Round 18 of the 2021 AFL season saw the finals race really heat up, with three September hopefuls saluting and three others severely denting their chances.

Here’s how it looked for punters: 

Backs to the wall

It was a surprising win, considering they were $3.05 pre-game. But then again, it wasn’t surprising at all, was it? Richmond, after a horror month, faced off against flag fancies Brisbane on Friday night and — as they’ve done so many times in the last five years — prevailed, backs to the wall. Just as we’d began to write them off this season, and as they ballooned from $1.06 to $3.00 AFL Finals chances, they issue a non-too-subtle reminder that they may not be done in 2021.

But bad news came with the good, as updates filtered through that three time Norm Smith Medalist Dustin Martin won’t take any further part in the Tigers campaign this year. It might be one of the reasons that, despite shortening in Top 8 markets, Richmond did not budge in flag markets, remaining $15 to win a third-straight premiership.

A race for eighth?

Wins to Richmond and Essendon, plus defeat for Fremantle (inside the Top 8 prior to Round 18) has created an interesting race for the final spot in this year’s AFL Finals series. Four points for West Coast on Sunday evening solidified their Top 8 hopes (now $1.45 with Palmerbet) and while they’re by no means set in stone, let’s for a minute assume they secure their spot. It could set up an interesting battle between traditional rivals the Tigers and Dons. Richmond are now $1.91 to finish inside the Top 8, and Essendon $2.10. They’re neck and neck, and it could come down to the wire.

Wonderful Walsh

Footy is a numbers game, and young Blues superstar Sam Walsh keeps churning them out. The impact of his performance in Carlton’s comeback win over Collingwood on Sunday afternoon is best described by a phenomenal stats line. That is; 38 disposals, five clearances, five tackles, nine marks and six score involvements. He now averages over 30 touches a game in AFL season 2021 and, with a likely three-vote performance in the bag in Round 18, has shifted into his shortest Brownlow price of the year. Walsh is now $10 with Palmerbet to take Charlie home. And given he’s stood up numerous times this season when others haven’t, will be a surefire vote-getter from the umpires. Whether he has enough to surpass favourite Marcus Bontempelli (now $2.50) is another altogether, however.

Harry’s hold

Walsh teammate and star forward Harry McKay was, for the first three quarters on Sunday afternoon, largely unseen (in stark contrast to the 21-year-old). But when the game was there to be won, McKay stood up, kicking FOUR last quarter gains to see his side home. The haul gives him a 10-goal buffer on the AFL goal-kicking tally. It also sees him into his shortest price ($1.50 with Palmerbet) to take home his first Coleman Medal.