I’ll admit that I found it quite challenging to well and truly immerse myself in the 2020 AFL season.
And not just because North Melbourne had one to forget.
Sure, I tuned into a handful of games weekly (as there is nothing else to do on weekends during Melbourne’s lockdown) and I kept myself in the loop with all the big news and updates each day.
But it just wasn’t the same.
As someone who attends all North Melbourne games in Melbourne and a few games in Perth each year, I miss being up close in the action. Miss being right in the thick of it. There is one thing, however, that I think most footy fans have in common.
No matter what the home-and-away season brings, as soon as it’s over we are all sucked right back in and ready for a blockbuster final series and as strange as this year has been, this final series promises to be as good as any other.
Let’s start with Richmond and Brisbane.
I won’t talk about this game too much, as I’ll have a full preview for you next week, but you have to feel for the Lions, don’t you? It may seem like a weird comment to make about a side that has been the beneficiary of the AFL season almost falling apart.
With just about the entire competition relocated to Queensland for the 2020 season, the Lions have been pretty comfortable at home for the majority of the year. They have played just three games outside of Queensland – Round 1 at the MCG and Rounds 6 and 7 in Sydney.
Of the three games the Lions have lost this year, two have come outside of Queensland.
And then there’s the third, which came against Richmond at Metricon Stadium, the same team they face in the qualifying final on Friday for the second year in a row.
Not only does Richmond (once again) appear to be the team to beat, but the Tigers have won their last 15 matches against the Lions.
Despite finishing second, the Lions already appear to be in for another challenging final series…but more on that next week.
The team I genuinely feel for is Port Adelaide. On top of the AFL ladder all season and yet still, few are willing to commit to them as a serious premiership threat. I personally think they’ve done more than enough to prove they are just as much in this as anyone else.
On Thursday night against Geelong, they not only have the opportunity to really highlight that, but they can do it in front of a home crowd. And they also have the opportunity to stand up and perform when it really matters.
Since the 2007 grand final, Port Adelaide has defeated Geelong just twice. Thursday night would be a perfect time for victory number three.
Although the Round 12 match between these two sides was a flop, a finals-like atmosphere and a guaranteed spot in the preliminary final should be just what they both need to fire up for a cracking encounter.
One thing Port Adelaide can be thankful for is that they won’t be facing West Coast at Adelaide Oval. The Eagles have won their previous five encounters against Port Adelaide at the ground, including the 2017 elimination final.
Instead, the Eagles have returned home to Perth to host the only final at Optus Stadium this year against Collingwood.
It was sort of a win-win situation for West Coast, don’t you think? They were either getting the double chance by finishing fourth or a genuine home final finishing fifth.
Even if they had snuck into the top four and won the qualifying final, Western Australia’s strict quarantine guidelines would’ve prevented a preliminary final in Perth.
In case that initial win-win wasn’t enough for West Coast, they have had the edge over Collingwood in recent seasons, too.
Since the start of 2018, the two teams have met six times with West Coast victorious on five occasions.
Most recently, the Eagles recorded an 11-goal victory over Collingwood in Perth. I don’t know if the margin will be the same, but I think next Saturday’s result could be.
Mainly because I don’t know where Collingwood is going to find enough scoring power to match the Eagles.
The Pies are the only team in the top eight that scored less than 1000 points for the season.
Despite their handy finals experience in recent seasons, they just don’t look as strong or as threatening in 2020. It might be an early exit for Collingwood this time around.
And then there’s the side with next to no finals experience.
It’s been nine long years since St Kilda last made the finals but they have finally made it.
No matter the outcome next weekend (for what it’s worth, I think it will be a competitive performance, but a loss to the Bulldogs), I have no doubt fans will be basking in glory during the week.
They are progressing nicely under Brett Ratten and while there is still some work to be done, they have come a mighty long way this season.
Finally, the most fascinating team of the finals.
Because of the magic the Bulldogs produced in 2016, many of us automatically assume that anything is possible. And you know what, it is. Not just for the Dogs but for all eight teams that remain.
This season has been full of surprises so far and I have a feeling that we may be in for a few more before the 2020 premier is crowned.
Bring it on, I say.