As the AFL season approaches the halfway mark, on the other side of the world in Europe, different football codes are finishing their seasons, some in dramatic fashion.
In England's Premier League, Manchester City has won its fourth title in the past five seasons, but not before having to come back from a 0-2 deficit late in the piece on the final day to beat Aston Villa and thwart its closest rival Liverpool.
It echoed the final day of the 2011-12 season, when Sergio Aguero's famous last-gasp winner against QPR delivered City's first league title for 44 years.
Such climaxes are rare in competitions where "first past the post" wins the race and finals don't exist.
Finals in any sport are full of drama.
And they're something the AFL should be even more thankful for right now.
Because while 18 clubs are only 10 games into a 22-game home and away roster, one club looks so far ahead of the rest that if we didn't have finals playoffs, we'd be better off handing over the trophy now and saving a lot of time and energy.
Taking in the end of last season and its famous drought-breaking flag, Melbourne has now won no fewer than 17 games on end, most in imperious fashion.
Since the beginning of last year, Melbourne has 30 wins and a draw from 35 starts, its average winning margin across that span more than 41 points. That's a strike rate of 87 per cent.
The equivalent percentage of the next-best performed teams over the same period, Brisbane, Geelong, Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs, is in the mid-60s.
The Demons are again the No.1 defensive team in the AFL, and No.3 for offence, even better than last year, averaging eight points more per game.
No team averages more inside 50 entries per game, nor concedes fewer scores from opposition inside 50s.
And they're No.1 on differentials for the all-important contested ball.
Perhaps even more scarily, they've got to their 2022 position, undefeated and two games clear of the pack, whilst rarely performing to their absolute peak.
Arguably only the round five demolition of Greater Western Sydney by 67 points featured a Melbourne outfit at its absolute best.
Because while 18 clubs are only 10 games into a 22-game home and away roster, one club looks so far ahead of the rest that if we didn't have finals playoffs, we'd be better off handing over the trophy now and saving a lot of time and energy.- Rohan Connolly
What does that say about their opposition?
Well, not a lot that's glowing, to be frank, all of whom have considerable question marks over their capacity to beat the Demons this year when it counts.
That might be a little harsh on Brisbane, which dropped only its second game for the season last Sunday to Hawthorn in Launceston.
But even before that, there was a bit of a "let's wait and see" vibe about the Lions. Rightfully so, too, given they've finished the past three home and away seasons in the top four and each time crashed out of the subsequent finals campaign, their finals record a very unflattering 1-5. Are they any better prepared this time? We really won't know until September.
Carlton has been fantastic in its first season under Michael Voss, but the Blues' climb from a finish of 13th to a current third doesn't speak volumes of the more finals-seasoned contenders' efforts so far.
The Blues are still learning how to protect a decent-sized lead. Needless to say, this year they'll also be learning about finals football on the run.
On the question of finals experience, a similar argument holds true for Fremantle, a young Sydney outfit, which has transformed significantly since the Swans were last playing at the pointy end of the season, and St Kilda.
And the finals perennials?
Well, Geelong and the Bulldogs have both been up and down like yo-yos this season, Port Adelaide's shocking start to the season leaves it chasing its tail, and while Richmond might look ominous after four wins in a row, like the Power, the Tigers' tardy start leaves them little margin for error over the next four months.
What does it all mean? Well, given the AFL's dependence on a finals system to determine its top dog, mainly that Melbourne's biggest threat in 2022 might actually be itself. And no, that's no glib, throwaway line, either.
We've said before that in the AFL, all it takes is one "off" day, even one or two "off" quarters, to bring even the best undone. Ask Richmond of 2018. Ask Geelong of 2008, whose second loss in 25 games came on grand final day against Hawthorn.
Increasingly, it looks like it will take not just an elite-level performance from a rival, but a sub-par performance by the Demons, for the 2022 AFL season to finish in anything other than back-to-back Melbourne flags.
After so long in the wilderness, good luck to them, too. But at least the concepts of a final eight and "one day in September" ensure Melbourne has to keep getting it right for a while yet. The last few months of this season would be shaping as an awful yawn otherwise.
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