Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 23.
Will Ross Lyon coach again?
NS: It seems bizarre to think Lyon won't coach again but I think there's every chance it happens. His recent record is pretty awful, with huge question marks over his ability to develop young talent, dour gamestyle and relationships with players (and the media!). If I was a betting man, I'd guess he does bob up somewhere else but it's far from a certainty.
JM: Next year? No chance. Ever again? Hmm, probably not. Lyon has had two chances spanning 13 years and hasn't been able to deliver a premiership. His winning record at Fremantle is just 53 percent and I don't think many clubs will be desperate to secure a polarising coach who doesn't lead his side to enough wins. I think people are starting to realise Lyon is not as magical as many once thought...
MW: Not only will Ross find it hard to get a senior coaching gig in 2020 (purely as the caretakers seem to have sewn up any and all roles available), he might struggle to land a job even beyond that. He's never won a flag, has had a mediocre tenure at the Dockers, was stubborn when it came to playing kids, and was a divisive and grizzly character at the best of times. He may end up being just another old-school coach shunted out of a new-school world.
Did the AFL get it right with its studs-up backflip?
NS: No one likes in-season rule changes and it's very easy to pot the AFL's rules-on-the-run policy but I do think they got this one right. High marking is the most exciting element of football and the studs-up rule was threatening that. It should remain in place for front-on contact (hello, Toby Greene) but thankfully players can once again use their feet to launch for huge marks (as painful as it might be for the stepladder).
JM: No. I really couldn't believe how much outcry there was after this. Watch the vision again - Jack Riewoldt clearly went studs-up when attempting his marks against West Coast. TWICE! The rule was introduced this year to avoid injury and people seem to think that injuries can only occur with contact to the head. How about this: if you want to take a mark, don't throw your boot at someone.
MW: Nope, and the decision to backflip so suddenly and so close to finals is wrong - and thusly, very on brand. Considering the AFL has already allowed forwards to use their arms, shoulders and bodies to protect space in the marking contest, why do we need to raise the studs to do so as well? The rule was a good one and would have reduced injuries, and claiming that 'speccies' will go out of the game as a result is a classic case of outrage seeking. Hello, Andrew Walker?
Am I in the minority of people who liked how the studs-up rule was adjudicated on the weekend?— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshMedia) August 19, 2019
Who wins Sunday's Richmond vs. Brisbane blockbuster?
NS: I have a lot of egg on my face for not quite buying into Brisbane's flag chances as their momentum has built, and I still have some reservations despite their incredible season. I think Richmond at the MCG will be their sternest test yet and the Tigers will be far too strong - especially with a high chance of rain forecast.
JM: It's really hard to back against Richmond at the MCG, but if any team can get the job done against them it's Brisbane. Chris Fagan's side has won nine straight games and is coming off arguably their greatest victory of the decade. Confidence is high at the Lions and they will know they are a big chance of pulling off another upset and winning what would be the unlikeliest of minor premierships. Still, I really like the Tigers and the form they're in right now. Can I pick a draw?
MW: If we thought we were spoilt by last weekend's round of footy, Sunday afternoon's clash between two teams on winning streaks of nine (Brisbane) and eight (Richmond) is set to be an absolute delight. The Tigers are playing some ominous football, and having just beaten the Eagles last week, will be confident of winning the flag, while the Lions are riding a huge wave of momentum. Picking a winner is tough... I'l say the Tigers. Just.
🎙️ Should Tom Hawkins have been given a BIGGER suspension? 🤔— footytips (@footytips) September 17, 2019
🎙️ The Lions squandered an opportunity to jag a flag 🧐
🎙️ Should Matt de Boer go to Brodie Grundy? 🤷
Ep. 27 of the @ESPNAusNZ #AFL podcast.
🎧 LISTEN AND SUBSCRIBE HERE ➡️ https://t.co/gNa4vGUeCU
Which finals-bound teams are just making up the numbers?
NS: Put a line through the Giants and Bombers - they're no chance to secure silverware this year. Somewhat controversially, I don't think the Cats are much chance to go all the way despite them sitting at the top of the ladder for most of the year. The remaining five teams, including Collingwood and, incredibly, the Bulldogs, look like the teams that can threaten for the flag.
JM: In my mind there's only four teams that can win the premiership this year: Brisbane, Richmond, Geelong and Collingwood. I know West Coast are the reigning premiers but I don't think they're finishing top two now and I'm backing them to lose in the first week of finals - making things very tough. Then there's the Giants who have fallen in a heap at the wrong time, the Bombers who are simply not winning four straight and a Bulldogs team everyone is getting carried away with. I guarantee the premier will be one of those four.
MW: While I think there are only three teams which can genuinely win the flag (being Richmond, West Coast and Brisbane), there are a few variables that could see me eating my words. Jaidyn Stephenson's return to Collingwood can't be understated, nor the potential return of Darcy Moore, while I also think the Bulldogs are a major wildcard. The Cats will struggle away from GMHBA and I'll also happily rule out the Bombers, Giants, Hawks and both South Australian sides.