The strangest season in AFL history is about to get real for the following 10 teams, but only eight of them will play finals football and in turn give themselves a chance to take home the Premiership Cup. AFANA runs the slide rule over where your club can finish after what should be another crazy round of footy. If your team isn’t mentioned below, it’s time to start thinking about next year…
A cool winter’s evening with virtually no breeze greeted the two teams that lead the way back for the competition onto the MCG after the long break due to the Covid-19 pandemic. There was no crowd allowed in the massive stadium save for a handful of officials and some artificial crowd cutouts behind the goals. The ground was slippery from a heavy dew. Pre-match saw both teams randomly spread around the center circle and ‘take a knee’ in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. It was almost 3 months ago that round 1 was completed and for players and fans of the game, the long wait was over.
Richmond won the toss and chose to kick to the city end. It was Collingwood who scored first when Taylor Adams roved a boundary throw-in and snapped on the run from 40m out. Tom Phillips followed up with a second for Collingwood with a set shot goal.
Richmond destroyed a hapless Greater Western Sydney Giants to win its 12th Premiership flag in style. The 89-point margin was a true reflection on the complete dominance the Tigers had over the Giants. A tight first quarter that promised a competitive match, but Richmond was having none of that. The fierce and determined Tigers took complete control after quarter time and strangled the Giants with the manic brand of football that has made Richmond the best team in the competition over the last three seasons.
The Giants had performed brilliantly to win two tight contests on the road, but when Richmond asked the question for the third time, Greater Western Sydney simply had nothing left to give. The Tigers were hungry for the contest, determined to avenge a 2018 season where they were the best team all season but fell short after going out in the Preliminary final.
There is an old adage in footy that a team has to lose a few finals to win one. it proved true for Richmond as they lost their first ever final in 1916 - a semi-final against Carlton. They then lost their first Grand Final to Collingwood in 1919. They lost again to Carlton in 1920 in a semi-final, but since there were only four teams eligible at that time, they were still through to the Grand Final which they won. They have since gone on to win another 10 premierships.
At half time in Friday night’s Preliminary Final against Geelong, Richmond looked to be in trouble. Just a year after failing badly in the same game against Collingwood despite being hot favorites, the Tigers trailed by 21 points and looked a shadow of the team that was riding a 10 game winning streak. Adding further doubt to any potential comeback was a shoulder injury to 2017 Premiership hero Jack Graham, plus collision injuries to Captain Trent Cotchin and star midfielder Dustin Martin that had slowed both players in the first half.
Geelong on the other hand was magnificent. The Cats were making a mockery of their label as underdogs, taking the game on and converting up forward despite missing key spearhead in Tom Hawkins through suspension. The half time scoreline seemed unlikely after the Tigers rallied in the back end of the first quarter.
The Brisbane Lions claimed another victim, this time it was Hawthorn down in Tasmania to keep the Lions atop the AFANA AFL Power Poll and all but end the Hawks chances of finals football. Fellow pacesetter the West Coast Eagles, made light work of the Kangaroos at home. Geelong overcame a slow start to claim a win against Sydney on the road and Richmond proved too strong for an injury-hit Collingwood in the Friday night blockbuster at the MCG.
Essendon survived quite a scare at the hands of cellar dwelling Gold Coast before prevailing in what was their fifth win in a row, Greater Western Sydney found enough to scrape home against Port Adelaide by a solitary point in Heath Shaw’s 300th game. The Western Bulldogs kept their top eight chances alive with a big win over Fremantle and the Adelaide Crows left the gate open for another team to snatch 8th spot as they went down to an in-form Carlton at the MCG. Finally, Saint Kilda kept interim coach Brett Ratten’s record spotless by overcoming Melbourne at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night.
The curse of the number one position on the AFANA AFL Power Poll has claimed another victim, with Geelong going down to Hawthorn at the MCG on Sunday afternoon. This leaves the Brisbane Lions as the hottest team in footy after their narrow victory over the Kangaroos, giving the Lions five wins in a row and top spot on the AFANA AFL Power Poll for the first time.
The Eagles move up one spot after a tight win against the Demons at Traeger Park in Alice Springs while Collingwood drop for the second week in a row after they were no match for a sensational Greater Western Sydney outfit, despite missing a handful of their best players.
Essendon continue to build with a meritorious road win against an ice cold Adelaide Crows, while Richmond also bolstered its top four hopes with a comfortable win at the MCG against Port Adelaide.
The big movers on the AFANA AFL Power Poll this week were the Tigers and the Saints up four places each, while the Adelaide Crows fell four spots after a disastrous loss to the previously winless Kangaroos. Other notable happenings over another topsy-turvy round of footy were the Demons notching their first win for the season up in Sydney, while the previously unbeaten Cats were ambushed late by an impressive Giants outfit despite losing Callan Ward to a nasty knee injury in the first quarter.
With Melbourne still under daylight savings the season opened during twilight at 7:25 PM at the MCG. A minute’s silence for the Christchurch massacre silenced the crowd before the 85,016 fans in the house roared at the first bounce. The Tigers would pour on the pressure through the likes of Graham, Cotchin and Martin from the start and the Blues would show little apparent improvement from their wooden spoon effort of 2018 in the first quarter.
In early October, the trade period began. It ran through October 17. A number of players had previously told their clubs they wanted to go elsewhere. Some were restricted or unrestricted free agents.
Fremantle was the first club to sign a player during the free agency period. They signed Richmond defender Reece Conca. Conca, 26, is originally from West Australia and decided he wanted to return home after eight seasons and 204 games for the Tigers.