So here we are again. September. And while all the teams this season got to play September footy, the real stuff begins on the second weekend in the ninth month of this year’s calendar.
It’s finals time, and while it seemed at one point a few months back that this pointy end of the year might be a little predictable considering the way Hawthorn were destroying their main rivals, a few weeks – let alone months – is a long time in footy, and we reach the finals with a true sense of anticipation.
Anyone, other than West Coast supporters, who suggested the Eagles would be hosting the reigning champs in the first week of finals would have been laughed at. But the Eagles have continued to toss egg on the faces of the non-believers in 2015, and here it is, Week 1 of the finals and they now stand potentially two home matches away from a grand final appointment.
And while Hawthorn have been the measuring stick and will start favourites, having won the past five against the West Coast, there was a whole heap of merit in the Eagles’ performance against the Hawks in Round 19, when they led until the fourth quarter, only to be run down and lose by a couple of kicks.
But this is the big test. They meet a September hardened Hawthorn team, and while the shine has gone a little off the Hawks, I can’t see them being beaten on Friday night.
The following night’s contest will be intriguing. The man who many say was one of the architects behind Sydney’s 2005 premiership, Ross Lyon, will embark on another finals campaign looking to finally win his first flag as a senior coach.
Many may question the methods of Lyon, and many also were against his decision to rest players last weekend, but the facts are he gets results, and while the Hawks were the ones receiving the plaudits, it was the Dockers who led the ladder from go to whoa.
While Nat Fyfe is not a certainty to play, I’m tipping he’ll be there on Saturday against the Swans but I think the loss of Sydney co-captain Kieren Jack is a big loss for the red and whites.
While he may not get the numbers of a Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker or Tom Mitchell, it is the other things Jack does which are invaluable to a team, and the Swans will miss his inspiration and leadership.
We all know stats can be manipulated however you want them, but it was interesting when someone pointed out the Swans have only won once in Perth against Fremantle since 1999.
True, but they have only played there seven times against the Dockers, and their two recent efforts were far from disgraceful. They were beaten by four goals in the 2013 preliminary final when they looked to be fodder for the rested Dockers, and then their 14-point loss this season in Round 4, when inaccurate kicking was a problem (the Swans actually having one more scoring shot than Fremantle).
I give the Sydneysiders a good chance in this final, especially if Buddy Franklin can have that big one which is now well overdue, but I just think the class of the Dockers on home soil will see them also earn the week off.
I do, however, expect the same four teams to be back in week three to fight for grand final places.
While I like Richmond and Adelaide to advance to the next round of finals with wins over North Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs respectively, I still then see Sydney being able to take care of Richmond, and the same with the Eagles being able to get away with Adelaide.
But, I could be totally wrong. That’s the enjoyment and intrigue of a finals series, and usually it tends to throw up at least one result out of left field.
Buckle up for the ride.