2020 has been a crazy year, featuring many results few would have predicted. At one point, it looked like we might not make it, but here we are: the AFL Finals series! Week one brings a host of mouth-watering matchups. Here is my preview and predictions for each game.
The MCG in 2019. (photo: Sean Mortell)
Port Adelaide v Geelong Cats
First up is the minor premiers and Geelong Thursday at 7.40 pm (AEST). This promises to be a great match and could see six out of the 22 All-Australian players take the field!
Port Adelaide are coming off the back of an impressive win against Collingwood in Round 18, prevailing by 16 points, in a game where the Pies were strong. Port Adelaide were fast to respond to Collingwood’s goals ensuring they maintained their lead for most of the game. One positive sign for Port’s coach Hinkley was the spread of goalkickers, with Charlie Dixon kicking only one.
Geelong also come into finals in winning form, after grinding out a one-goal win against Sydney last week. Sydney led the game until early in the last quarter but a tremendous second half from Dangerfield got Geelong over the line.
It is hard to pick a winner here, as both sides are star studded and at times unbeatable. But due to the home ground advantage for Port Adelaide, I am backing Port to book themselves a spot in the Preliminary Final with a 15 point win over Geelong.
Brisbane Lions v Richmond
Friday night, 7.50pm (AEST), is the rematch of last year’s qualifying final.
In recent history, Richmond seemingly have Brisbane’s number, beating them by a total of 115 points over their last three encounters. The biggest margin came in the qualifying final last year with a thumping 47 point win.
Brisbane are basking in great form, winning seven in a row but Richmond are no stranger to win streaks, with six in a row themselves.
During this, the Tigers have managed to win impressively against two other flag contenders in West Coast and Geelong. Brisbane’s seven wins include beating the sixth to eighth placed teams, who all have had inconsistent seasons.
Someone’s impressive run must come to an end, and I think Richmond will continue their dominance over Brisbane, making it 16 consecutive wins. Richmond’s squad are now finals seasoned and know how to get it done on the big stage, and Brisbane’s squad is still relatively young. So, I am backing Richmond by 26 points.
St Kilda v Western Bulldogs
There are no second chances on Saturday and first up is the Saints and Dogs at 4.40pm (AEST), in a match that could go either way.
Western Bulldogs left it until Round 18 to secure their spot in finals. They did in style, however, beating an impressive Fremantle side who had a strong second half of the season. The Bulldogs now come into the finals winning five of their last six games.
St Kilda’s form is not quite as impressive winning only three of their last six. But St Kilda have claimed some major wins this season beating two of the top four teams. And they beat the Dogs easily last time by 39 points.
Both teams have had a roller-coaster season with inconsistent results. But coming into finals, I am backing the in-form Bulldogs to win a tight contest by 8 points.
Outside the MCG, 2019. (photo: Sean Mortell)
West Coast Eagles v Collingwood
It’s September 29 2018. Collingwood have led the majority of the day, before Dom Sheed slots it from the boundary line with a minute and 49 seconds on the clock to win it for the West Coast Eagles. We can only hope this match on Saturday night at 8.10pm (AEST) can come close to one of the greatest AFL Grand Finals in recent memory.
West Coast come into this game strong favourites having not lost at Optus Stadium all year. Their form is also respectable, winning their final two home and away games.
Unfortunately though, they do have an extensive injury list which could see numerous stars miss this game, including Josh Kennedy, Luke Shuey and Jeremy McGovern in addition to the likes of Elliot Yeo who is out for the season.
Collingwood’s performances coming into finals have improved slightly with more impressive performances against Port Adelaide and Brisbane in comparison to performances which saw them get embarrassed against Melbourne and West Coast. And with the return of star players Jordan De Goey and Adam Treloar in recent weeks, there is hope in the Pies’ camp.
Collingwood are not without their own injuries, however, with Howe out for the season and Sidebottom set to miss finals due to family reasons.
Despite Collingwood’s recent upturn in form, their lack of goals - which sees them as the lowest scoring side in the top 11 - and West Coast’s remarkable home record will prove too much. I am backing West Coast to win by 24 points.