Gillon McLachlan is set to at long last formally announce the location and timing of this year’s AFL grand final.
Information has leaked out in dribs and drabs over the past few weeks and while nothing has been confirmed by the league, there is a broad consensus on most of the important details.
It seems a rock-solid certainty that the decider will be played at the Gabba. McLachlan and others flew to Queensland yesterday after the AFL Commission meeting – and one can hardly imagine they’d be going there just to deliver bad news in person.
But we’re also expecting to hear that the match will be moved back a week from the original target date of October 17, to Saturday October 24, allowing room for the top eight teams to have a pre-finals bye before the series gets underway.
And the current expectation is that the 2020 grand final will be a night fixture for the first time in history, with a starting time around 7pm (AEST).
It’s believed that Port Adelaide and West Coast will still both be able to play any home finals they earn in their states. Victorian teams in Queensland will be able to host Brisbane at Metricon Stadium if they are the ‘home’ side.
While there will understandably be some disappointment from the traditional footy states of South Australia and Western Australia, Queensland was always the most practical choice.
Six of the league’s current top eight are already based in the state and the Queensland government has been the league’s greatest ally throughout the season. It fits.
So what does it mean for the premiership race?
It’s a blow to the aspirations of West Coast, who are undefeated on home soil in 2020.
A 15-point win over Essendon last night has given them a fighting chance of finishing top two and opening the series with a home qualifying final, but they’ll need some other results to go their way.
A more likely scenario is that they’ll travel interstate and win on multiple occasions – which is by no means beyond them, but hasn’t been a strength this year – if they’re to secure the flag.
The Lions, obviously, head the list of clubs who will be benefitted by the decision. If they finish the season in good form they could yet play out an entire finals series at their home ground.
Brisbane are in third but have a game in hand against Geelong and Port Adelaide, trailing both on percentage but only Port Adelaide in terms of premiership points.
They play Collingwood, Gold Coast, Sydney and Carlton to close out the season – all winnable fixtures – and if they go 4-0 they will undoubtedly finish in the top two.
But Richmond could also consider themselves quietly chuffed by the news. Despite some bizarre off-field stories, their on-field form in the Sunshine State has been impeccable.
They’ve played six matches in Queensland this year for six wins and in fact have won their last 13 consecutive games played in Queensland, their last loss there coming more than six years ago against Gold Coast in Round 1, 2014.
Their frenetic game plan seems to hold up well in often humid and dewy conditions, while one cannot necessarily say the same for West Coast’s precision kicking.
The impact on 2020’s other leading premiership contender, Geelong, is less clear.
The Cats are also undefeated in Queensland this year, albeit only from four games, and they’ve handled the uncertainty as well as any other team. But they’ve been a famously bad team following a bye in recent years, and they have one this week, will have one pre-finals, and might have to navigate another if they win a qualifying final.
Certainly, they’ll need to reverse their recent post-bye record if they’re to achieve the success they’re after.
They do have some good news in the form of Gary Ablett, who is also travelling to north presently and targetting a Round 18 return after undergoing two weeks of quarantine.
Finally, while many still cast doubt on their premiership credentials, Port Adelaide sit atop the ladder and seem certain to finish in the top four.
The Power have an 8-2 record north of the Tweed this year, but their most recent result there – a ten-goal thrashing at the hands of the Cats – will weigh heavily.
The news doesn’t do much either to elevate or damage Port’s premiership chances – whether or not they can beat the competition’s best teams was the question at hand before and it’s still the question now.
Gun to my head, right now I would be tipping Richmond to win this year’s premiership from either Brisbane or Geelong – but everything else about 2020 so far has been unpredictable, and I’m looking forward to a finals series that will hopefully be the same.
2020 AFL Ladder
|Games played in Queensland only|
|Geelong||4||4||100 per cent||189.1 per cent|
|Richmond||6||6||100 per cent||182.8 per cent|
|Brisbane||10||9||90 per cent||131.4 per cent|
|Port Adelaide||8||6||75 per cent||123.0 per cent|
|Collingwood||4||3||75 per cent||103.1 per cent|
|GWS||3||2||67 per cent||108.5 per cent|
|Carlton||4||2||50 per cent||113.1 per cent|
|St Kilda||6||3||50 per cent||106.6 per cent|
|Western Bulldogs||8||4||50 per cent||100.7 per cent|
|West Coast||7||3||43 per cent||85.5 per cent|
|Gold Coast||10||4||40 per cent||112.8 per cent|
|Fremantle||5||2||40 per cent||91.3 per cent|
|Melbourne||4||1||25 per cent||89.6 per cent|
|Essendon||7||1||14 per cent||70.8 per cent|
|North Melbourne||8||1||13 per cent||76.1 per cent|
|Sydney||4||0||0 per cent||60.3 per cent|
|Adelaide||6||0||0 per cent||47.9 per cent|
* Hawthorn have not played a game in Queensland in 2020 but will play St Kilda at Metricon Stadium on Sunday.