It has to be Richmond, a feeling you can't escape. Defaulting to Richmond seems to be the way when considering who will reign supreme following the season's last duel. The best team over the past four seasons, Richmond has been steady all year. In 2020, will steady be enough? These are my thoughts.
Port Adelaide ($6.00)
Despite sitting atop of the AFL ladder all season, there's been a refusal to accept the Power as a premiership contender. They are too young, is the underlying feeling. The minor premiers still sit the fourth favourite according to the bookies. Chips on the shoulder don't come any larger.
Bold, brave, and courageous. Port Adelaide boasts the type of youth who win premierships. The likes of Rozee, Butters, and Duursma play the game with nerves of steel. They take risks, their first option, yet stick within their gameplan. Brisbane was eliminated in 2019 when they played not to lose in the final quarter against the Giants. When Port inevitably find themselves in a ripsnorter, you can have faith that they will try and win the game.
They'll take down Geelong to earn another week's rest, before ending Brisbane's dreams. A grand final classic will ensue in a rematch with the Cats. Port's youthful brigade will stand up and run the legs off an ageing Geelong.
Devastated at last year's straight-sets exit, the Lions will at least win one this year. Despite closing the year on a long winning run, Brisbane lacked a killer performance across the last month of the season. Are they tired? Were they just getting by, preparing themselves for finals? Did their goal-kicking ruin what should have been an impressive win against the Saints a month ago?
Kicking inaccuracies have plagued the club in both low and high-pressure situations. It's hard to imagine these improving drastically for the final series. It is the only question mark remaining. If it weren’t for this, the Lions would be my premiership favourite.
Richmond's bunnies, they'll bounce back with a week two win over the Saints before Port Adelaide end their season in the preliminary final. A massive shame, given the Gabba, will host the Grand Final. Until Brisbane shows an ability to convert goalscoring chances, backing the Lions to win the flag feels reckless.
Premiers elect. Defending champions. Whilst not hitting full throttle for an extended period all season, the Tigers have overcome plenty (much of their own doing) to position themselves for a third premiership in four years. Easily holding the most depth, they possess a genuine next man up ability. It feels like the Tigers to lose. Lose it they will.
Dropping points throughout 2020 has seen Richmond end up on the wrong side of the draw. They face an incredible run to the premiership. They'll get past a wasteful Brisbane at the Gabba (West Coast or the Pies awaits if Brisbane salutes) before losing to Geelong in the preliminary. It's been a stop-start year for Richmond. Winning against Brisbane gives them another week off. Two games in a month will leave them underdone against an elite Geelong outfit.
Since their 2011 flag, Geelong has remained relevant - four preliminary finals and just one missed finals - yet they have often not been considered genuine contenders. Here they are again. This time, they are dangerous. Speaking of Danger, could this be Patrick Dangerfield's crowning moment.
Chris Scott admitted that in 2019 he was greedy in his use of Gary Ablett. Crucially, he's learned his lesson. With decisions about Ablett taken out of his control, Scott has used Dangerfield wisely. Having spent much time forward, a fresh Dangerfield will be willing and able to move into the middle if required throughout the finals.
Much more than just a one-man team - All - Australian's across the field - the Cats do not lack match-winning ability. One player stands out. Producing some dominant performances throughout the season, expect Tom Hawkin's to win Geelong a game off his boot.
Taking the long route, they'll end up as one of 2020's grand finalists. After a tough qualifying final against Port, challenges against West Coach or Collingwood and Richmond or Brisbane await. Making their way through this, will Geelong be able to raise one more effort? Enter Patrick Dangerfield. For three and a half quarters before ex-Cat, Daniel Motlop kicks what proves to be a match-winning goal.
West Coast ($11)
2020 looked cooked for the Eagles. Then they looked like potential premiers. Now they are primed. Primed for an embarrassing home exit to the 8th placed Collingwood.
Credit to the West Coast, they had a lot of work to do and they got it done. However, of recent times they've looked a level below where they need to be. With question marks over a few, and Elliot Yeo already ruled out, they'll need a Nic Natanui special. Even with it, I don't think it will be enough.
Expect a Collingwood team who seem to enjoy Perth to roll through the Eagles.
What I wrote about the Saints, I went to write about the Bulldogs. Merging them just made sense. Playing each other in week one - a game that should be enjoyable for the neutrals - the victor will likely exit the next week. Neither brings any form that suggests they could do any damage after week one. Although to be fair, both have produced top-level football at times.
The Bulldogs - with more firepower - seem most likely to make it through to week two. Richmond or Brisbane await in the most challenging game imaginable.
If a team is ever going to win the flag from eighth, this Collingwood team could be the team to do it. Backing them heavily to eliminate the Eagles in Perth, their semi-final against Geelong or Port could be one of the games of the finals.
Ultimately, the Pies are lacking that last piece of the puzzle to navigate an away trip to Perth and then two more opponents like Geelong/Port and then Richmond/Brisbane. If only they had players like Steele Sidebottom and Jeremy Howe on their list.
Just one more time, I love the $2.85 you can get for the Pies to beat the Eagles.
So, it's Port Power's premiership in 2020, tell me what you think!