After six months of hard pre-season training, two magical weeks of the JLT series and 23 grinding rounds of AFL Football it all comes down to this.
Four epic weeks to decide who will take the premiership Cup.
There ain’t no second prize.
Show no Mercy.
Bound for Glory.
All to make it to that one day in September.
But while you the punter can’t win the premiership, you might be able to back a winner.
We preview week one of the AFL Finals.
If you’re neutral supporter, it will be funny whoever is kicked out of the finals in week one.
For West Coast, they would have gone from 2018 premiers and a flag favourite a fortnight ago to booted out in the first week on their home deck.
For Essendon, well, we all know the story.
They had already won the 2019 premiership back in the October trade week, have had some spectacular losses and as we all know haven’t won a final since 2004. (For updates please visit the “Days Since Essendon Won a Final” Twitter account @EFC Finals)
The Eagles blew a vital top-four double chance position going down to Hawthorn on their home deck last week.
It could come back to bite them big time as they are now in a sudden-death elimination final.
You’d think to play the Bombers at Optus Stadium would see them as firm favourites and that’s what the market has put them as.
Essendon has had a very up and down season.
Some weeks they are shocking, some weeks they are amazing and sometimes they just don’t turn up.
Which Essendon will turn up for this final?
The Bombers are the kind of team that could have an amazing upset victory on enemy territory.
Essendon went down to the Eagles by 35 points back in Round 14 earlier in the season at Optus Stadium and I’d expect a similar kind of result to open the finals series.
The best value is the Dons to come out to a good start and the Eagles to dominate for the rest of the game and their fans to boo them all the way to another week in the finals.
Not sure you are aware but Geelong will be playing Collingwood at the MCG instead of GMHBA Stadium.
This hasn’t been discussed much in the media in the lead up to the game as it’s not a big deal.
Anyway, crowd and venue contractual obligations aside, let’s focus on the actual match.
The Cats finished on top of the ladder with 16 wins and 6 losses, with a fair few of the L’s coming in the second half of the year.
They’ve dominated all season and their big win over Carlton in Round 23 should give them enough confidence going into a finals series.
Collingwood has been patchy throughout this season, injury issues have also been significant but they managed to finish fourth with a bit of luck going their way.
No team will benefit more from the bye-round more than Collingwood, so if they could gather some of their September 2018 form they could find themselves with another sensational crack at finals footy.
However, Geelong has finished top of the ladder for a reason and if they can really bring their A-game and ignore the noise about where the game is being played, they have the potential to send a message to the competition they mean business.
I’m happy to take them at the 40+ for value, given the Cats don’t mind getting 100+ points and can be scary if they have a really good day.
If this game is anything like the 2016 Preliminary Final between the same two teams at this venue we are in for another classic.
Despite a shocking run of form, the Giants were able to get a good tune up against the Gold Coast Suns before a final.
Almost as good as a pre-finals bye.
The Bulldogs have finished 7th but are one of the in-form teams of the competition and many have said that no team wants to face them red-hot in the finals.
Giants Stadium holds no fear for the Sons of the West.
They smashed GWS there back in Round 22 by 61 points in a game where the Giants did not score in the second half.
And of course, there was that emotional day back in 2016.
Every Doggies fan will take to playing a final at Giants Stadium with absolute delight.
There’s also a good chance that Giants Stadium could have more Doggies fans than GWS supporters, which will remove any feeling of a “home final” advantage to the Giants.
The Giants are a team that could play at their absolute best and are star-studded but probably wish they had an opponent like Essendon than the Dogs.
Based on form, it’s the Western Bulldogs who should get the job done in this one.
The half-time/full-time is excellent value.
To state the bleeding obvious WE CANNOT WAIT FOR THIS ONE.
The Gabbatoir is going to be packed for its first final in over a decade as the mighty Brisbane Lions (proudly sponsored by Neds) do battle with the premiership favourites.
The Tigers beat the Lions by 27 points in Round 23 but this time it’s at on the Lions turf.
Is Richmond finally leaving the MCG a factor that will help the Lions secure a home Preliminary Final?
The Lions have lost only one game at the Gabba this year.
But finals football is a whole different ball-game.
There’s no doubt that the Lions have been one of the best teams to watch all season.
They play with such flare, and they never ever give up especially at the Gabba.
However, they face Richmond.
Richmond is clinical and can be scary.
While it’s easy to go on about them not playing at the MCG, the Tigers have won three out of their five interstate games and have not lost at the Gabba since 2004.
The Gabba crowd will be a factor but the travelling Richmond pack will be massive.
While we are passionate about the Brisbane Lions here at Neds, we’re punters first and foremost.
Finals experience and how clinical Richmond can be, putting away teams will get to the Lions who will get another chance to play someone else on their home deck the following week.
Happy to take the Tigers at the Richie odds of $2.22 for a 1-39 points.
With apologies to our resident Lions nuffie, Ned Merrett-Murray.