There's one match remaining in 2019! Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of the Grand Final.
Who wins the Norm Smith Medal?
NS: Dion Prestia will outshine the more high-profile combatants on Saturday to claim it. He's had an enormous second half of this season, and was one of the Tigers' best against Geelong with 28 disposals, 13 contested possessions, seven clearances, two goals and a massive 744 metres gained. He's also tidied up his once-suspect kicking and looms looms as a game-breaker who might not get the attention other stars do.
JM: Regular podcast listeners will remember me picking Dylan Grimes for the award before the finals series had started. The Tigers defender was paying 100-1 at the start of September and has shortened massively to 26-1 with TAB. I know defenders don't often win big awards, but if he plays on Jeremy Cameron and keeps him relatively quiet I wouldn't be surprised if he received plenty of love from the voters.
MW: Nick Haynes looms large. In addition to having a stellar season, the athletic Giants defender has had a remarkably good finals series - it's fair to say he may have been spurned on by his All-Australian snub. If the Giants are to win -- or go close -- on Saturday, intercept marking, dare and dash out of their backline is crucial, and Haynes delivers that in spades.
Should the AFL hand out premiership medals to all players in the winning team?
NS: Tradition is important but it's time for a change. Clubs win premiership through contributions from so many people, not just the 22 who run out on Grand Final day. Saying that though, I'm not sure where the cut-off would be - anyone who has played a senior game? The whole squad? Rookies too? Perhaps the best way to go is medals for all senior-listed players from the winning team.
JM: Yes. Some players who haven't featured at all might not 'deserve' a medal, but that's far outweighed by the players who are deserving and miss out. The 22 players who go out and win the premiership certainly rightly received the accolades, but what about the other players who helped get them there during the home and away season? I think it has to change.
MW: I'm pretty passionate about this having written about this over the weekend. It's very likely that two Tigers and up to three Giants from their prelim-winning sides will face the heartbreak of not being selected for the Grand Final, and in some cases -- be it Jack Graham's heroic effort on Friday night or Lachie Keeffe's shutdown of Brody Mihocek -- their contributions helped their team advance to the big one. If not a premiership medal (in the same mould as an NBA championship ring) at least some form of public (and metallic) recognition.
Is GWS now a 'footy club' and not a 'franchise'?
NS: Regardless of the result on Saturday, I feel the majority of the football world has been won over by the Giants this September. They've displayed aggression and ruthlessness on the field -- yes the polarising Toby Greene went too far and copped his punishment -- but the way they've bandied together against the challenges they've faced has been noteworthy. They may still have a tiny fanbase but there's no doubt they're building a mightily strong culture on and off the field. After eight seasons, they've finally graduated from establishment franchise to legitimate AFL club.
This will be my lasting memory of the prelim. A bloke I've never met uncontrollably emotional long after the siren went.— Matt Hagias (@MattHagias) September 21, 2019
Tell me again, that it doesn't mean anything and we're a fake club.
Roll on @GWSGIANTS, roll on. pic.twitter.com/TDR1hZRjkf
JM: Hang on a moment, haven't they always been a footy club? I know the Giants haven't yet been around for a decade but let's not forget this club has reached the preliminary finals in three of the last four seasons. Win or lose on Sunday, GWS is a fully fledged club and they're only getting stronger.
MW: It might be a few years late, but this is what we all predicted isn't it? A GWS super team making a Grand Final on the back of eye-watering concessions and unparalleled AFL assistance? Sure, the team and its supporter base has had a little longer to marinade in the proverbial AFL mixing bowl, but this is what the AFL wanted from day dot - compelling (and admittedly legitimate) 'journeys' and 'storylines' aside.
Who is your 2020 Brownlow medallist?
NS: If the Blues take another step forward next year, and I think they will, then Patrick Cripps has to be a monty to win the Brownlow. He polled 20 votes in 2018 when Carlton won just two matches and in Monday's count finished equal third with 26 votes after the Blues won seven games - he even jumped to an early lead by polling 2,3,2,3 in four losses to start the year! It's obvious the umpires respect Cripps as a true match-winner and he looks capable of winning multiple Brownlows, starting next year.
JM: With Tim Kelly likely leaving Geelong for Western Australia, the Cats are going to need to fill a void in the midfield. Enter Patrick Dangerfield. I think 'Danger' is the best player in the competition, but Chris Scott uses him forward too much where he can, at times, have little impact. He's at his best when in the thick of the action and that's where he'll be in 2020. Plus, we know the umpires love him. He's polled 200 votes in the last eight years at an average of 25 per season!
MW: It's hard to argue with Niall's rationale for Patrick Cripps. It's unlikely that other names will take votes off him in big games (as seemed to happen with both Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae finishing on 22 votes on Monday night) and the Blues should be trending upwards and winning more games. He's polled well the last two seasons and is a noticeable and imposing figure. He could go close.
Who wins the Grand Final and by what margin?
NS: I give the Giants a huge chance on Saturday but the Tigers' experience on the biggest stage will get them over the line. I also wonder whether GWS is satisfied with just making the Grand Final while the Tigers have more hunger to go one step further, especially after falling short last year. After a see-sawing battle for three quarters, Richmond will draw away late to win by 21 points.
JM: How can you go past Richmond? They've been the best team in the competition since the bye -- highlighted by an 11-game winning streak -- and have the Grand Final experience. I don't think it will be a blowout but the game will be over 10 minutes into the final term.
MW: The Giants should have three of the best 'ins' for a Grand Final I've ever seen. They've got a chip on their shoulder and are riding a wave of momentum. I'm backing them by three points.