Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points after Richmond's crushing Grand Final win over GWS.
Which team is best placed to challenge Richmond in 2020?
NS: They had an absolute 'mare on Saturday but I think GWS can redeem themselves next year. As long as they can overcome their mental anguish from the Grand Final, they should be right up there again. Add Cal Ward and Stephen Coniglio, and a fully-fit Phil Davis and Lachie Whitfield, to that team and they'll be hard to stop. It's obvious they're growing as a club, not just a team, so they're my prediction for 2020 premiers.
JM: If West Coast is able to land Cats star Tim Kelly, I reckon they become the second best team in the competition. Simple. The Eagles already have the league's best defence, a scary forward line and one of the most talented ruckman we've ever seen. Kelly will bolster a young, dynamic and highly skilled midfield brigade and I have a feeling this club will go into 2020 with a chip on their shoulder, given the calamitous loss to Hawthorn in Round 23. Look out!
MW: Could Collingwood be the team to do it? It seemed like their 2018 was stunted by a number of factors - injuries, suspensions (hello, Jaidyn Stephenson), and a weird form slump, but these are things that can easily be fixed heading into next year. Ideally they'd probably want some key position depth, but the Pies' midfield is chock full of talent, and with another preseason under the belts of Stephenson, De Goey and friends, maybe they'll take the next big step.
Was the Gold Coast's assistance package appropriate?
NS: The Suns needed dramatic help and boy did they receive it. The AFL's care package went beyond my expectations but I do like the fact it wasn't just one draft pick - it was a series of levers to try to get this basketcase back on its feet and start again. The Suns now need to ensure they get things right, because if they're in this position again down the track, they won't have a leg to stand on.
JM: It was appropriate given how dire the situation is right now on the Gold Coast, but this just isn't sustainable. I really feel as though the AFL has given them overs, if you like, in a bid to make the Suns a viable club. However, if it fails once again then it might be time to admit defeat and can the whole operation.
MW: It almost seems like the AFL has said this assistance package is it - a Hail Mary, so to speak. If after the three years of help it hasn't made much of a difference, I could see the AFL pulling the plug. The AFL has gone all in, and for the sake of the Suns, let's hope it works.
🎙️ Is Dusty already Richmond's GOAT? 🤔— footytips (@footytips) September 30, 2019
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🎙️ Dissecting the Gold Coast 'assistance package' 🧐
Ep. 29 of the @ESPNAusNZ #AFL podcast.
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How do you rate the Giants' season as a whole?
NS: I'd give it a B+. The Giants did endure another injury-affected season and made it to their maiden Grand Final, so that's a big tick. Even though they turned their toes up on the big stage, it's still an impressive year and you get the sense they'll continue to compete for premierships for many years to come. Their biggest on-field issue? Finding a gun ruckman to help feed their bevy of star midfielders.
JM: B-. Yes, they had injuries and yes they reached the Grand Final, but let's be honest, 2019 wasn't a great year for GWS, they just got hot at the right time. Don't forget, Leon Cameron's side lost 10 times this season, more than in 2016, 2017 and 2018, and we all know their premiership window is narrowing. This season is just another where they haven't made the most of their talented list.
MW: A-. I mean, they made it to a Grand Final despite finishing sixth on the ladder and they won a final at the MCG against a heavily-fancied opponent. Let's not forget they also took down the Lions at the Gabba in the semis. Only two of the 18 teams make the last Saturday in September, and that's good enough for an A for me. Oh, and next year they'll get Coniglio and Ward back, who are pretty handy players.
Will Dustin Martin enter 2020 as the AFL's best player?
NS: It's hard to argue against that now. He certainly enters it as undoubtedly the league's best big-game player, but I still have Nat Fyfe narrowly ahead of Martin. Fyfe's ability to play at his best through a whole season was reflected in his second Brownlow Medal win and I think that consistency gives him the edge over Martin and Patrick Dangerfield.
JM: It's a three-horse race: Martin, Danger and Fyfe. Try and split them. If every game was a Grand Final, or any final, I'd say Martin is the first guy you want in your team, but the Tigers star just doesn't seem to get going until the back half of the season. Having said that, his best is simply breathtaking and if Richmond's dynasty continues he'll soon be in the discussion for greatest players of all time.
MW: He's just built for the big stage, isn't he? Two Norm Smith medals, a Brownlow and a couple of best and fairests. No disrespect to Patrick Dangerfield or Nat Fyfe, but they can't boast a flag win, and for Martin to have been so dominant -- twice! -- on the biggest stage of all means he's the man who goes into 2020 with the tag of being the AFL's best player.