Top-four finish no longer an necessity in AFL
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Can a team come from the bottom half of the eight and win the flag? History tells us no.
Since the revamped final series was introduced back in 2000, nobody has made a grand final, let alone win a premiership from outside the top four.
What history doesn’t take into account however is just how strong the teams that finished five to eight are this year, especially in terms of recent form.
Take a look at Geelong, Fremantle and North Melbourne, who have all won eight of their past ten games.
It’s a record that ensures they need to be taken seriously this September, especially as each team has beaten top sides along the way.
Geelong are the only team in the past 14 weeks to have beaten Hawthorn and they go into the finals having knocked off third placed Sydney.
Not only did they comfortably win that game but they dominated in the contested procession, inside 50 and tackle count – all crucial final winning ingredients.
With finals experience and some of their premiership players back to their best, there will be some nervous top four teams following their form.
Their first step is to get past Fremantle, who are in possibly the best form of their existence.
Lyon has transformed this team and they go into the finals with the best defence in the league. They also demonstrated, by their refusal to manufacture a result last Sunday, that they have no fear coming to Melbourne.
With Sandilands, Mundy and Fyfe back fully fit and having won four out of five games in Melbourne this year, they will go into the game full of confidence.
The other elimination final will also feature two teams who will do more than make up the numbers.
The Kangaroos may have had a couple of quiet weeks since being assured a spot in the eight but let’s not forget the form they showed getting to that position.
Grima and Wells are expected back this week and the Kangaroos will once again assume their favoured position of going in as the underdogs.
The final cog in this quartet is West Coast.
Admittedly they haven’t finished as strongly as the other three but over the course of the year they have always looked close to a top four side.
They also have an advantage of having spent the past two months battling the teams that make up the eight. Amazingly, they have played every one of the top eight sides in the past nine weeks for a return of three wins and four loses.
The experience of playing those tough matches along with key players back in the side also makes them a real wildcard.
Only time will tell how far these clubs go, however I dare say that the losers of the qualifying finals will be extremely nervous coming up against the elimination final winners.
Don’t be surprised to see one of them make it to that last Saturday in September.
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