8 (68)

The shock loss on the eve of the finals stung the Swans who breezed in the decider with easy wins over Fremantle and North Melbourne, only to be wiped off the ground by the Hawks.

Essendon, round 14, 2017, SCG, 11.20 (86) vs 12.13 (85)

A host of Essendon howlers let the Swans in and they took full advantage, booting three goals in the last five minutes of the game, with Gary Rohan's winner coming after the siren.

Western Bulldogs, round 15, 2016, SCG, 11.13 (79) vs 13.5 (83)

After a massive upset loss to the Dogs the previous season at home, Jason Johannisen torched the Swans again with a late winner. 

Hawthorn, round eight, 2015, MCG, 11.7 (73) vs 9.15 (69)

The Swans kicked 3.0 in the last quarter to the Hawks' 1.4, to gain the edge in another classic between two great modern day rivals. - Adam Curley

Matches: 24 Wins: 11 Losses: 12 Draws: 1

West Coast was ahead of the win-loss ledger in close games until recently. In losing four of their past five games, the Eagles have gone down three times by fewer than 10 points against GWS, Gold Coast and Melbourne. In a topsy-turvy season like this, winning one or even two of those games would put a whole new complexion on West Coast's run home towards September. Last year the Eagles stole victories against the Demons at home and Giants away but just fell short of a top-four berth. Will losing to the Giants, Suns and Demons this year in games West Coast probably should have won prove costly?

Five that matter

Melbourne, round 14, 2017, Domain Stadium, 14.12 (96) v 15.9 (99)

The Eagles led by 16 points nearing time on in the final term – and could have been up by 21 but for a wayward Lewis Jetta set shot – before the Dees launched a thrilling fightback to end a 15-year hoodoo against West Coast in Perth.

Gold Coast, round 11, 2017, Metricon Stadium, 11.14 (80) v 11.11 (77)

West Coast coughed up a 10-point break in the final term against the struggling Suns and limped into the bye with a third-straight loss – a defeat which could come back to bite in the finals race.

Greater Western Sydney, round 21, 2016, Spotless Stadium, 14.12 (96) v 14.13 (97)

Nic Naitanui produced one of the greatest moments of individual brilliance in club history by snapping the match-winning goal from a stoppage in the final seconds, keeping the Eagles in the ultimately unsuccessful hunt for a top-four spot.

Gold Coast, round 18, 2015, Metricon Stadium, 12.11 (83) v 11.17 (83)

It might not have mattered that much in the context of the season given the Eagles made the Grand Final anyway, but Suns star Tom Lynch marked and goaled with four seconds left to snatch a draw, with those lost two points ultimately costing West Coast top spot and the McClelland Trophy which went to arch-rivals Fremantle.

Essendon, round 21, 2014, Etihad Stadium, 11.11 (77) v 11.8 (74)

West Coast looked set to jump into the top eight at Essendon's expense after leading by 34 points early in the third term, but succumbed to a stunning Bombers fightback. The Eagles finished the season – Adam Simpson's first in charge – in ninth spot, a win behind Richmond in eighth. - Travis King

32 Wins 18 Losses 14 Draws 0

The Bulldogs have a better than 50 per cent record of winning the close ones under Luke Beveridge, claiming victory in 11 of 19 matches under the premiership coach since the start of 2015. In their run to the flag last year, the Dogs saluted in six of seven games. On their home turf Etihad Stadium, the Dogs have won 10 of 19 games in that period.

Five that matter

North Melbourne, round 14, 2017, Etihad Stadium 15. 17. (107) v 16. 10 (106) With their premiership defence teetering at 6-6 going into last week’s clash with the Kangaroos, a last-gasp point from Jake Stringer secured them a much-needed win for the premiers.

Greater Western Sydney, preliminary final, 2016, Spotless Stadium 9. 19 (79) v 11. 9 (75) In one of the clashes of 2016, the Dogs fought back from 14 points down in the last quarter to end their prelim hoodoo and go on to win the flag.

The Dogs celebrate their gripping preliminary final win over GWS in 2016. Picture: AFL Photos

Sydney Swans, round 15, 2016, SCG, 13.5 (83) v 11.13 (79)

Jason Johannisen’s set-shot goal from outside 50 gave the Dogs a memorable win that Luke Beveridge declared was “worth about 10.”

Adelaide, elimination final, 2015, MCG 14.18 (104) v 19.13 (109) The Dogs had more of the ball, more of the play and more scoring shots, but couldn’t make the most of their opportunities. 

Sydney Swans, round four, 2015, SCG 11.11 (77) v 10.13 (73)

Against a hardened Sydney outfit on a soggy SCG, the young Bulldogs announced themselves as a team rapidly on the rise. - Ryan Davidson

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