“This is the end, beautiful friend. This is the end, my only friend. The end of our elaborate plans. The end of ev’rything that stands. The end…”
It’s amazing how these magical song lyrics from The Doors encapsulate the feeling of ten AFL teams presently. For teams like Melbourne Demons and GWS Giants, it’s going to be a long off season with both clubs ruing missed opportunities. At least the Dees finished the season strongly. The one aspect that Simon Goodwin and his band of assistant coaches should focus on is goal kicking. The Demons woeful inaccuracy in front of goal ultimately cost them a chance to progress further.
I wish I could say the same for the team I predicted to win the flag at the beginning of the season. You see my friends, The Giants suffered the dreaded hangover of getting obliterated in a grand final. Apart from their first up win against the Cats, they never got out of second gear. To make matters worse for the Giants, the rumours of free agency movements have already started with Aidan Corr and Zac Williams in the process of leaving. The Giants premiership window is slamming shut at an alarming rate. Hopefully you didn’t remortgage the house to throw your financial support behind them like I strongly recommended some six months ago.
Now that the first week of the finals is now set in concrete, let me dissect each mouth watering clash and give you the round down of who will win and who will be the x factors for each team. Please note that there will be a week off before the finals officially starts.
Port Adelaide will face Geelong Cats at Adelaide Oval on a Thursday night to kick off the finals series. In the two teams only match up in 2020, the Cats flogged the Power at Metricon Stadium back in Round 12. Tom Hawkins had a field day kicking six goals and easily manhandled the back six of Port Adelaide. Dangerfield, Guthrie and Menegola had plenty of it during the Cats’ ten goal win. Power captain and Geelong Falcons product Travis Boak fought gallantly to no avail. This time around, Port Adelaide have the home ground advantage and a parochial crowd behind them. It will be much closer the second time around. For Port Adelaide to win, they must contain Tom Hawkins and Gary Rohan’s influence on the scoreboard. For Geelong to win, Rhys Stanley will need to assert his authority in the ruck duel against Scott Lycett. The Cats aren’t the same team when he isn’t playing. For that reason, Rhys Stanley is my x factor for the Cats. If he plays and plays well, the Cats will win. My other x factor for Geelong Cats is Gryan Miers. Miers has had a stellar season to date and gets plenty of the ball in the attacking half. He could easily kick three or four goals to seal the contest for the Cats. For the Port Adelaide Power, Robbie Gray and Charlie Dixon need to have big games. Both had no influence on the previous encounter with the Cats. That night, Port Adelaide managed to kick four goals in total. Tom Hawkins outscored Port Adelaide that night. Look for a much better effort from those two key players. As for my tip for the night, it all depends on the Cats selection committee more so than the opposition in my opinion. The Cats have the quality to win. If Jack Steven is selected ahead of Tom Atkins or Brad Close, there could be some issues with the Cats forward 50 pressure. Geelong Cats by three to four goals.
Friday night’s game sees Brisbane Lions and Richmond Tigers face off at the Gabba in a deja vu clash. In last year’s same game, the Tigers proved too strong and subsequently won the premiership. The Lions somehow managed to lose both home finals and were sent packing in straight sets. The Lions will be far better prepared this time around. In their only clash for 2020, the Tigers flogged the Lions down at Metricon Stadium. The duo of Tom Lynch and Jack Riedwolt combined for seven goals while Dusty Martin looked as if he was at a training session down at Punt Road carving up the Lions at every opportunity. Jarryd Lyons and Lachie Neale fought bravely but inaccurate goalkicking was costly for the Lions. For Brisbane Lions to win, the Richmond Tigers’ midfield must be stopped somehow. Dion Prestia, Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin are the Rolls Royce of midfields but even Rolls Royces need repairs from time to time. The question is, who will be employed to tag these three superstars to cull their influence on the game? Will the Tigers tag Dayne Zorko and Lachie Neale? Will the Brisbane Lions’ forwards kick straight enough to win? For the Brisbane Lions to have any chance of winning, Charlie Cameron, Cam Raynor and Eric Hipwood need to kick at least two or three goals each. Richmond Tigers will win and win convincingly in my opinion. There are a few injury concerns around Tom Lynch and Dion Prestia but the Richmond Tigers should still win by five to six goals. Too much quality!
Here’s the most interesting game of the round in my opinion. St Kilda have ended their long absence from the finals to play against the up and down Western Bulldogs at the Gabba Saturday night. Even the most dire hard Scrays fans must be surprised about the Doggies making the final eight considering their shaky start to the season. Belted by Collingwood and St Kilda in consecutive weeks, they beat GWS in Sydney the week later. When the Western Bulldogs play well, they are capable of beating any side in the comp. When they are off, they’re well off! On the other hand, St Kilda have been playing consistent footy throughout 2020. St Kilda have beaten both Port Adelaide and Richmond this year and should’ve beaten Brisbane. The Western Bulldogs have more finals experience than the St Kilda Saints and have the more explosive players in Marcus Bontempelli, Norm Smith medallist Jason Johannisen and young guns Aaron Naughton and Bailey Smith. St Kilda, coached by Brett Ratten have Jack Steele, Jack Billings, Seb Ross, Bradley Hill, a rejuvenated Dan Hannebery and hard nut Zak Jones in their midfield ranks. Young key forward Max King is a man mountain with great hands but needs to convert more on the scoreboard. Veteran ruckman Paddy Ryder will be vital to the Saints chances of winning. For me, this is a hard game to pick the winner. If you go on sheer talent alone, Western Bulldogs. If the Saints’ key forwards Tim Membrey, Max King and Dan Butler kick straight, the Saints will go close. I’m going to say Western Bulldogs in a tight one… just! The Bont will play a blinder.
In the final game of the first week of the finals, Collingwood Magpies have the unenvious task of playing the West Coast Eagles at Optus Stadium. Both teams have massive injury concerns coming into this elimination clash. 2018 Norm Smith medallist Luke Shuey, Elliot Yeo and Mitch McGovern will be racing the clock to be fit for the match next Saturday night. Even without these superstars, the Eagles should be far too strong for the Pies. Let me list the midfield options for the Eagles. Nic Nat in the ruck, Kelly, Sheed and Gaff. Not a bad midfield. The contest that will determine the winner will definitely be the midfield battle. Collingwood’s midfield is outstanding in its own right with evergreen skipper Scott Pendlebury, Taylor Adams, Adam Treloar, ruckman extraordinaire Brodie Grundy and Jordan De Goey capable of turning the game on its head quickly. The problem for the Magpies will be how to stop Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy and Liam Ryan kicking a winning score? More importantly, who is going to step up for the Magpies to kick a winning score? Jordan De Goey is a superstar in the making but he needs help from someone. Will Mason Cox have a 2018 Preliminary Final cameo once again? WIth the Western Australian crowd behind them, the Eagles should win by at least five goals. The loss of Steele Sidebottom will be a huge loss for the Pies. If he was playing, the result would’ve been a lot closer. I wonder if the die hard Pies fans would understand his decision to stay in Victoria with his partner Alisha and newborn daughter Matilda? Probably not unfortunately. The Magpie Army aren’t renowned for their compassion or intelligence for that matter. My great mate Chris “Disco” Kyle and dad Denis Blinkie Brophy are obviously exempt from that scathing criticism of course.
Let’s pray to the footy gods that the finals will see the cream rise to the top. As a whole, the 2020 season won’t go down in the record books as one of the most entertaining to watch. If anything, it will be remembered for low scoring, poor skill execution and poorer umpiring interpretations, which changed with each new week. I understand that the quarters were condensed to sixteen minutes but how did that affect the umpiring decisions or the farcical skill errors of “elite” players we were so used to seeing during the 2020 season?! Can you honestly remember such a terrible season to watch? With the quality of players still playing the finals series in 2020, I’m sure we’ll see the standard of pressure footy rise considerably. Who will be the player to etch themselves into footy folklore this year? Only time will tell but I can’t wait to see it all unfold.
Good luck to all the teams and may the best side raise the premiership cup in about four weeks time. To my beloved Catters, it’s time to fire up and show no mercy! Until next time, may your team’s physios and medical staff weave their magic to get all players fit, firing and ready to go for Week One of the 2020 Finals!
South Sharks Masters AFL Footy Club’s most injured for 2020