After six rounds the ladder usually starts to settle for the season.

Let’s take a look at three sides that have exceeded expectations to be sitting inside the top 8, and three pre-season favourites that haven’t quite found form yet.

Who’s in?

Hawthorn

It’s a cliche but you can never write off Hawthorn under Clarkson. The Hawks are 4th on the ladder and will look to entrench themselves further into the top four when they play the struggling Bombers at the MCG on Saturday. They’ve reinvented themselves again winning four games for the year without their retirees in Luke Hodge and Josh Gibson and injuries to key players Grant Birchall and Shaun Burgoyne. Tom Mitchell has been key to their success, the midfielder started the year in blistering form getting 54, 40 and 42 touches in the first three rounds and has averaged an insane 37 disposals and 10 clearances so far this season.

West Coast

The Eagles are arguably the form side in the competition winning their last five games in a row. West Coast haven’t had the toughest opening draw in history but you can only beat the clubs you’re against and they been outstanding after many thought they would drop off without Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell extracting the ball. The return of Nic Naitanui has been as triumphant as expected, his bullocking work through the middle is one the those footballing intangibles that can’t be underestimated. Have to consider the Eagles form even more impressive as they’ve been without All Australian forward Josh Kennedy for three of the six games so far this year with Jack Darling and Mark LeCras finding avenue to goal easily. West Coast has a chance to finish rd 7 on top of the ladder if they can overcome Port.

North Melbourne

A spoon favourite for many North Melbourne have turned heads this year with their strong start to the season, sitting 8th with a 3-3 record. After losing their first game of the year against Gold Coast North Melbourne rebounded with a strong 52 point win over St Kilda at Etihad. Melbourne finally had a drought-breaking win against the Kangaroos but after that North Melbourne went on to demolish Carlton by 86 points and upset Hawthorn after a blistering first half that Terry Wallace called the best footy he’d seen all year. Unlikely star Ben Brown is leading the Coleman and senior players like Ben Cunnington, Scott Thompson and Jarrad Waite have excelled. Port Adelaide brought North back down to Earth last weekend and a big challenge in Sydney at the SCG awaits them.

Who’s out?

Geelong

Operation Dangerwoodlet hasn’t exactly gotten off the ground yet with the three epic midfielders only playing two games together and one of those was the bitter loss to West Coast in Perth. It’s yet to be seen if the three can operate together in the same midfield; with so much emphasis on pressure in the modern game can three players who demand the ball work together? The emergence of Brandon Parfitt and Tim Kelly as genuine midfielders make this question even more interesting. Geelong’s other woe has been its backline injuries to Lachlan Henderson and Harry Taylor, when you see Zach Guthrie lining up on Jarryd Roughead it’s an indicator that a club isn’t operating at 100% yet. The Cats have a massive test in taking on the Giants this Friday, are they up to it?

Melbourne

After playing brilliant footy in the JLT Community Series Melbourne were many pundits darlings going into the season. The Demons currently sit 12th on the ladder with their 3-3 record only keeping them out of the 8 based on percentage. Opening season form wasn’t terrible with a painfully close defeat to Geelong recovered by going 2-1 over Brisbane and North Melbourne. The large margin losses to Hawthorn and Richmond reminded us of the Melbourne of old and questions have been asked of the side’s mental strength. They play the 16th placed Saints on Sunday and will want a strong win to set up midseason success.

Essendon

The Bombers were the most successful club during the 2017 trade season. Devon Smith, Adam Saad and Jake Stringer all made their way over to Essendon and so far all have enjoyed good form this year. Though as good as those acquisitions were they have not solved Essendon’s midfield woes. After making the finals last year Essendon has slumped to 14th on the ladder with a record of 2-4 after six rounds. Joe Daniher is yet to fire a shot this year and opposition sides are already taking advantage of the Bombers slow ball movement. If Essendon don’t upset the 4th placed Hawks at the MCG on Saturday they’ll record a third straight loss and their season will be close to over.

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