Not for as long as I can remember has the race for the Premiership been so open, leaving only the bold to make a definitive prediction.
Hawthorn will always be the favourite, with their recent September history, having achieved a hat-trick of wins.
Yet of the rest, there is little breathing space, as even the underdogs of the past, Greater Western Sydney and the Western Bulldogs have shown enough to suggest that they are quite capable of going all the way.
It will be great for the game if one of the teams those two can find a way to the grand final.
But write off the Cats, Crows and Swans at your peril.
The Bulldogs’ total annihilation of the high-flying Eagles sent shockwaves through the competition, suggesting they had regained their mojo. While GWS showed that they are not overawed by their more accomplished neighbor, thrashing the Swans in a spiteful, physical battle and announcing to the rest of those left that they are ready for all comers.
What has thrown the cat among the pigeons is the shock losses of Hawthorn and minor Premiers Sydney, who went down to their respective nemeses Geelong and GWS.
While the Hawks can only blame themselves for their plight, due to inaccuracy when it mattered, the Swans have no such excuse, falling to consecutive drubbings from their cross-town rivals.
The Swans’ performance has left them vulnerable to the Adelaide Crows, and a number of injuries arising out of their bruising encounter with the Giants will do them no favours.
Hawthorn will hope that the brilliant Bulldogs will bring their inconsistency to their clash, or they will have the fight of their lives to progress to the preliminary final. The Bulldogs produced a sizzling brand of football to snuff out last year’s grand finalists in Perth and their form is ominous.
Hawthorn, eying the “Fourthorn” that will make them one of the best teams in the history of the game, are in an era where the competition has caught up with them. From now on, only consistent A-game performances and their extensive finals experience can help them scamper to that famous dream.
Though Geelong and GWS sit in a plum position, awaiting the winner of this week’s semi-finals, the destiny of this year’s flag remains as open as the sky above.
The setting is as fascinating as it is arousing due to the closeness of the competition.
My strong instincts indicate that the Premiers this year could well be someone out of the experts’ calculations, which would make for one of the most memorable seasons ever.
The team that will challenge the odds and try to write their own piece of history are the mighty Hawks, who are a flag away from emulating the only team to win four flags in a row, Collingwood, who did so between 1927 to 1930.