Our experts debate all the hot topics and burning questions ahead of Round 10.
Does Simon Goodwin get the chop if Melbourne loses to Adelaide?
Niall Seewang: It's way too early for Melbourne powerbrokers to sack Goodwin, even if the Dees lose to the hapless Crows. He's contracted until the end of 2022 so it's doubtful Melbourne's bottom line could afford an early payout, even pre-COVID. I don't think he is coaching well - he is too stubborn with his selections and can't find a way to fix his team's regularly exposed weaknesses. But one thing is for certain - following president Glenn Bartlett's stinging comments after the woeful loss to Port Adelaide, Goodwin and his team are on notice and must turn things around quickly.
Jake Michaels: Given he's got such a long contract still to run, I will have to say no. I don't see the Dees axing Goodwin during this bizarre, shortened season, either after a loss to Adelaide or any other team. However, I will say that if the Demons finish in the bottom six and fail to show any sort of improvement in the back half of the year - I doubt he'll be in the coaches' box for Round 1, 2021.
Matt Walsh: The revelations last night from On The Couch that Melbourne's soft cap is in good shape isn't the best news for Goody, and gee whiz a loss to the Crows would be disastrous. This is a team which, looking at the stats, should be winning more games of footy than it is. However the predictability of the ways they get beaten, combined with what Niall is saying about selection shows he hasn't been able to rectify it. I'll make the big call and say they should cut the cord if they lose this week, and use the rest of 2020 to fix some glaring issues.
Jesse Robinson: My word, it'd be rough getting sacked while in the bubble. Given the misery of Melbourne over the last 14 seasons (2018 excluded), it's hard to lay all the blame at the feet of Goodwin, there needs to be real change in the organisation. They've tried changing coaches, captains, recruitment strategies and it seems to all pan out the same way. It may well be time for a breath of fresh air in the coaches' box, and if Goodwin does get the boot soon, that can't be the only change at the club.
Are Collingwood pretenders in 2020?
NS: I have kept faith with the Magpies as my premiership favourites all year, despite their on and off-field troubles. But the loss to Fremantle has me querying that call now. The Magpies' much-vaunted midfield was smashed, and they continue to struggle up forward. The saving grace is they come up against the Swans, Crows and Demons in the next three matches, which gives them a perfect opportunity to find form. For what it's worth, I still think they can win the flag.
JM: Not quite, but they do seriously fall off a cliff without Scott Pendlebury in the side. If the Pies can get some players back (and they will) you'd be crazy to write them off, particularly in what has already been one of the strangest seasons in AFL history. But right now the Eagles, Tigers, Lions, Cats and Power are all in front of Nathan Buckley's group.
MW: Pretenders is a stretch, but their off-field issues must be a distraction at this point of the season. Remember West Coast a few weeks ago when they were in the Queensland hub? People were asking the same things about distractions impacting their footy. This will blow over, and the Pies will be thereabouts come finals.
JR: Hardly. They're going through a bit of a rough patch right now on and off the field, with the quality on that list and the players to return such as De Goey and Pendlebury, it's way too soon to be writing off the Pies. Despite his latest indiscretion, I back Buckley as a leader to get them out of their rut. Call them pretenders now, but no team will be lining up to play them come finals time.
Who'd be the midyear All-Australian ruckman?
NS: There's no standout at this point, with Brodie Grundy not hitting the heights of previous years and Max Gawn slightly inconsistent. Todd Goldstein has continued his late-career resurgence to be in the mix -- he averages the most clearances in the entire league this year to go along with his excellent hit-out numbers -- but after the weekend, I have Nic Naitanui leading the race. He's ranked third in the league for total hit-outs and second for total centre clearances, but it's not his numbers that are most impressive - it's his impact and presence. Just ask Geelong coach Chris Scott!
JM: I'm not the biggest fan of the ruck position, in fact I reckon it's the most overrated position on the ground, but Naitanui just has an X-factor that neither Gawn or Grundy have. He is a proven match winner and some of his athletic tap work is a thing of beauty, even for a ruck skeptic like myself! I'm with Niall, Nic Nat should be leading the way - not bad for a guy who only plays about 60 percent game time. Now, let's just hope he stays fit and healthy until the end of the season...
MW: This is one of the harder All-Australian positions to nail down halfway through the year, and I'm calling our favourite phrase -- "recency bias" -- on Jake and Niall's nomination of Naitanui. Nic Nat may well get the spot at the end of the year, but so far he's averaging career-low numbers in disposals, tackles and down in a few other metrics. Things could change, but for now I'm still taking Gawn, followed by Grundy and then Goldy/Nic Nat.
JR: This was Grundy's spot to lose after a dominant 2019 season, but it's Gawn's at the moment, with Goldstein chasing behind him. Gawn is getting it done around the ground dragging a poor Demons team with him. Gawn's intercept and general marking ability stands out but he has been the best ruckman this season.
Should Friday night double-headers continue in 2021?
NS: Definitely. In an ideal world, the AFL could schedule an early game on the eastern seaboard, with a later game in Perth following that. That could also mean a reduction in Saturday matches from five to four, which is easier to digest.
JM: What's better than one game on a Friday night? Two. I love the idea and think a six hour footy fest each Friday night would be very popular with punters. I also like the fact that putting a second game on Friday means we have four Saturday games, instead of five. I've always felt five is too many to keep track of throughout the day/night.
MW: Yes, I've been calling for this for a long time. Give the Sandgropers a genuine prime time clash even if it's just once a year! Double up on a Friday night, with the later game starting at 9pm in the east (or 7pm in Perth). If, for instance, it's Fremantle vs. Port Adelaide, South Australian viewers will only need to wait until 8:30pm for the first bounce - not unreasonable.
JR: After 2020, I don't think anything is off the table. The NRL seems to like having a 6pm start on Friday nights, if there is no crowds it's almost a no brainer but the logistics of filling the MCG or Optus stadium by six o'clock would be a real test! The occasional Thursday or Monday night was fun in more normal times, so the AFL may as well trial some Friday double headers, but it'll need to pass the crowd test before it is made permanent.