If we look at the AFL season like it’s an election campaign contested by eighteen candidates and parties, we would be rapidly approaching election day: The Grand Final.
Eighteen political candidates have been whittled down to just eight. To help you decide who to vote for (or tip) in the race to be Footy’s Prime Minister (or premiership cup holder) here is a political preview of each candidate’s season. The ballot paper order has been decided by ladder position at the end of the home and away season.
1st: Geelong Cats: The Cats, like Labor in the 2019 federal election, haven’t been performing up to scratch in September since winning the flag in 2011. Unlike years previous, they enter September as the team atop the ladder. What that does to their confidence remains to be seen. But unlike Labor in the 2019 federal election, Geelong doesn’t head into September as favourites to win the flag. So can they be considered an underdog story? Pressure is on for this team to perform to the expectations of a top-of-the-ladder side this year.
2nd: Brisbane Lions: The rise of the Lions was similar to the rise of Bernie Sanders during the 2016 election - surprising and heart-warming (for some, while others found it terrifying). Who knows how far Brisbane can rise this year? And why stop with this season? We could be entering a new dynasty for the maroon, blue and gold, one where repeated election victories are seemingly on the horizon.
3rd: Richmond Tigers: Richmond absolutely are favourites right now to win the entire thing. And why wouldn’t they be? Nine wins in a row entering September and likely to play at least two finals at the MCG, their home ground where they almost never lose. The Tigers are feeling like the Democrats in the US heading into 2020: hoping to rebound after a disastrous end to the previous campaign (with the massive upset loss to Collingwood in last year’s Prelim) and feeling weirdly confident of doing so. Don’t forget just yet what happened last time you were favourites, Tigers....
4th: Collingwood Magpies: ... and even if the Tigers forget, Collingwood certainly won’t. For the second year in a row, the Pies enter September in the top four, and yet enter it as underdogs to claim the flag. Like the Great Brexit vote of 2016, Collingwood has risen from nowhere to do surprisingly well the last two years. However, like British politics ever since that vote, things could all fall apart quickly for the Pies.
5th: West Coast Eagles: Just like the Coalition, the reigning premiers find themselves massive underdogs to take out the coveted prize. Though, like the Coalition, a massive surprise isn’t out of the question. The Labor party severely underestimated the Liberals this year in May and it cost them. The Eagles’ opponents this September would be wise to learn from Labor’s mistake.
6th: GWS Giants: Like the Greens, this team walks into September with perhaps a bit of swagger after a nerve-settling win against Gold Coast in round 23. Momentum never hurts, unless it’s misleading. After all, the Left were practically counting the 2016 US election as a Democrat victory before voting had even begun. Labor voters were doing likewise here in Australia in May. The Giants should be careful not to get too far ahead of themselves.
7th: Western Bulldogs: Lighting couldn’t strike twice, ... could it? The Dogs enter their first finals series since winning the flag in 2016 in 7th place. The same place they finished on the ladder in 2016. Sometimes miracles happen. Could they happen multiple times? Maybe. It’s worked out for the Coalition during the later half of this decade, and it worked for Labor in the early stages of it.
8th: Essendon Bombers: I’ve mentioned a lot of underdogs but the Bombers are the definition of the word. Perhaps not as beloved as the team placed above them, this would be an interesting story if they could become the first team to pinch the flag from eighth. While it is true many became sick of Essendon after the 2000 premiership, number 16 for the club, and the drug saga 12 years later, a change in the footy hierarchy may be welcomed. Especially after so many years of other big clubs like the Eagles, Cats and Hawks dominating. A change may be welcomed even by those who would normally loathe the club, like how Canadians from across the political spectrum seemingly welcomed in Liberal party leader Justin Trudeau as Prime Minister in 2015 after so many years under Conservative Stephen Harper.
Politics in recent years has been hard to predict. Let’s see if September footy in 2019 turns out the same.