The finals are here!
After a strange and peculiar home-and-away season, we have finally arrived at the business end of the 2020 campaign.
Four mouth-watering clashes are on the menu for fans, too, with two qualifying finals getting things underway.
Elimination finals between St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs, and West Coast and Collingwood follow, in four must-watch games of footy.
Read on for our full Week 1 finals preview!
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AFL Tipping – Thursday, October 1
Port Adelaide v Geelong Cats
Adelaide Oval | 7:40 pm (AEST)
Port Adelaide Power – The Power will have revenge on their minds in this qualifying final. Ken Hinkley’s side were monstered in Round 12, going down by 10 goals to the Cats in a one-sided clash at Metricon Stadium. Port were simply nowhere near the Cats in that clash, and can’t afford to let Tom Hawkins run riot again. Port finished the season in good form, five successive wins enough to leave them first on the ladder. A home final – and a double chance – is a nice reward as Port attack its first finals series since 2017. Ryan Burton (quad) and Zak Butters (suspension) will return for the Power, while defender Tom Clurey (hamstring) is also available. How Hinkley plans to stop Hawkins is unknown. Will it be Clurey or Tom Jonas? Port won six of seven matches at the Adelaide Oval this year but have a shocking record against the Cats. This should be close but Geelong have the edge in big-game experience.
Geelong Cats – With 19 wins in their last 22 matches against the Power, the Cats will be confident. Hawkins booted six goals and took 10 marks in an utterly dominant display in Round 12, while six Geelong players (Cameron Guthrie, Patrick Dangerfield, Mark Blicavs, Sam Menegola, Tom Stewart and Mitch Duncan) all had 20 disposals or more. Geelong also kept Charlie Dixon goalless in a big win. The Cats won seven of their last eight matches in 2020 and enter this match at full strength, with both Rhys Stanley (groin) and Tom Atkins (soreness) available for selection. Gary Ablett played just one game since returning from quarantine, but showed his class in what was an unconvincing Round 18 win over Sydney. Dangerfield was thrown forward in that clash and played a key role in getting the Cats over the line, kicking three goals and proving very difficult to stop as a forward target. His ability playing out of the goalsquare is another ace up Chris Scott’s sleeve. Geelong to win this – just.
AFL Tipping – Friday, October 2
Brisbane Lions v Richmond Tigers
Gabba | 7:50 pm (AEST)
Brisbane Lions – Can the Lions break the hoodoo? Brisbane has lost its last 15 matches against Richmond, an unwanted record that dates back to 2009. Brisbane finished second on the 2019 ladder – the same place it finished this year – but were thrashed by the Tigers in last year’s qualifying final at the Gabba, Dustin Martin kicking six goals in a 47-point win that set Richmond on the way to another premiership. Brisbane kicked poorly that day, finishing with 8.17 (65), and history repeated in Round 10 this year, at Metricon Stadium. The Lions kicked 4.17 (41) on that occasion, a horribly inaccurate display. Richmond won by 41 points and have the mental edge over the Lions. Brisbane legend Simon Black has called on key forwards Eric Hipwood and Daniel McStay to lift in this clash, while Charlie Cameron’s battle with Dylan Grimes should prove fascinating. Key defender Harris Andrews (hamstring) is a huge inclusion for Brisbane, while midfielder Jarrod Berry (hamstring) should also return for the second qualifying final.
Richmond Tigers – Midfielder Dion Prestia (ankle) looks set to play his first game since Round 5, a huge boost for the reigning premiers. Prestia won Richmond’s best-and-fairest last year and the man he finished ahead of, the second-placed Shane Edwards, showed his class in his Round 18 return against Adelaide. Shai Bolton (calf) and Jake Aarts (calf) should be right to go, but star forward Tom Lynch (hamstring) has been ruled out. Lynch kicked three goals in Richmond’s win over Brisbane earlier this year. His absence could see Andrews focused on shutting down Jack Riewoldt, who booted four majors in that Round 10 clash. Brisbane has won its last seven matches, are at home and have a 9-0 record at the Gabba this year. That would make them favourites against almost any other side, but one look at Richmond’s team shows class and experience on every line. The Tigers are red hot, too, winning six in a row, with their last four wins all by 26 points or more. Richmond has a 2-0 record at the Gabba in 2020, but is sitting at 9-0 in Queensland. The Tigers will be too good in this.
AFL Tipping – Saturday, October 3
St Kilda v Western Bulldogs
Gabba | 4:40 pm (AEST)
St Kilda Saints – Excitement is high for Saints fans ahead of the club’s first final since 2011. But the reality is that Brett Ratten’s side will have to improve on recent form if they are to keep their season alive. St Kilda won just three of its last seven games, with all of those victories coming against sides who missed the top eight. The Round 18 win against Greater Western Sydney was impressive, at least, but losses to Brisbane, Melbourne and West Coast, sandwiched by an unconvincing win over Hawthorn, preceded that. The good news for Ratten is that midfield speedster Zak Jones (hamstring) is likely to play. Jones had 29 disposals and booted a goal in St Kilda’s 39-point win over the Bulldogs in Round 2. Jack Billings was also a major contributor on that occasion, winning 24 disposals and booting three goals. Midfielder Jack Steele has enjoyed a tremendous season and is also fit, while Josh Battle (ankle) should play as well. Jack Lonie seems the doubt, as he battles bone bruising in his knee.
Western Bulldogs – The Bulldogs were famously shellshocked in an elimination final against the Giants last year, bullied and outmuscled in a disappointing defeat. Like last year, the Bulldogs enter the finals full of momentum, Luke Beveridge’s men winning five of their last six matches in 2020. That run included their only win over a finals side this year, a two-point success against a depleted West Coast outfit. After a slow start, the 2016 premiers have worked their way into this season, and have a star-studded midfield that should lead them to victory. While Marcus Bontempeli and Jack Macrae get most of the plaudits, look for Tom Liberatore, Bailey Smith and Lachie Hunter to have big impacts. Key forward Aaron Naughton (cheekbone) is likely to play, while Mitch Wallis (shoulder) should be okay, too. The Bulldogs appear a little more advanced than the Saints and are more than good enough to win this.
West Coast Eagles v Collingwood
Optus Stadium | 8:10 pm (AEST)
West Coast Eagles – The pre-finals bye has been a blessing for the Eagles, with the likes of skipper Luke Shuey (hamstring) Josh Kennedy (ankle) and Jeremy McGovern (hamstring) all set to overcome niggles. In addition to that star trio, Jack Redden (thumb), Mark Hutchings (hamstring) and Lewis Jetta (calf) could all play, too, while Jamie Cripps will come back in after a stint on the sidelines as his wife gave birth. The inclusions will significantly boost the Eagles, who are on their home deck in this knockout final. West Coast just missed out on a top-four spot for the second season running and it may cost it again in the search for another premiership. Adam Simpson’s men shouldn’t have too many problems here, though, and have happy memories of clashes against the Magpies, winning five of the last six, including the 2018 grand final.
Collingwood Magpies – The Magpies did not fire a shot in a 66-point loss to West Coast at Perth Stadium in Round 8. It was a dark day for Collingwood, with Josh Kennedy kicking seven goals. What the Magpies would give for a key forward who could kick a bag of goals like that. Collingwood has not kicked more than 10 goals in a game since Round 3, and its struggles forward of centre have been particularly frustrating to fans. Jordan De Goey has a huge role to play in this and you get the sense that he needs to have a superb game for Collingwood to win. That is possible, of course, but Collingwood is still without Steele Sidebottom and Jeremy Howe. There will be a heavy dependence on Adam Treloar and Scott Pendlebury in midfield, and ultimately it is hard to see Collingwood kicking a winning score.