The Geelong Cats have been the most dominant team of the season for me, by far. At the start of the year, I tipped them to win it all, so it is great to see that they are still on track to win the Premiership for the first time since 2011.
They are such a mature club all-round, both on and off the field, which makes it easy to see why they are red-hot favourites to go that one step further this September. Along with their experience, Geelong’s ‘Dad’s Army’ have been extremely consistent, with massive firepower upfront, and a solid as a rock defence down back. Team selection will be tough for the Cats, but they are primed to win the flag this season.
The Dees have finally found their mojo over the last few weeks, after questions were being asked midway through the season. Do they have the hunger to win it all?
This team arguably has the best spine in the competition, which holds any team in good stead, especially at the pointy end of a season. Great leaders and quality players in every line makes it hard to see this team not going deep in the Finals.
Just like they tend to do every year, the Sydney Swans have gone about their business flying under the radar, but still put up strong performances. Having missed the finals only three times in the last 20 years shows that they have the ability and experience to make a strong claim for the Premiership.
The Swans have the perfect balance of youth and experience, along with role players and match-winners. Emulating a backline consisting of five rookies, with some star power added upfront in the guise of Isaac Heeney, Tom Papley and Buddy Franklin, the players in this team know their roles and responsibilities well, and execute to perfection. It is clear to see why this team is a consistent Finals series contender.
The Magpies are probably the redemption story of the year, finishing 4th this year after a paltry 17th-place finish last season.
The team has grown in momentum as the season has progressed. Having played and grinded it out in so many tight games this year, the men in black and white have shown they have the grit and determination to make a deep Finals run. They have the belief, the week off will definitely help, and a double chance is like gold dust. The question is not ‘Can they?’, but rather ‘Will they?’
The Dockers will be playing in the Finals for the first time since 2015. The biggest differentiator for them this year is that their younger generation has risen to another level. Names like Andrew Brayshaw, Caleb Serong and Will Brodie have all made a big impact, and are a major reason for the Dockers’ success.
Home ground advantage could play a huge role, as the dreaded trip West is always tough for teams from the East. The bye week has come at a good time for Freo, giving some key players with niggles, like Nat Fyfe, Rory Lobb and Matthew Taberner more recovery time before they can trouble opposing backlines.
The last three years, the Lions have had a double chance leading into Round 1 of the Finals. They have not had too many personnel changes this season, but how many times can you go to the well without getting the ultimate prize?
I think they failed to deliver this year when the going got tough, and will just be making up the numbers in the Finals. Their best is good, but not good enough to compete against the big dogs in the same league.
The Tigers could have easily finished in the Top 4, but they threw some games away in the latter stages of the season that cost them dearly. The Tigers are another team that will benefit from the bye week, although they still have some injuries to key players which isn’t an ideal situation to be in.
The form of Tom Lynch, Dion Prestia, Shai Bolton and Nick Vlastuin is pivotal to this team going deep into September, and they have the accolades to do exactly that.
The dreaded Grand Final loss hangover saw the Bulldogs teetering around the 6th - 12th mark in the standings all season. The Footy Gods were good to them in Round 23, as they snuck into 8th place, and knocked out the Blues, much to the delight of a lot of footy fans.
Undoubtedly, we will hear chants of the “We have nothing to lose” motto thrown around this week, but the harsh reality is that their season will be over with a loss.
The Brownlow Medal has been a midfielder’s award for years now, so why look anywhere else? Nevertheless, I’ll throw one name in the mix who could potentially finish very high this time around - the Cats’ Jeremy Cameron.
My prediction at the start of season was Lachie Neale from the Lions. With his extensive time sidelined due to injury last season behind him, he hasn’t disappointed this year. The former Brownlow medallist has been ultra consistent this season, and has hit the scoreboard as well. I feel he will be at the top for a long period of time.
Andrew Brayshaw is the quiet achiever whose name can be thrown in the ring. An All Australian nod, and most likely a Best and Fairest award from Fremantle will have him right up there in voting. Will he get the recognition from the umpires he deserves though?
Clayton Oliver rarely plays a bad game, had the most disposals this year and was a clearance beast - rightfully putting him straight in the mix. Will the quality of his Melbourne teammates Max Gawn, Christian Petracca, Angus Brayshaw and Jack Viney cost him a fair few votes though?
Patrick Cripps was massive early in the season and led from the front. He amassed plenty of the ball, and went forward and scored, which I think will see him leading after the first 5 or 6 rounds. Did his form drop off, or did the wins dry up? Either way, it might cost him in the end, but is still a good shout to claim the medal for 2022.