So your team is out of the finals. What is there to even look forward to in life anymore? For those of us in Melbourne, the inevitably of getting completely tanked on Brownlow night with your mates isn’t even there to comfort us.
People like us need a bandwagon team.
We’ve all been there. 2016 was a legendary year for bandwagoning. Never before has the entire country been so united against New South Wales than in supporting the Western Bulldogs on their path to their first flag in 62 years.
I’ll lay the facts out for you straight and simple. Here’s why you should get behind every team competing for the flag.
Port Adelaide ($6.50)
Consistent all year for the first time in coach Ken Hinkley’s career, Port Adelaide have been on top of the table since Round 1, when they smashed the Suns, all the way through to Round 18, scraping over the line against the resilient Pies.
A dynamic side, the Power are the second highest scoring team in the league behind their week one opponents, Geelong. Hulking spearhead Charlie Dixon is never far from a huge contested grab or a big bomb from the 50 metre arc, and their classy midfield brigade of Travis Boak, Ollie Wines and Tom Rockliff are sure to provide entertainment through the middle. Youngsters Xavier Duursma, Connor Rozee and Zak Butters have a knack for producing exciting moments, so if exciting footy is what you want, the Power will provide all that and more.
Plus, if you’re superstitious, every team who started the year on top of the ladder on a leap year have won the flag. So there’s that.
Brisbane Lions ($5)
The young Lions unfortunately bowed out in straight sets in the 2019 finals, with the experienced Tigers proving too strong and the determined Giants barely getting over them.
This year, the Lions look even hungrier. While plenty of finals experience has been lost with the retirement of Luke Hodge, Grant Birchall has filled his spot in the backline excellently. Superstar midfielder Lachie Neale is in Brownlow winning form and will be a hugely influential aspect of the Lions finals’ campaign.
Charlie Cameron loves nothing more than a big game, and there’s no doubt he’ll be relishing the challenge of taking on Tigers defender Dylan Grimes once again on a Friday night at the Gabba. They’ve wasted the double chance once already, but no doubt coach Chris Fagan will get his boys up and about for a final in Lions homeland. Who doesn’t love the young, scrappy side?
Well… let’s be honest. No neutral supporter is going to be behind Richmond in the 2020 finals. Two flags in three years is more than enough for most to tolerate, and a back-to-back win would give most Victorians more than enough reason to forget that this season ever happened.
In fairness though, the Tigers do still play a very attractive style of football. Their manic pressure and tackling is still the model for most teams, and while it can lead to some scrappy clashes, they often find a way to get the job done. Dustin Martin is a lauded performer come finals time, and there’s no doubt he’ll be putting the team on his back once again this October.
Speaking of teams no neutrals will be behind…
At this point you have to feel bad for Patrick Dangerfield. In his 13 seasons, he’s endured one elimination final loss, two semi final losses, four preliminary final losses, and watched from the stands as his old club Adelaide went down to Richmond in 2017’s grand final. If the Cats can’t win one this or next year, Danger’s seven All-Australian jackets and Brownlow Medal will never be joined by footy’s ultimate glory: a premiership medal.
The Cats are a fast, direct, high scoring side. Sam Menegola and Cam Guthrie have lifted enormously in the absence of Joel Selwood and Gary Ablett, but with their return last week, the star studded midfield group will put up a huge fight. Tom Hawkins, fresh off his first Coleman Medal, will be firing on all cylinders, surrounded by the Cats small forward brigade. That is, if he doesn’t get himself suspended.
West Coast ($11)
For the second year in a row after their 2018 premiership, the Eagles have missed the double chance and qualified for finals in 5th. While Essendon at their Optus Stadium fortress were no concern, the Pies look much more dangerous and could ruin the Eagles’ finals hopes in a do-or-die elimination final.
The Eagles are undoubtedly exciting to watch… in Perth. At home, they average 76.8 points a match. Up in Queensland, where they’ll likely have to play the rest of their finals even if they beat the Pies, they average 55.7 points a match. They haven’t kicked more than 9 goals for the past five games. Their overly defensive, slow-moving kick/mark style won’t be winning over too many fans (including me) in the finals.
St. Kilda ($34)
Now here’s a bandwagon team to set your watch to. The Saints were the biggest player of the 2019 trade period, and it’s paid immediate dividends. They’re playing finals for the first time since 2011, in coach Brett Ratten’s first full year.
Ratten is a feel-good story in himself, getting unceremoniously sacked by Carlton before returning to Hawthorn as an assistant coach, suffering personal tragedy along the way which can only make you respect the man even more.
Dan Butler and Jack Steele are likely All-Australians. Fellow recruits Paddy Ryder, Brad Hill, Dougal Howard and Zak Jones have all had excellent years at Moorabbin, while young guns Nick Coffield, Hunter Clark, Josh Battle, Rowan Marshall, Max King and Callum Wilkie continue improving game by game.
They’re fast. They’re aggressive. They’re a team that can make some serious waves in the finals. All that stands between them and the Grand Final is four games. This is the bandwagon I’ve jumped on. Go Sainters.
Western Bulldogs ($21)
The perpetual underdogs and Victoria’s sweetheart. The Dogs have, somehow, managed to avoid becoming a maligned side despite recent premiership success in 2016. A premiership hangover and battling for finals in subsequent years after will probably do that to a side.
They’re a likeable bunch at the Doggies. Marcus Bontempelli doesn’t stop improving, despite already being one of the stars of the competition. Caleb Daniel keeps turning heads with his left boot, and Aaron Naughton is flying high despite multiple injury setbacks. Can the Dogs make it past the Saints at the Gabba? I think it will be the most exciting game of the first week of finals.
You can’t go wrong with the Dogs… though Dogs supporters might tell you otherwise.