Agitated St Kilda coach Brett Ratten is demanding critics show his AFL side more respect after the Saints moved into pole position in the race for eighth spot.
And if the Saints end up playing finals this year, they’ll have earned it.
Ratten’s men have ticked boxes against lowly Hawthorn and West Coast over the past fortnight, leapfrogging the Western Bulldogs and Richmond into the top eight.
But they now face Geelong, Brisbane and Sydney – three of the competition’s top five – in a run home that could scarcely be any more difficult.
As many as three wins could be required for St Kilda (11-8), who sit just two points clear of Richmond with an inferior percentage, four points clear of the Bulldogs and eight clear of Gold Coast.
“We know we haven’t played our best footy through the year but (that’s the same as) other clubs too,” Ratten said after the Saints silenced many doubters with a nervy 12-point win over the Hawks on Saturday.
“We’ve won 11 games and we’ve put ourselves in a position to maybe play finals, maybe not.
“I don’t know what the future holds for us but I just think (critics) always look at it from a more glass half-empty view than maybe thinking a bit more about some of the positives that this club brings.”
Not unlike St Kilda, Carlton suddenly look a little shaky, having dropped a game they would have expected to win away to lowly Adelaide.
The Blues (12-7) face Brisbane, Melbourne and Collingwood – three of the top four – in the run home but have an extra win in the bank.
“We’re in with a shot,” Carlton coach Michael Voss said.
“We’re going to go full roar at it so we’re looking forward to those contests.
“We’re going to first unpack this (Adelaide loss) and get to work on our game.”
Richmond lead the chasing pack in ninth position after an epic comeback win over Brisbane, erasing a seven-goal deficit to prevail by seven points on Sunday.
“We’ve been through some tough weeks, but what this means, we can only wait and see,” Tigers coach Damien Hardwick said.
“This AFL season is an absolute beauty. I don’t think I’ve seen one quite like it with how even it is.
“There’s a couple of sides at the top that might feel like they’re a little bit above the others.
“There’s some really, really capable sides and some good sides are going to miss out on finals positions this year.”
At the top of the ladder, Geelong will be expected to extend their 10-match winning streak to 13 with games against St Kilda, Gold Coast and West Coast heading into the finals, while reigning premiers Melbourne are back in form after a strong victory over sixth-placed Fremantle.
Sydney are looming large in fourth spot, above Brisbane on percentage, after four straight wins.