Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 16.
Should the Grand Final always be at the MCG?
NS: It's obviously locked in at the 'G until 2057 but the current arrangement isn't fair for non-Victorian clubs. It's a throwback to the VFL days where Victoria was the only state that mattered. I understand the logic of hosting the biggest game of the year in the biggest stadium in the country but in an era where equalisation and expansion are goals of the league, then giving Victorian teams a huge leg-up on Grand Final day even against higher-ranked opponents is just wrong. I would like to explore a best-of-three Grand Final series, however.
JM: Can we revisit this in 40 years when it's relevant? Look, it's certainly not fair for the non-Victorian sides that the Grand Final is always played at the MCG, so you could make the argument the top team each season should host it. But do I, and plenty of others, want to see a Grand Final at Metricon Stadium one day? Certainly not. Leave it as it is and don't even try to sell me on a best-of-three series.
MW: There are so many great 'what if' arguments against the MCG's monopoly on Grand Final day, but there is no way the AFL would give up at least 30,000 seats for corporates, sponsors (or the fans, I guess!) by hosting it anywhere else. They just won't do it. No matter how much fairer the competition would be, I can't see it happening until AT LEAST the current contract expires in 2057.
How do you fix the score review system?
NS: Firstly, improve the technology ASAP. Secondly, only look to eliminate the absolute howlers, like the Tom Hawkins 'goal' in the 2009 Grand Final that inspired the introduction of this system. Don't worry about whether a player gets a fingernail on the ball as his opponent kicks it, worry about the shots at goal that scrape the post or get touched on or over the line.
JM: Everything the AFL has tried to date has not worked, so something drastic needs to happen. I love the idea of giving each team one challenge per game which can be used if they believe a howler has been made. It would take the pressure off the umpires and put the onus back on the players. But whether you like this idea or not, it will only work if the cameras at grounds are high quality and offer more angles in order for correct decisions to be made consistently.
MW: The way you could fix it today is to use it only for goal line errors. In fairness to the system, it works pretty well for touched-on-the-line decisions, as well as instances where the ball hits the post. It's the 'touched off the boot' calls that let the system down. If you eliminate those, the outrage goes away ... for a little while!
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Fully fit, which team has the best spine?
NS: When all are fit, I think West Coast's spine is the most powerful in the league. Try this quintet on for size: Jeremy McGovern, Tom Barrass, Luke Shuey, Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy. There's four absolute match-winners there, while the Eagles have also really missed Barrass' intercept ability across half-back this year. They get my vote narrowly ahead of GWS and Richmond.
JM: The key word hear is 'fit', because when healthy it's the Tigers for me. Alex Rance, Dylan Grimes, Dustin Martin, Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch is a very, very impressive spine and even before Lynch joined it was good enough to land them a premiership. I'll take the best defender in the competition, a Brownlow Medal winner and a three-time Coleman Medal winner any day of the week. We haven't even spoken about Trent Cotchin!
MW: I was very close to choosing the Giants, but it has to be the Cats. Mark Blicavs at full back, Harry Taylor, Tim Kelly, Tom Hawkins and Patrick Dangerfield as your full forward is an intimidating spine, and one which has helped the Cats to an enviable 12-2 record. When you think that Joel Selwood, Gary Ablett and Tom Stewart are stiff not to be named, it's a no-brainer.
Which is the AFL's most watchable team?
NS: When they're on song, the Giants are breathtaking. They have so much elite talent in that squad that when opponents allow them to play the way they want, they showcase what we love about football: speed, athleticism, skills and hardness. How could you not love watching Josh Kelly, Toby Greene, Jeremy Cameron, Lachie Whitfield and Co? Unless they're tearing your team apart, that is...
JM: Most football fans want to see free-flowing games, lots of scoring and hardly any congestion. Well, there's one team delivering that every week and it's Brisbane. If you haven't watched the Lions this year, do yourself a favour and tune into their next game. The mix of underrated inside players and exciting youth makes for fascinating viewing and it's no surprise to see them surging up the ladder this year.
MW: Seems like I'm well-and-truly on the Geelong bandwagon, but a team featuring Ablett, Dangerfield, Kelly and Hawkins is pretty damn watchable. Ablett is enjoying an incredible season in the forward line, while Tim Kelly is the Brownlow favourite and you can plonk Dangerfield in any position on the ground and he'll tear it apart. There's a reason they're on top of the ladder.