AFL premiership contenders flex muscles

Port Adelaide, West Coast and Brisbane all enhanced their AFL premiership credentials with victories in round 11.

DAVID TEAGUE
DAVID TEAGUE Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

It's hard to tell who the best side in the AFL is this year.

The ladder will tell you it's Port Adelaide, who have sat on top of the pile all season and rubber stamped their flag credentials on Saturday night by outlasting reigning premiers Richmond in a finals-like classic.

But West Coast are one of several challengers mounting serious cases on the back of a six-game winning streak that has put them firmly in the hunt for a finals double-chance.

The Eagles' latest kill came in the form of a comfortable 11.6 (72) to 7.8 (50) victory over Carlton on Sunday at Optus Stadium, where they put their foot down during the third quarter to wrest momentum and kill off any hopes of an upset.

The Blues have played against five of the top six sides on the ladder - including both the Power and Eagles - and coach David Teague is in a strong position to make a judgment on the contenders.

"I said to our players they (West Coast) have probably been the best we've played against," Teague said.

"They've got strength across the whole field, in every line.

"I thought their midfield in particular when it got going got on top of us.

"I think they're probably as good as any team we've played, if not the best."

The scary thing for West Coast's flag rivals and upcoming opponents, including Hawthorn next Sunday, is that coach Adam Simpson believes they still have plenty of room for improvement.

"We're a good side, but we are no different than anyone else in terms of bringing intensity and playing four quarters," Simpson said.

"We are still searching for that."

Brisbane produced a similar performance on Saturday night when they set up a 14.12 (96) to 11.6 (72) win over the Western Bulldogs with a scintillating second-quarter burst.

The Lions piled on five quick goals as Dayne Zorko, Jarryd Lyons and Brownlow Medal favourite Lachie Neale dominated the midfield.

It was a show of force in the sense that the Lions were below their absolute best and still managed to comfortably account for a side that many experts tipped to challenge for the premiership this season.

But few clubs have issued statements of intent with the regularity and substance of Port Adelaide this season, and the ladder leaders delivered again in their 21-point win over Richmond.

In one of the games of the season so far, played at extreme intensity, Ken Hinkley's side jumped out to an early four-goal lead and withstood a stern challenge before prevailing, 13.15 (93) to 11.6 (72).

Robbie Gray, Travis Boak, Ollie Wines and Charlie Dixon were all prominent for the Power and even Tigers coach Damien Hardwick was in awe of what he saw from the home side at Adelaide Oval.

"They were very, very good," Hardwick said.

"I love the way they play, they attack the game."

Port Adelaide have finished every round this season on top of the ladder with a percentage that has only dipped below 140 for one week.