A neutrals guide to the AFL finals
Geelong Cats vs Essendon (Slattery Images)
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- Adelaide Crows news
For those are spending another AFL finals campaign reading their teams Mad Monday stories rather than match reports, it can be hard to choose a bandwagon to jump on for the run to that last Saturday.
The AFL home and away season is done and dusted, and a whole new competition is about to begin. The next four weeks will be an emotional rollercoaster for any AFL fan, with heartbreak and jubilation aplenty.
So, for the rest of the September neutrals out there, I’ve created a guide to help you decide which top-eight team to adopt this year.
Why: The Hawks were the premiership favourites at the start of the year, and they have finished on top.
Coming off an emphatic victory over West Coast, Hawthorn is seemingly doing a Geelong of recent years and timing their run to perfection. With Buddy Franklin in great touch and Cyril Rioli on the comeback trail, the Hawks also offer up some of the most excitement potential of the eight.
They are the obvious side to get on if you’re looking to back a likely winner.
Why Not: High expectations could also spell high disappointment.
If you are a Carlton fan chances are the last thing you want is another side with one hand on the cup only to let it slip. If the Hawks win this weekend’s Qualifying Final against Collingwood, they are on track for a potential prelim against the Cats, their ultimate hoodoo team.
It could be one of the greatest mental triumphs in recent memory, or you could be left ruing the fact you took the easy route and backed the favourite that lost.
Why: You know they’ll be there in the second week, purely because they made top four.
Brenton Sanderson is one of the most interesting coaches going around, and has done a sensational job in his first year.
Why not: I doubt they’ll avoid a straight sets exit, with no friendly fixtures to fall back on at the pointy end.
If you pick the Crows, your South Australian September sojourn will probably end in tears. It’s also hard to support a side with a mullet like Taylor Walker’s.
Why: Sam Reid, Josh Kennedy and Kieren Jack have shown their superstar potential and the old firm of Adam Goodes, Jarrad McVeigh and numerous others are reliable, big game players.
They have managed to stay under the radar, despite the fact that they have held a top spot for most of the year. In fact, for most Melbourne-centric (the city, not the side) footy fans, the Swans’ excellent year has gone unnoticed.
For those of us outside Victoria, we all know how good they are. They are the best of the interstate sides, and there is nothing more satisfying than seeing Melburnians swallow a non-Victorian premiership winner.
Why Not: They have narrow losses to fellow top four sides Collingwood, Geelong and Hawthorn, in the closing rounds of the season.
The talent is there, but a trip to Adelaide beckons in the first week, and home ground advantage in the finals is crucial.
Why: The Pies are the powerhouse of the AFL competition, financially and in terms of supporter base.
Joining Jeff “Joffa” Corfe and the black and white army could give fans of, say, Gold Coast and GWS, a chance to be a part of a side brimming with history and passion.
If Travis Cloke proves last weekend’s showing against the Bombers was more than a fluke, then the Pies are a shot of going deep into the finals too.
Why not: You would have to barrack for Collingwood.
Why: Nic Nat and Dean Cox. Who doesn’t want to see those guys for as many weeks as possible? Just imagine what the season highlights reel will look like if the two big men get four more games.
West Coast have surely proven their mental toughness this season and John Worsfold, who has been to the summit before, knows what it requires to hold the cup aloft as a player and a coach.
Why Not: The way West Coast’s season has gone, Cox will likely go down with an ACL in the first quarter next weekend, just as Daniel Kerr grabs at an excruciatingly torn hamstring and Adam Selwood knocks himself out running off the ground.
They have had ridiculously bad luck this year, despite the high finish, and even as a finals-only fan, you’ll be haunted by what-ifs all through summer.
Also, travel will be an Achilles heel (most probably a ruptured one) for the Eagles after week one. Three cross-country trips are required to win.
Why: Geelong are arguably the first bottom-four side with a realistic chance of glory since the McIntyre System was implemented in 2000.
They are the major dark horse of the year, and have beaten Sydney, Hawthorn and Adelaide in the countdown to finals. Everyone loves to get on a fairytale and this year, the Cats might be that. You don’t want to miss your chance to jump on that bandwagon.
Why Not: Three flags in five years – pretty sure the Cats have had enough.
It might not be scientific, but I reckon it’s time to give someone else a turn – if for no other reason than to give their silverware polisher his first day off since 2007.
Why: The Dockers are on a hot streak, but have really only done a Steven Bradbury to get into the eight (thanks to Carlton and Essendon).
If they are able to get past Geelong, you can be the ‘told you so’ person. You know that person; the one that tips the Suns against Carlton for no reason and takes it as some sign of their superior footy intelligence. If you thought it was annoying then, imagine six months of gloating if the Dockers take the cup! Moral of the story: It’s always better to be that person than to be around that person.
Why not: Ross Lyon. You know he would just be insanely smug if his move across the Nullarbor paid dividends so soon.
St Kilda’s era, and the Swans before that, was painful enough – let some easy on the eye footy get your backing this year.
Why: The Kangaroos, under Brad Scott, have re-built themselves into a side that embodies their renowned Shinboner spirit. This deserted them in the absence of Glenn Archer.
Not the most talented team (but they never are, that’s not the North way), their September success lays entirely on their grit, of which they have plenty. A side for those who want a genuine underdog, stacked with good blokes.
Also, Scott has been a refreshing asset to the news cycle this year and would provide some interest as team numbers dwindle.
Why not: Travelling to Perth in the first week of the finals is pretty much a death sentence.
Even if they make it past the Eagles, a cross-country trip followed by an MCG blockbuster against the Pies or Hawthorn means the Kangaroos are living on borrowed time. Not one for those who want to make a long-term September investment.