I know I have said a million times before that this season is like no other, but I think my brain is starting to really catch up with the year that is 2020.
You see, we are now in the final days of August and traditionally we would likely be approaching the end of another home-and-away season (if not, already looking ahead to the final series).
Instead, we have just begun our second “footy bonanza” for the season and are ready to play out the final five rounds at one crazy pace.
Last night was the start of Round 14 and in a normal season, this would be just over the halfway mark. It would be just about now that we start to sift through just how good (or not) each side is, properly piece together a potential top eight and separate the true contenders from the rest.
And while this season has been shorted and portions of it have played out at a frantic pace, it seems as though some things remain the same and this is one of them.
Now is the time that those sides that are serious about claiming the 2020 premiership will rise above and look to conquer.
Geelong is one of those sides.
Two weeks ago I said that the Cats were the most underrated side in the competition. Today, I say they’re one of the most (if not the most) dangerous side going around at the moment and everyone knows it.
And it’s more than just about being a better side, but a lot of Geelong’s strengths are weaknesses of other top eight sides.
For example, Brisbane has come under recent scrutiny for their inaccuracy in front of goal. Geelong, on the other hand, average more goals a game than any other side this season.
In fact, Geelong is the highest-scoring side in the competition going into Round 14.
They also do an exceptional job at covering up their own weaknesses; the lack of reliable ruck stocks the obvious focal point.
Going into Round 14, the Cats are rated 12th in the competition for hit-outs.
Their solution? An exceptional midfield group who are ranked first in the competition for clearances.
The midfielders are so good at reading the play that they make the most of the opposition’s good ruck work, claiming the ball for themselves.
And to complement their accurate forwards and crafty midfield is the best defence in the competition. Rock-solid. The Cats are the toughest side to score against and boast a percentage of 140.6.
Above all, they’re just playing really good football. Consistently. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said about their opponents this evening.
Despite winning their last two games, the Bulldogs have had a pretty up-and-down season overall.
They are like the AFL’s very own box of chocolates…you never know what you’re going to get. Tonight’s a pretty important game for the Bulldogs, even more so than it is for the Cats.
Win tonight and they’ve just about secured a spot in the 2020 final series.
But lose and they are at risk of missing out for the third time since that drought-breaking premiership year of 2016.
The 2016 premiership was the last time the Dogs won a final and yes, it was spectacular and yes, it was one of the feel-good stories from the past number of seasons but if they once again fail to step up to the plate you really have to wonder if this team is heading in the right direction.
Because there will come a point where clinging onto 2016 is no longer enough. There will come a point where supporters will be wanting more and the club has to start delivering on that.
The team may be young but there are enough players with a fair amount of experience under their belt that the effort and results should not vary as much as they do from week to week.
Earlier I touched on Geelong’s ability to make strengths from their own weaknesses, with their midfield able to read the play and still take the clearances.
Well, the Bulldogs are ranked 18th in the competition for hit-outs, but only 12th for clearances.
That’s the difference between what a good and a great side can do.
And it’s not like the Bulldogs are working with an average midfield, either.
With the likes of Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Tom Liberatore right in the thick of it, the Dogs really should be making more of their opportunities.
As for my tip (which I’m not too sure people are so bothered about because I haven’t got many right on a Friday night of late!), I am sticking with the Cats.
The potential and what the Dogs could produce is always tempting but Geelong is reliable and they’re playing great football.
Plus, no one looks as though they’ll be able to stop Tom Hawkins at this rate. The man is doing most of it on his own.
That’s my Friday forecast. What’s yours?