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Opinion

A case for every team in the 2020 finals

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Roar Rookie
22nd September, 2020
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After one of the bumpiest rides in 2020, the AFL have impressively managed to play a 17-game season across the hubs, with the eight strongest sides dealing best with the circumstances and grabbing their place in the race for the cup.

Here’s why each top-eight side could win the premiership in 2020.

Port Adelaide Power

Why they can win it
Ken Hinkley’s men should be commended for their 12-month turnaround, coming from tenth in 2019 to minor premiers in 2020. Travis Boak is having a classy season, averaging 23 disposals, but all eyes fall onto Robbie Gray, who seems to get better with age.

Port is the lowest side for points scored against (869) and have achieved this through the middlemen work. Hinkley’s men have shown they are classy while also breeding youth, which, as history has shown, is the perfect combination for finals glory.

Also, keep your eyes on Charlie Dixon, who booted 32 goals in 2020. In the form of his life and fitter than ever, he can’t be left alone if the opposition want to keep Port Adelaide’s score manageable.

The X factor
It’s hard to ignore the efforts of Steven Motlop in the last few weeks of the home-and-away season. Booting ten goals in only 12 games, Motlop can be hit or miss, but when his team is riding high he can open up the play like no other. Watch him for spectacular goals.

Travis Boak of the Power celebrates after kicking a goal

(Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

Brisbane Lions

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Why they can win it
With a solid year of finals experience under their belts, the Lions should have confidence against the Tigers and whoever else they meet along the way. They will enjoy the Gabba and be fresher than Victorian sides, which is a benefit for their younger bodies. With a tidy spread of goalkickers, it seems Chris Fagan’s men have begun playing a team-first game style, with everyone having a say in each win.

No-one can ignore potential Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale with a massive 27 disposal average, but if he is taken care of, look out for Jarryd Lyons (21.8 average touches) and the ever-trusted Danie Rich to take the young men to a new level.

A fresh side who boast a capable young list, this is do-or-die for the new era Lions to prove that you can achieve greatness at any age.

The X factor
Lincoln McCarthy has flourished since leaving Geelong for sunny Brisbane. When he’s on it’s difficult to stop him in the air and on foot. He’s kicked 15 goals from 15 games and can be the running and flying spark when his side need a push.

Charlie Cameron of the Lions celebrates a goal

(Photo by Jono Searle/AFL Photos/via Getty Images )

Richmond Tigers

Why they can win it
There’s something that opposition sides have yet to undo about Richmond’s game. The way the side brings a manic intensity for four quarters proves they are still the team to beat in 2020. The way Richmond play on at all costs springs fear in their opposition, unable to find composure due to the likes of Dion Prestia (21.2 disposals on average) and Shane Edwards, who force turnovers around the ground and keep the Tigers flood moving rapidly.

When Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Shai Bolton and co get into the middle it’s hard to see them turning the footy over.

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The X factor
Shai Bolton really came into his own in 2020. He played in a coveted midfield alongside Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin and proved his worth around the footy. He averages 16.1 disposals and 3.5 clearances, and his pace is a major part of Richmond’s manic football that can’t be matched.

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Geelong Cats

Why they can win it
There seems to be something different brewing in Chris Scott’s men this season. Although their last two matches were rocky, their form for the rest of the year showed glimpses of premiership football. If they can bring back that composure with that mix of hard, rapid and attacking football, they’ll apply pressure immediately.

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They need to isolate Hawkins and play Rhys Stanley for the best possible chance to keep their opposition at bay in the opening quarter. Cam Guthrie is an underrated key component of the midfield with steady hands when needed most.

The X factor
Mark O’Connor has been a consistent defender all season but was tested against Tom Papley against the Swans. If he can control small and mid-sized forwards like Port Adelaide’s Connor Rozee, he can minimise the scoreboard impact if Geelong find themselves under pressure.

Joel Selwood of the Cats leads his team out onto the field

(Photo by Quinn Rooney/Getty Images)

West Coast Eagles

Why they can win it
Beginning their campaign at their fortress in front of a home crowd is the perfect kickstart to what could be a long run in 2020. The Eagles play a more traditional, old-school line-up, unlike a small and speedy side. Any side who matches up against them has to fear a mass of tall key forwards, including Jack Darling (two-goal average) and Oscar Allen (one-goal average), who can’t both be left alone. And who is to say Liam Ryan won’t be there to contest on ground?

The Eagles are one of the best clearance sides in the competition, with teams fearing the ball heading back to the middle after any goal. Watch out for a hungry Tim Kelly, who after returning home has quietly achieved a neat 20-disposal average.

The X factor
Nic Naitanui is arguably the best ruckman in this finals campaign alongside Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy. A stellar average of 29.4 hit-outs proves he is hard to beat above ground but is also versatile to follow up his ruck work in the next contest. The Eagles look to their giant in the middle when the game is in the balance, and it’s hard to see why Nic Nat won’t create some magic come game time.

Tom Barrass of the Eagles looks happy after his team's win

(Photo by Daniel Carson/AFL Photos via Getty Images via Getty Images)

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St Kilda Saints

Why they can win it
For the first time since 2011 Saints fans can look forward to their boys running out in October. Coach Brett Ratten has changed the morale of the club and given them a shot at pushing to be respected in the finals. New recruit Dan Butler (two-goal average) has brought a new standard and energy to the side, which has been matched by Jack Steele around each contest. But it will be the lesser-known packs who need to prove themselves, such as Ed Phillips (12-disposal average), who has been coming into his own in front of goal.

Ratten’s men bring a younger element to this finals series, but the Saints must bring composure and maturity in this high-intensity clash with the Dogs. If they can stop the hungry Dogs from getting ahead early, especially sowing down their fast-paced midfield, they’ll be able to feed the ball to Max King and steady themselves. Brad Hill must also prove that he was worth the effort.

The X factor
Yes, Max King is already a household name, but this is as good a chance as ever to prove that he is well worth the attention. He must be strong overhead and hold marks but must not let the pressure get to his head. A very capable young forward, he must use his height but also his agility to overcome some more experienced defenders if he wants to impact.

Dan Butler of the Saints celebrates a goal

(Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

Western Bulldogs

Why they can win it
Thisis the third time in five years the Doggies fund themselves in seventh, and many fans are seeing signs of their 2016 run to glory. Taking apart a fair few top-eight sides, it’s easy to see their young legs mixed with some finals experience can come out early and apply scoreboard pressure. With Marcus Bontempelli named in the All Australian squad, all eyes will be on him to again reach new heights through the middle in the finals.

With an average of 144 handballs each game, it’s evident the Doggies like to move the ball swiftly, relying on a high-pressure game to force their opponent to turn the ball over so they can run it up the corridor.

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Luke Beveridge has been preparing his team for a smooth run into the finals, building momentum and game time in his younger players like Cody Weightman and Pat Lipinski (16.8-disposal average) to fit right into a side filled with finals experience in Tom Liberatore, Lachie Hunter and more who were part of the 2016 success.

The X factor
Named in the 40-man All Australian squad, Caleb Daniel averages 19.8 touches at 82 per cent efficiency, one of the best in his side. He often flies low, giving him space to impact a contest and use his speed to move the ball forward rapidly. He knows what it feels like to be on the big stage and can deliver some crushing blows to his opposition if they let him run as he pleases.

Collingwood Magpies

Why they can win it
Eighth position doesn’t show the intensity Collingwood has brought to each clash in 2020. No Steele Sidebottom may be no issue for Adam Treloar (28-disposal average) and the stalwart captain Scott Pendlebury (24-disposal average), whose smooth games see them deliver quick but almost flawless marks to their forwards.

The Pies play a knock-on game like Richmond, lifting their intensity to cause their opponents to be shaken up around the contest. The lowest-scoring side of the season in the top eight (965), the Pies are also the third-lowest side scored against (881). Their defensive game is one that has highlighted them as a serious threat from the start of the year.

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Laying an average of 51 tackles weekly, Nathan Buckley will pull out all the stops to slow West Coast’s run on in Week 1.

The X factor
Defender Jack Crisp seems to be in every contest but flies under the radar when it comes to recognition, which is positive for the Pies. Averaging 19.6 disposals each week at 77 per cent efficiency, Pies fans are sure to look for Crisp if the going gets tough but also to create the run off halfback.

With every team boasting some superstars and some undercover talent, it’s going to be an intense finals series.