Footy is only a matter of weeks away and there's still plenty to debate as we wait for June 11. Our AFL experts answer some of the burning questions.
What was the biggest takeaway from the fixture release?
Niall Seewang: That footy is back! But the big one for me was the armchair ride for the Cats, who look like hosting most, if not all, of their home games at GMHBA Stadium. They have three of the next four matches at the Cattery and if fans continue to be locked out, Geelong won't have to host home matches against bigger clubs at the MCG ... possibly even during finals. Lock them in for a top-four finish if that's the case.
Jake Michaels: The AFL isn't afraid to experiment, and this is a good thing. I love the inclusion of a 6:05pm Sunday evening game, which means we can now watch all three Sunday games back-to-back-to-back, without any overlap. Not sure if it works when fans return to stadiums -- as not many people will want to be out at 10pm before getting ready for school or work -- but kudos to the AFL for trying it now. Also, announcing four week block of games is a sensible idea as it offers everyone much needed flexibility.
Matt Walsh: How happy must Richmond be to be playing their away game against West Coast ... on the Gold Coast! One of the toughest opponents they were set to face all year has now been turned into a neutral contest, and while it'll be fascinating to see who wins and gets a jump on early premiership favouritsm, you can't help but feel sorry for the Eagles who give up home ground advantage against the reigning premiers.
Which team is under the most pressure in Round 2?
NS: Round 1 seems so long ago that it's hard to remember, but the Lions were very sloppy against the Hawks at the MCG. Considering expectations, they need to lift considerably to be a true flag threat, and they get a huge chance to get some momentum with four consecutive Gabba matches to re-start their season. The Round 2 clash against Fremantle is huge, as the Eagles await the following week and it'd be almost impossible for the Lions to recover from an 0-3 hole.
JM: It has to be the Bulldogs. They entered the season with so much hype and were utterly mauled by Collingwood in Round 1. A loss to the Saints in their return game would see them enter Round 3's clash against GWS at 0-2. In a shortened year, three straight losses to start the season could simply mean no finals in 2020. The Dogs must hit the ground running.
MW: Any team that is 0-1 heading into Round 2! In the NFL, which plays a similarly short 16-game season, the chances of making playoffs coming off a 0-2 start are just a shade more than 12 percent. Obviously the AFL season will be 17 games long, and the finals structure is a little more forgiving, but in a shortened season, going down 0-2 will hard to come back from.
Who should be the next Legend at the Australian Football Hall of Fame?
NS: What a tough decision the AFL Commission faces when deciding on the 29th Legend of the Game at next month's Hall of Fame awards. Wayne Carey has hinted he has been snubbed again, so the leading candidate has to be Gary Ablett Snr. It's a no-brainer in regards to his impact on the field - it's just whether the decision-makers are comfortable with his chequered history off the field.
JM: Just because Wayne Carey may have been snubbed (again), doesn't mean he shouldn't be the next Legend of the AFL. I could rattle off Carey's impressive resume, but what's the point? We all know he is one of the top 10 players to ever play the game and deserves his place amongst the other Legends of the sport.
MW: I agree with Niall that Ablett is probably (over)due. Who cares about his off-field life - we're celebrating the legends of the game. For goodness sake, his nickname is God, get him in!
With a shortened season, is this the year a small forward wins a Coleman Medal?
NS: There's no doubt key forwards have gone from being the centrepieces to just one part of a club's forward line puzzle, but they still dominate the goalkicking charts in modern footy. Charlie Cameron was fifth in last year's award but still 19 goals behind eventual winner Jeremy Cameron, so that's a pretty sizeable gap to make up. I can't see a shortened season making much of a difference here.
JM: There's no doubt 2020's reduced schedule will offer small forwards the best chance of winning the Coleman Medal in years, but it's still difficult to see a key forward missing out. Having said that, one thing I would 100 percent bank on is the gap from winner to the league's best small/mid forward will definitely be less than last year's 19.
MW: I'm curious as to Jake's rationale, as I distinctly remember last year's winner, Jeremy Cameron being well in front pretty early in the race, and he comfortably cruised to the Coleman. I still think tall forwards have the advantage, especially with 6-6-6 keeping the arcs somewhat clear at centre stoppages.