Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Jesse Robinson dissect all of the main talking points ahead of the first week of finals.
Which team has the most to lose this finals series?
NS: The Cats for me. They've sat on top of the ladder most of the year, which brings with it its own expectations, but when you add in their poor recent finals history, there's enormous pressure on Chris Scott and Co. If they fail to at least make the Grand Final from here, it'd be another inglorious September for Geelong. After that, I have GWS and Essendon - if they lose their elimination finals, huge questions will linger over the off-season.
JM: I tend to agree that the pressure is well and truly on the Cats this September. They haven't delivered in previous finals campaigns and cannot continue failing on the big stage. The other team is West Coast. In just 10 days the Eagles have gone from potential minor premiers to maybe missing top two to definitely missing the top four. If they bow out early in September it will be one of the biggest wasted years I can recall.
JR: The Giants simply can't afford to disappoint again in this finals series. They have been a top tier team that has consistently failed to deliver in September. Their stars in Jeremy Cameron, Josh Kelly and Toby Greene need to stand up and put to bed the finals demons of the past couple of seasons. If the Giants fail to deliver again, there needs to be serious questions asked about what happens to this club each September.
Who will be the player of September?
NS: I'm going for Brodie Grundy. Every team in the finals has star power across most lines, but only one has a truly elite ruckman. Grundy gives the Magpies such a powerful point of difference and will have a huge advantage against most of his rivals this September. A reminder of the sort of form the big Magpie is in - in Round 23 against Essendon, Grundy tied his career-high disposals count with 33 (21 contested) and also had seven clearances, three tackles and 35 hitouts.
JM: It has to be the competition's best player Patrick Dangerfield, doesn't it? The Geelong superstar has won just about every accolade the game has on offer, but that premiership still eludes him. If Dangerfield's final three rounds of the home and away season are anything to go off -- where he averaged 34 disposals, 19 contested possessions, nine clearances and two goals per game -- he is set for a monster September and could guide Geelong to their first flag since 2011.
JR: He's done it once before, so why can't Dustin Martin do it again? Dusty is in near 2017 form, tearing apart premiership rivals West Coast and Brisbane on the run home and looks primed to dominate in September. At his peak, Martin is the best player in the competition and if he brings his A-game each week in finals, he can launch the Tigers to a Grand Final berth and maybe a second flag in three years.
Which final are you most looking forward to watching?
NS: Geelong vs. Collingwood. There's so much on the line for both teams and the storylines are everywhere - the Cats' angst at having to play a home final against an MCG tenant and also their post-bye struggles in recent years, the Magpies begging their quest for redemption after last year's Grand Final loss, Jaidyn Stephenson's likely return ... it's going to be enormous. I think the winner of this should make the Grand Final and the loser will crash out in straight sets.
🎙️ 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.
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JM: I can't wait to see how the Lions respond to their Round 23 loss when they face the Tigers again at the Gabba on Saturday night. It's set to be the biggest game Queensland has seen this decade and what makes it so great is that we have absolutely no idea which way it's going. You can genuinely make compelling cases for both teams. Two players I'm eager to watch? Charlie Cameron (for his response) and Dustin Martin (for his, well, brilliance).
JR: Leaving behind all the talk about whose home final it really is, the Cats-Magpies clash will show us how serious the two clubs' premiership hopes are. The stage couldn't be bigger: Friday night under lights at the MCG, with the Magpies fielding a healthy team for the first time in months. Watching these two teams, and in particular their star-studded midfields going head-to-head, will be one for the ages.
What's a bigger honour - the Brownlow Medal, MVP or Coaches Award?
NS: History of course says it's the Brownlow Medal, but I wouldn't be surprised if players felt more humbled by the MVP Award. Getting votes as the best player in the league by your own peers would surely mean more than an award voted on by umpires. The Coaches' Award comes a distant third, though.
JM: Is this even up for debate? Obviously it's the Brownlow Medal. The other awards might be nice and deserved recognition for some players, but let's be honest, who really remembers the MVP or coaches award winners? Plus, Dangerfield wasn't even eligible to win the MVP! Give me a spell. The Brownlow will always be the highest individual accolade in football, even if it's voted on by the umpires. Don't even try and tell me otherwise!
JR: With full respect to the other awards, the AFLPA MVP is the biggest honour in the AFL. To be nominated by your teammates and then recognised as the best player in the competition, by your peers that you line up against week in and week out, is the best sign of a player's quality. It doesn't quite have the prestige of the Brownlow just yet, but it is widely respected by the AFL players themselves.