Here we are. The home-and-away season has finished and the finals are set.
If you’re a fan of those who won’t be appearing in October, welcome to the off-season. If you’re lucky enough to support a team making finals, congratulations (and I hate you just a little).
I’m doing something a little different to end the column for 2020: I’m going to make this a ranking of the entire year. Obviously the rankings for the top eight sides don’t reflect their finals chances, purely their home-and-away form.
Still underrated premiership contenders, but it’s hard to deny they haven’t been the most consistent team this year, with just three losses – admittedly including against two premiership foes in Brisbane and Geelong. The South Australians fortuitously might appreciate going a little under the radar.
Just one of three teams (Port and the Cats being the others) to have not lost consecutive games this year, the Lions have also been super consistent. Despite their form and the massively beneficial Queensland finals setting, though, Brisbane’s mammoth problems in goal kicking and the unlucky fact they face Richmond first up in the finals may yet contribute to a ruinous end of the season.
They’ve cemented themselves as the obvious premiership favourites. They were wonky to begin the year, but even though I’d been vocal in criticism of the club, they’ve nearly returned to their fearsome best. However, as fellow Roar writer Josh Elliott mentioned in a recent piece, history suggests they prefer it in finals when their home-and-away seasons are a little lacking.
They’ve been another super consistent side, ending with just five losses, none of them consecutively. The Richmond clash was probably the most demoralising loss, but they’ve ultimately secured the double chance, and despite their dubious finals record, they’d be up there in the premiership chances.
The Eagles have had a weird season. Like the Tigers, they started poorly but have come back into it. They’ve had a Freo-esque season in terms of injuries, though, and find themselves in a frustrating position of having only one shot to get over the first finals hurdle. But my pessimism is usually proven wrong by this side, so I can’t rule anything out.
They weren’t alone in sneaking into finals, but they were the last finals side to be confirmed, and questions remain about their potential in October. The positive: they’ve won five of their last six games and are in as good form as any finals side. The negative: of their seven losses six have come against top-eight teams by an average of 30 points, with the Eagles the only fellow finalist they’ve beaten.
Even though we’re yet to see how they’ll do in finals, the fact they’ve made it for the first time in almost a decade is cause enough to celebrate. Don’t mind a little inconsistency, the Saints are a rare team – in this season at least – that are genuinely fun to watch. Just so likeable.
This was a rough season for the Pies at times, with several weeks where finals looked unlikely. But they’ve recovered, including winning four of their final five games, and are getting into relatively good form headed into finals. Like their 2018 grand final counterparts West Coast, they’re a successful team that don’t have a whole lot of backers for a premiership.
At least it was better than 2019. Still not at all a team to rely on, the topsy-turvy Demons shot themselves in the foot by losing two winnable clashes close to finals. Unlike some fellow Roar authors, I don’t believe the Demons really had a shot this year – just two of their nine wins came over eventual finalists, and their deep inconsistency makes them ridiculously untrustworthy.
Optimism is not usually a word I equate with Freo, but it epitomises their 2020 season. Competitive in almost every game, the Dockers probably had another three or four games they could’ve won. The team wasn’t composed enough to keep their finals hopes alive, but the continued development of their young players, some senior players hitting their straps and a more ordinary season should help Fremantle be huge chances for finals next year.
I’d have the team above them and themselves in a very similar boat, though the Blues have taken two or three years to do what the Dockers have done in one. There was more good than bad this year for sure, and like the Dockers, I’ll have them as proper finals chances next season.
Look at the team below them and the Giants’ placing here might seem unfair. But I’m making no apologies – the Giants are fast becoming a team are unable to back up the expectations placed on them. I’ve said it again and again, but I just cannot comprehend why Leon Cameron isn’t more at risk of losing his position. This thoroughly disappointing year has surely put him on notice.
The often-struggling club finished the year well and truly out of finals contention, but if you were predicting finals for this team, you were wildly misguided. The Suns have nailed some of the building blocks for the next few years. Some more wins wouldn’t have hurt, but the Suns are finals smokies next season.
They’re often compared to the Hawks, and despite the identical ladder position and similar percentage, the Swans finish the year as the team to be more optimistic about. Their youth are impressive, they were competitive in more games, and while I don’t expect them to immediately rebound back into finals, they’ve got the first pieces of the jigsaw in place.
They won more games than the two teams immediately above them, but the Dons seemed to be a worse team at times. Certainly I’d say they have worse immediate prospects. John Worsfold is gone, and while I don’t want to pre-empt things, you’d expect the changes won’t end there.
I mean, that is the perfect end to a long, decisively mediocre year. Farewelling two club stalwarts in a game very reminiscent of Jarryd Roughead’s finale last year, it was a nice way to conclude their worst season under Alastair Clarkson’s reign. They’ll avoid completely bottoming out but have a way to go until they’re finals contenders again (which is an unusual thing to say about the Hawks).
Yes, they’re wooden spooners, but they did just enough in their final weeks (excluding the Richmond loss) to keep them off the bottom of these rankings. Expect the changes to come thick and fast, but they’ll have a smidgen of confidence headed into next year after proving they can remain a competitive team. In saying all of that, those first 12 rounds were the worst the club will hopefully ever face.
They were more competitive than many expected and even threatened an upset against the Eagles, but they succumbed to their 14th loss of the season. A long, long off-season for the club – they’ve started early, axing 11 players in one fell swoop on Friday. Unfortunately Adelaide’s good end of the season has sent them to last place for the year on this ladder, even if they avoided the wooden spoon.