AFL 2020 Finals: Why Your Club Might Not Win The Premiership

Nothing’s been easy in 2020. That’s a feeling certainly echoed in the AFL which has had to routinely draw up and rip apart season plans, and whose savage financial cuts have torn the heart out of an apparently thriving industry.

While the effects of this tumultuous year are still to play out, the AFL has at least been able to squeeze out a season, however shortened, and is now on the brink of what looms as a fascinating Finals series. 

For the eight clubs who have graduated, to have been able to withstand all the distractions, discomforts and deformities of this challenging year is a remarkable achievement. 

Yet if there’s one familiarity, one constant within the rubble of mayhem, it's that in sport, as always, there can only be one winner. Ten teams have already exchanged their playing-kits for fancy dress, and while fronting up and participating has been admirable, their labours will soon be forgotten. 

And it’ll be a similar story for seven more clubs over the next month, as the pain of elimination will be repeated until we’re ultimately left with our champion. 

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what figures to be the biggest impediment standing between your club and what would be one hell of a famous premiership. 

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PORT ADELAIDE

Stats Insider Premiership Projection- 18.3%

Port entered the season under all sorts of criticism and with Ken Hinkley’s job hanging by a thread. To emerge as Minor Premiers has been remarkable, doing so with the league’s best defence and second best attack, and while holding top spot for each and every week.

However despite the Power’s sharp gains, there remains a great deal of skepticism regarding their flag prospects, largely driven by their unproven record against the very best. While they did knock off a weakened Richmond outfit in Round 11, Brisbane and Geelong combined to wallop them by 15 goals. 

First up will be Geelong, a team the Cats have positively owned in recent years claiming 15 of their last 17 encounters. 

RELATED: Is There Enough Respect On Port Adelaide’s Name?

BRISBANE LIONS

Stats Insider Premiership Projection- 16.8%

The Lions rags to riches tale over the last couple of seasons has made for an epic page turner, morphing from nine seasons of ineptitude all the way to consecutive top-2 finishes. 

And while Brisbane enter the Finals on a 7-game winning streak, some serious clouds surround the availability of their most important player, with Harris Andrews still recovering from a torn hamstring.  

While the Lions don’t seem to have missed a beat during Andrews’ three game absence, Gold Coast, Sydney and Carlton don’t exactly qualify as a murderer’s row of opponents, while the Blues were able to score a goal for every 3.70 inside forward-50 entires which was Brisbane’s leakiest number all season.

Yes, the Lions have secured the double chance, and yes, Andrews will benefit greatly from the extra week of rest, yet Brisbane’s opponents will obviously rise in class over the next few weeks, as too will be the caliber of key forward they’ll face.

RELATED: Inside Brisbane’s Woeful Goalkicking: Who’s To Blame?

RICHMOND

Stats Insider Premiership Projection- 23.5%

For the first time since the mid 70s, the Tigers have secured four straight top-4 finishes which is a testament to a club who’ve completely re-imagined their place in the football universe over the last decade.

They enter the Finals as premiership favourites in search of their third flag in four seasons thanks to a barnstorming finish that saw them win six on the trot, and where no opponent got within three goals of them.

If there’s one criticism against the Tigers it’s been their slow starts in recent weeks. Just once over their six-game winning streak did they manage to kick more than two goals in an opening term, and even then, that was against the Crows who are presently mourning their inaugural wooden spoon. 

While it’d be folly to doubt just how well-rounded and potent the Tigers appear on the eve of Finals, a slow start, and amidst a season where the competition is exceptionally well drilled defensively, could potentially doom them. 

In last season’s preliminary final, they of course found themselves 21-points down at half-time against Geelong, and while they were able to reel them in, it’s something they’ll need to be mindful of over the coming weeks. 

RELATED: The Tigers Are Still The AFL’s Most Dangerous Predator

GEELONG

Stats Insider Premiership Projection- 19.7%

Speaking of the top-4, the Cats just secured their sixth double chance from the last eight seasons thanks to yet another brilliant home and away campaign. 

The Cats once again defied external expectations, withstanding the loss of Tim Kelly and emerging with the competition’s most potent attack. Questions marks will however linger regarding their premiership bonafides as Final’s football has represented a gigantic banana skin for Geelong in recent years. 

Since 2012, the Cats have been a regular season powerhouse winning 68.7% of their games, yet they’ve routinely faltered come the business end, posting a miserable 26.6% win rate in September, winning just four of their 15 encounters.

Like every Cats season over the last eight years, all eyes will be on Chris Scott and his coaching team to see if they have something up their sleeve, and whether they can avoid undoing all of their impressive pre-Finals work.

RELATED: Charting The AFL Premiership Clock: How Far Off Is Geelong's Next Flag?

WEST COAST

Stats Insider Premiership Projection- 7.1%

The Eagles have four premierships in their nest, yet they’ve all arrived after securing top-4 berths, which is a luxury they’ve squandered for a second straight year. 

While West Coast should be applauded for overcoming a sloppy 1-3 start, they benefitted greatly by having a mid-season stretch of six-straight games in Perth which allowed them to get their campaign back on track.  

While this Eagles squad remains loaded, it’s one which has struggled away from the friendly confines of Optus Stadium since their 2018 flag, going a pedestrian 11-9 interstate since, which is in sharp contrast to their 16-3 record in Perth over the same time span. If the Eagles are going to make any impact in the Finals they’ll have to lift substantially away from home. 

RELATED: Jeremy McGovern’s Return Takes The Eagles To New Heights

ST KILDA

Stats Insider Premiership Projection- 5.7%

There mightn’t be a more wholesome footy story in 2020 than the Saints breaking their nine-season Finals drought. It’s been a monumental effort by a club who’s worked tirelessly to reshape their list, and which has been supercharged by Brett Ratten’s first full season in charge

Making the Finals however is one thing, producing any noise once there is another, and while the Saints burst out to a 6-3 start, their finish to the season hasn’t packed the same punch as more sophisticated teams have deciphered St Kilda’s innovate forward set-up

During the Saints' 6-3 start they averaged 74.4 points per game and boasted an overall goal accuracy of 55% according to Stats Insider’s Shot Charting Explorer. However over their 4-4 finish they averaged just 61.1 points per game while their accuracy dipped to an alarming 44%

If St Kilda is to advance beyond their Elimination Final against the Western Bulldogs, Ratten might have to produce another rabbit from his hat, while their accuracy simply must return to their early-season level. 

RELATED: From Sinners to Saints: How St Kilda Revolutionised Its Goalkicking

WESTERN BULLDOGS

Stats Insider Premiership Projection- 5.5%

Like West Coast, the Bulldogs overcome a deplorable start to their season, steering their car back onto the road and qualifying for their fourth Finals campaign in six seasons.

While it’s a credit to Luke Beveridge and his coaching team, the reality is the Bulldog’s post-season ticket has been punched owing to how comprehensively they’ve taken care of inferior opposition- and not because of anything the’ve achieved against the league’s best. 

In fact, the Doggies enter the Finals with a deplorable 1-6 record against top-8 opposition, carrying an ugly 66.6 percentage in tow. 

Their stay in last year’s Finals was cut dramatically cut short, pulverised by the Giants by 58-points. Unless they can finally lift against better credentialed opposition, another swift exit could be on the cards.

RELATED: The Bulldogs’ Season Is Suddenly Very Alive

COLLINGWOOD

Stats Insider Premiership Projection- 3.3%

While it’s Finals for a third-straight season for the Pies, this appears to be a particularly compromised Magpie vintage, and one which is completely lacking from an offensive standpoint. 

Heading into the season, a big question levelled against Nathan Buckley was his ability to fashion a modern, functioning attack, particularly considering its meltdown last September which saw them limp through the Finals with scores of just 51 and 52

Their 2020 response has been unconvincing as Collingwood ranked 13th in points per game this season, with their recent, and rather modest 68-point effort against the Gold Coast Suns was their best return since Round 3.

If there’s a further barrier the Pies will have to break through outside of hitting the scoreboard, it’s how dreadfully eighth placed teams have fared since the Finals were expanded in 1994. Since then, the eighth team has gone 10-26 in September, with only North Melbourne in 2015 good enough to qualify for a Preliminary Final.

After Round Six, the Pies were premiership favourites. They’re now long-shots to even progress beyond the first week of Finals. 

RELATED: Can The Wounded Magpies Save Their Season?

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James Rosewarne

James is a writer and Managing Editor at Stats Insider. He likes fiction and music. He is a stingray attack survivor. He lives in Wollongong.

Email- james@thehypometer.com for story ideas or opportunities.

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