Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of the preliminary finals.
Where would Luke Hodge go in a 2001 re-draft?
NS: With Hodge retiring, it leaves only Gary Ablett still playing from that incredible 'Super Draft' and knowing what we do now, some 18 years down the track, I'd have Hodge at No. 2 instead of first picked. Ablett would be my No. 1, with his longevity as possibly the best player of this generation unquestionable. He shades Hodge for match-winning consistency, but Hodge is right on his tail and has arguably made an even greater cultural impact at the two clubs he's played at. Chris Judd would remain at No. 3 in a re-draft which goes to show how amazing that draft was.
JM: Assuming there was no father-son rule, I think Gary Ablett would be taken with the first pick and Chris Judd with the second. But the next player would probably be Luke Hodge - and that's saying something given the enormous amount of talent drafted in 2001. In time, Hodge will go down as a legend of the AFL having won four premierships (three as captain), two Norm Smith medals and three All-Australian guernseys and completely changing the trajectory of two football clubs.
MW: Considering he won two Norm Smith medals and three best and fairest awards, it's hard to go past a leader like Hodge at No. 1 in a re-draft. Sure, Ablett (albeit a F/S) has two flags and a couple of Charlies, while Judd has a flag and two Brownlows, but the intangibles you get with Hodge are priceless. Not only did he do it at the Hawks, but the Lions, too, have benefited majorly from the influence of the rightful No. 1 pick.
Can the Cats beat Richmond without Tom Hawkins?
NS: It obviously makes it a lot tougher but recent history suggests the Cats should have a glimmer of hope without their main attacking focal point. Remarkably, Geelong have won seven out of their past eight games without Hawkins including wins over Collingwood (twice) and Richmond in the past three years. That should give Chris Scott's team some confidence that all is not lost. Their best chance will be to turn Friday night's contest into a low-scoring scrap, considering they boast the stingiest defence in the league this year.
JM: Of course the can, but I really don't think they will. Since the mid-season bye, Richmond is averaging 99.4 points per game and while Geelong's defence is the best in the competition, they just aren't restricting the Tigers to less than 75 points on Friday night at the MCG. I just don't see how the Cats can kick 12 or 13 goals to win without a guy who has won the last eight consecutive Geelong leading goalkicker awards.
MW: They're going to find it tough. As Jake says, the Tigers have been scoring with ease in recent weeks, and the Cats simply don't have the firepower to go with them. Geelong will need to somehow keep the Tigers to no more than 10 or 11 goals to be in with a sniff, and with Hawkins -- arguably one of the comp's most accurate key forwards -- missing, it's hard to see where 12 or 13 goals are going to come from.
Was Brisbane's season a failure?
NS: No, it can only be viewed as an unmitigated success after a five-win season in 2018. They're suddenly a reputable, respected and possibly feared football club after so long in the wilderness. That being said, their straight-sets finals exit has to burn in their guts over the offseason - improvement is rarely linear and they only need to look at the rise and fall of the Demons in 2018-19 to know nothing is guaranteed in football.
JM: Absolutely not. In fact, I would rate Brisbane's season an A. The club went from winning five games to almost topping the ladder after the home and away season with 16 wins. To lose back-to-back home finals after securing the double chance is far from ideal, but I expect it to have a positive long-term impact on the players moving forward. There's so much talent already there and they have proven this year that Brisbane should be a destination for players looking for a fresh start. They'll be back and even better in 2020.
MW: The season wasn't a failure, rather, a resounding success, however the finals campaign is a different story. I don't buy Jake's 'straight sets exit will have a positive long-term effect' spiel because the Lions will not enjoy the bottom six fixture they had this year in 2020. In addition, Chris Fagan's free-flowing, high-scoring style of play will come under the microscope of opposition coaches in the offseason, so it's not unfair to say the Lions blew a golden chance of snagging a flag in 2019.
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Who wins this year's Brownlow Medal?
NS: For the first time in years, there's no standout favourite which adds to the unpredictability of Brownlow night but makes it much tougher for experts and punters to predict the winner! But I'm picking Nat Fyfe to win his second 'Charlie' after another brilliant season. My rationale? He wins the ball under umpires' noses -- ranked first in contested possessions per game and third in clearances per game -- catches the eye with his contested marking, is a proven vote-winner and won't have too many teammates stealing votes off him.
JM: I don't want to toot my own horn, but I did pick Lachie Neale to win the Brownlow Medal during pre-season and I'm going to stick with that prediction (even if I think Patrick Dangerfield might have him covered ... just). Neale has played a huge role in Brisbane's rise up the ladder, having averaged 31 disposals, eight clearances and four tackles per game. He also led the league in assisted metres gained and if you think that's a silly stat, can I remind you of Tom Mitchell? He won the award last year and dominated in that area.
MW: I crave for the day that a non-midfielder re-smashes the glass ceiling and takes home the Charlie, and wouldn't it be great if Brodie Grundy did that this year? I think last year was a false dawn for a ruck Brownlow, but -- and as weird as it sounds -- now ruckmen are known to umpires as a legitimate chance, they, and therefore Grundy, may poll better than they have in years.