Heat is on with finals spots still up for grabs

SOMETIMES the heat can really mess with your head.

It certainly got to Brenton Sanderson last week.

The Crows coach spent the lead-up to Adelaide's crucial clash with Richmond whinging about the 'debilitating' 27-degree heat his players had been forced to endure at the Gabba the previous Sunday, before having to come up against a red-hot opposition who had an extra two days' break.

His poor, professionally-paid and professionally-trained players did look sluggish from the outset at the Adelaide Oval on Saturday night, with the visiting Tigers kicking the first three goals and silencing the pro-Crows crowd.

But, in the end, fatigued or not, the hosts, who had clawed their way to the front in the final term, simply weren't good enough, and it remains to be seen whether they'll be good enough to be part of September when the heat is really on.

The Crows have now lost their last three home matches - their previous against West Coast, when they also had the chance to all but cement a spot in the top eight, just as they did on Saturday.

After pulling off a seventh-straight win, the Tigers now look one of two teams most deserving of grabbing the two spots in the final eight that six teams were fighting over before the start of round 21, Essendon (11-9) being the other.

With eighth-placed Adelaide (10-10) having to play North Melbourne at home this weekend, and ninth-placed Richmond (10-10) hosting cellar-dweller St Kilda, amazingly the Tigers could take the Crows spot.

While Richmond plays Sydney in the last round, and Adelaide takes on the Saints, it may come down to which of the teams with 11 wins has the best percentage.

And that means Collingwood (10-10), Gold Coast (10-10) and West Coast (9-11) are also still in the race.

The Magpies, though, look cooked, after suffering a horror Saturday night against Brisbane.

Showing no effects from running around under that Queensland sun last week, the Lions came out snarling at the MCG - and would have ran away with the points even if the Magpies hadn't have suffered a shocking run of injuries.

To borrow a line from the late great Teddy Whitten, the Lions "stuck it up" the Magpies - and their president Eddie McGuire, who took aim at Brisbane two months ago over the preferential treatment it is granted when it comes to its academy players.

The first to graduate from the Lions academy to senior footy, Jono Freeman, kicked four goals against the Magpies, each one like a dagger into McGuire's chest. Collingwood will struggle to beat GWS next week, let alone Hawthorn (round 23) with stars Dayne Beams (knee), Travis Cloke (ankle) and Ben Reid (hamstring) all done for 2014.

Under fire for the poor management that made emergency Tony Armstrong think he was playing bush footy by playing a full game in the VFL before being a late call-up for the AFL, coach Nathan Buckley will be feeling the heat more than any ... even Sando.