Updated: Jul 19, 2020
Righto, here we are, 2 days out from the resumption of 2020 AFL Season. Regular readers would know that last week I worked out which teams wouldn't be playing finals footy this year. That leaves us with the Top 8 to sort out prior to the Thursday Night Round 2 blockbuster clash between Collingwood and Richmond.
Here's my take on where the teams will land in 2020.
1st - Collingwood
In previous years during the Buckley regime, I think the Pies may have been big losers in this situation. In 2020, it makes them premiership heavyweights. Their round 1 demolition of the Bulldogs - fancied by many - was a work of art. They were intense, fast, and skilled.
A list in its prime, these players always wanted Buckley to succeed. Some personality tweaks were all it took. I would be stunned if the players turned up in anything but tip-top shape this week. There isn’t much to say here, this is a team ready to win and win big.
AFL is back with a bang! Collingwood Vs Richmond this Thursday Night!
2 - Richmond
Everything about 2020 suits Richmond. With their style of play allowing for rotation of the team, expect Richmond to win often in 2020. A dynasty creating year with 3 flags in 4 seasons on offer, the Tigers inner sanctum appears to be the strongest in the league.
What a list they have, skilled across the park, players with tricks aplenty, they suffered their share of injuries in 2019 and still emerged with their second flag in 3 years. Richmond are winners, simply because when unusual things happen, the strong survive, and this Tiger club is a powerhouse. As impressive a side as we have seen in modern times, the turnaround at Tigerland, on and off the field, has been nothing short of outstanding.
3th - Greater Western Sydney
Frequently playing in front of small home crowds, the Giants have been creating their own energy since day dot. An impressive Round 1, 5-goal win against the Cats has them well poised to run at the top 4 again. They’ll be able to have a fairly normal season, traveling interstate it appears only every second week. They looked terrific in Round 1, do not have to enter hubs, and will be driven by heartaches of seasons past.
Skilled beyond belief, there isn’t much to say about this Giants team, they are a red hot premiership chance in 2020.
4th - Geelong
Blessed with flags and runs deep into the finals, Cat fans must be wondering when life was going to stop being so good. Remarkably missing finals just twice since 2004, the football world has predicted their demise season after season in recent times. Minor premiers in 2019, I think they slide to fourth in 2020. This is not intended as a blight. Jack Steven - a quality player - can’t cover the loss of Tim Kelly. Credit to the cats though for securing a draft pick windfall though.
Geelong's hopes may rest, yet again, with Paddy Dangerfield
Winners and a well-established club, I think they were are a team who dropped into the bottom four of the top 8 pre-COVID. Home games on a unique field, a core of physically and mentally strong senior players, and some talented young prospects, COVID-19 favours clubs like Geelong. Blessed to be able to keep playing games at GMBHA Stadium, I think Geelong remains in the top 4, however, like seasons gone, does anyone actually think they can win the premiership? The attitude to remain at the top is to be admired, yet despite their regular top 4 finishes and 2019 minor premiership, they still feel too reliant on superstars like Dangerfield and Selwood. Their 5 goal loss to the Giants in Round 1 might just be the difference in who finishes ahead between those two.
5th - West Coast
Primed for a premiership, following a trend of the past decade or so of winning flags every two years, a 2020 West Coast premiership would be one of the most impressive in history. Home of the toughest road trip in football; an empty Optus Stadium or games in Queensland could be the difference in the race for a top 4 finish. A qualifying or preliminary final away to the Eagles does not look so daunting anymore.
One positive of a Gold Coast base will be a lack of travel. With some stars like Josh Kennedy aging, and a key player like injury-prone Nic Naitanui, not flying across the country every second weekend could equalise the loss of their greatest advantage. Yet, living out of a hotel room for at least a month will be challenging. Tim Kelly must be hating the irony of his trade back home. What an in for the Eagles but!
It appears that the West Coast are in for one unique season. Determined, Adam Simpson seems to be relishing this challenge. It is a unique opportunity. The most genuine premiership threat from either WA or SA, it's unlikely any team would ever again win the flag after having spent a month or more living out of a hotel on the other side of the country. I think they drop an extra game here and there dealing with the cards they have been dealt with but look out for them come finals time.
6th - Sydney Swans
I have Sydney as one of the big winners from COVID. The SCG is a unique oval; they will garner an advantage from this. However, unlike their Western and South Australian counterparts, its atmosphere is not noted. The loss of crowds will not take away from their on-field home ground advantage.
Coaching will be crucial. Sydney has one of the best. In John Longmire, the Swans have a great leader at the helm. A well-established culture in the ‘bloods,’ the Swans have a leader who’ll have ensured his squad is ready to go.
Scoring was an issue in 2019; this could change drastically with Lance Franklin being given extra time to gain health and fitness. Gifted with superstar Isaac Heeney, Franklin and Sam Reid (who both missed the Rd 1 road win), as well as emerging stars Nick Blakey and Wil Haywood, the Swans will hit the scoreboard easier in 2019. Off-season acquisitions in Sam Gray and Lewis Taylor will only help.
They weren’t terrible for 15th last year, including a percentage of 97.7%. With a terrific road win over Adelaide in Round 1, they are well-positioned to move into the top 8 this season.
7th - Hawthorn
By their standards; a quiet trade period. Yet, it may prove to be very effective. Former number 1 draft pick; Jonathon Patton is a low risk in, who could provide a huge lift. Essendon fan-favourite, Michael Hartley is a brilliant club man who may release Jack Gunstan back up the ground. A booming kick, he fits the Hawks ability to hit long targets perfectly.
Tom Mitchell - the 2018 Brownlow medalist - returned from his horrendous broken leg with 25 touches and 9 clearances. He’ll only get better; isolation would have done him no harm. Chad Wingard, up and down in season as a hawk, looked both dangerous and selfless in Round 1. Speaking of Round 1, a 5 goal win over a top 4 2019 Brisbane Lions outfit can not be ignored.
What makes the Hawks real winners though is their coach, Alistair Clarkson. Like him or hate him, none can argue that this is a man who can move with the game. In a situation like this - another masterclass, Buddy’s usage in 2013 anyone - would not surprise. A strong club, you have to believe they prepared better than any during the isolation period. Experienced bodies will surely hold up better in the early rounds post isolation and perhaps again in the final month.
With all this considered, I think their list will lack just a little depth. Finals however are within their reach.
8th - Brisbane
The story of 2019 with its second-place regular-season finish, 2020 started poorly for the Lions. A host of tactical changes were tossed out after a pre-season loss to Port. Whilst their round one loss to Hawthorn is concerning, a team they have had the wood on. 2019’s second-placed finish seems a world away after losing four straight competitive matches. Against the Hawks, it looked at times like they thought it would just happen. The lay-off will surely allow them to get their minds together.
They appear to have a strong culture and will be in tip-top shape. Chris Fagan is building a monster up north. There is a touch of the Bulldogs premiership team about the Lions. Yet, they don’t strike me as a team to rest on their laurels long-term. The attitude in Round 1 more likely a mix of being 2% off intensity wise & the unusual circumstances, rather than any sort of poor off-season.