In terms of football quality, nothing beats the preliminary final weekend of the AFL. Teams can't qualify by accident; this is the cream of the crop. A win away from the biggest game of them all; desperation and intensity are at Mt Everest heights. Like the Olympic semi-finals of the men's 800m run, everyone is a chance on their day. More importantly, they know it.
Having navigated the first two weeks, the top four face off again in inverse matches to week one of the finals. Minor premiers Port host defending premier Richmond, the feel-good Brisbane Lions take on Geelong.
I don't think the home-field advantage will be that relevant here for Port. Given the lack of supporters throughout 2020, players will relish the roar of the crowd, home or away. With that said, I expect Port to make the club's third AFL grand final. The DNA of this Port Adelaide team screams premiership. They are tough, they take the game on, and most importantly, they won't go into their shell under pressure. Port will relish everything Richmond brings.
Their opponents Richmond may have won two of the last three flags, but 2020 has felt a little off. With the Tigers having been steady all year, will they be able to lift for this? Steady won't cut it. Can we expect things to click for Richmond at this late stage?
Port Adelaide by 17.
Is there any way in which this isn't an absolute classic? Whereas I can see Richmond or Port getting a hold of each other, don't expect much separation here. The Gabba will be rocking as an epic slugfest develops.
Having gone into their shells during their 2019 finals campaign, Brisbane was bold against the Tigers two weeks ago. When GWS came to town in 2019, Brisbane played like a team trying not to lose. 2020's Lion's played to win. When challenged late, they found an avenue to goal and took the game away from Richmond.
Geelong produced one of the season's finest performances in trouncing the Pies last week. Naturally, we wonder if that was their grand final performance. They are better than that, but I do worry they have a stinker in them. Horror finals losses to Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney in the past five years highlight their CV. Yet this feels like a different Geelong team. As well balanced as we have seen, no longer reliant on a few stars. Have the stars aligned?
If Geelong can win the midfield battle with Patrick Dangerfield playing mostly forward, the Lions will need to produce their very best to win. If Brisbane dominates, Geelong can't win unless Brisbane's goal kicking woes return. I'll think Geelong will win, mostly because I am still bitter about the 2001 Grand Final!
Geelong by 4.