I didn’t think we’d make it all those months ago, but look at us – we’ve made it to the finals.
Everyone’s fresh from their week off and we’ve got four genuine crackers to get this year’s finals series underway. It doesn’t get much better.
It also doesn’t get much better than my ripping score of nine in the home-and-away season’s final round. By my calculation it’s the only perfect round anyone’s managed this season. That takes me up to 100 points and sees me claim the expert tipping title for 2020. You beauty.
Eight points for Liam Salter were enough to see him finish second with 95 points, while seven for reigning champion Marnie Cohen saw her finish the year in third on 92.
We’ll of course continue to tip our way through the finals series, and I hope you stick around right to the very end.
Port Adelaide, Brisbane, St Kilda, West Coast
Two big hoodoos have a chance to be broken in this year’s qualifying finals. First, Port Adelaide are looking to claim just their third win over Geelong since their famous victory at Kardinia Park in 2007.
The Cats have a 15-2 record over the Power since then, including their two meetings in finals since and this year’s home-and-away meeting by 60 points. If we were playing at the Gabba, I’d get behind Chris Scott’s side, but Port’s form at the Adelaide Oval has been irrepressible this year and I’ll back them to notch another win.
The big hoodoo on everyone’s lips, of course, is Richmond’s total domination of the Lions. They’re a perfect 15-0 over Brisbane since Damien Hardwick took the reins – but all good things come to an end and I reckon this streak is due for a snap.
Their home-and-away meeting may have gone the Tigers’ way by 41 points, but this was a totally misleading margin thanks to unprecedented Brisbane inaccuracy. Chris Fagan’s men had the right approach, but kicked a shocking 4.17 (with only one of those behinds being rushed) – the Tigers won’t be so lucky this time.
I was the only person who tipped Richmond in this fixture last year, and I’m going against the grain again.
I noted St Kilda’s poor record against finals sides in my Tuesday column, but I should have given the Bulldogs similar attention. The Saints may be 3-4 against top eight sides in 2020, but the Doggies were 1-6, with their only win a two-point triumph over the Eagles.
Luke Beveridge’s side may be in better form, but this was true last season before they wet the bed. It’s an unpopular pick, but I’ll back the Saints to make a statement with a surprise win to kick off Saturday.
The last match of the round requires the least explanation. Collingwood are simply not in the same class as the rest of this year’s finalists and will probably cop a bruising against the Eagles, who are also the Shoe-In of the Week.
Geelong, Richmond, Western Bulldogs, West Coast
Finals are finally here! I am so excited, I can barely hide it.
In a normal world the 2020 premiers would’ve already been crowned. The AFL grand final should’ve taken place last Saturday. So we’re a little behind, but it’s better late than never, right?
Truthfully, I don’t know if I feel confident about any of these tips or results. There have been some major twists and turns this season so, really, anything could happen. Further to that, there have been some key results between these sides that have influenced my tips as well. Let’s get into it.
Geelong and Port Adelaide are probably the two sides under the most pressure to perform this finals series. Geelong have made it to the prelims so many times before only to fall at the final hurdle. This is truly the best they’ve looked, especially with Tom Hawkins in rare form.
As for Port Adelaide, they’ve been on top of the ladder since Round 1 and now need to back it up. The Cats are a huge chance to get on top of the minor premiers – they thrashed Port when they met earlier in the season and, while that game was played on the Gold Coast, the location didn’t play a huge part in the result.
I really want Brisbane to win on Friday night, but how can you go past Richmond on the back of that winning record? Trick question – you really can’t. That’s not to say the Lions aren’t a chance – they have been able to back up their explosive 2019 season with another top-two finish and they are genuinely a great side.
But they’re about to face the flag favourites, who they haven’t defeated for over a decade. Here’s hoping this game is more like the first half of the 2019 qualifying final, rather than the second.
I can’t see Collingwood having any answers for West Coast in Perth. The Magpies haven’t looked overly impressive in their last few games, especially up forward where they seem to have little firepower. West Coast, on the other hand, have been able to cover their losses game after game and, in front of a home crowd, it’s unlikely that they will disappoint.
As for St Kilda and the Bulldogs, the experience of the Dogs will prevail. They’ll be desperate to make up for their early exit in last year’s final series and they should be able to do so.
Port Adelaide, Richmond, Western Bulldogs, Collingwood
Finals? Asking as a Freo fan: what are they? All kidding aside, it’s good to have survived a very tumultuous season to reach what is bound to be a strange finals series.
We begin tonight in my city, as ladder-leaders Port Adelaide host Geelong. The Power forced their fans to wait until the final match of the home-and-away season to celebrate the minor premiership; Geelong secured their top-four spot with a much closer than expected victory over the Swans.
Neither game is what you’d consider a warm-up for finals, though the Power get some points here for beating a top-eight team. Both sides have claims to favouritism: the Cats, battle-hardened and holding the biggest win over Port this year; the Power, youthful and with a kind of underdog ruggedness that has often been underappreciated.
A hard tip: I’ll hesitantly go the Power, though Geelong is sure to prove my hesitation right.
Then there’s Brisbane, ostensibly beneficiaries of a massive finals home-ground advantage but who would be nervous about the albatross around their neck: Richmond. The Lions haven’t beaten the Tigers in Brisvegas since I was six and would have crappy memories about last year’s hefty loss to that team in a qualifying final.
For all of Brisbane’s successes this year, that and the fact that their forward line simply isn’t a dependable part of the team means despite the Gabba setting, it is hard to go past the irresistible Tigers.
On Saturday the Saints – far and away the biggest premiership underdogs – begin their campaign against the Dogs, who did the impossible in 2016 from the same seventh position they find themselves in this year.
Personally, this is the most exciting game of this weekend’s quartet: both play an exciting brand of footy and both are such likeable teams. Equally matched on the ladder, it’s the Bulldogs who have found themselves less discussed than their opponents despite the fact they’re a more experienced and better team when it matters.
My heart says Saints here but my head suggests their scratchy record against top teams this year and their inexperience in finals means I’ll have to back the Bulldogs – who are, of course, no bastions of consistency themselves.
We finish up in Perth, as the Eagles host Collingwood. Neither team has excelled much this year – the Pies especially, who, after maybe the Saints, are the weakest finals side. The Eagles had a better end than start to the season, but injuries mean this is the first time in a while that their finals campaign is lacking something special.
Not that the Magpies can claim much high ground there either. West Coast’s home ground advantage helps but, despite the Pies’ mediocre season, I’ll roll the dice and say they’ll score an upset win here.
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