Given everything that’s happened this year, the fact we’ve even reached the 2020 Finals series, with crowds is a bloody miracle.
Eight teams, eight dreams, one premiership.
You know how it works: two will progress to a Prelim, two will get another chance, two will stay alive and two will be sent home packing.
We’re in for four ripping games this weekend and you can just about make a case for every team to win.
The mission to win the flag is the ultimate goal for the teams in this year’s finals, but the mission to find winners for Neds punters never ends in our AFL Finals week 1 tips & preview.
The 2020 finals series kicks off with an absolute beauty of a contest between minor premiers Port Adelaide and fourth-placed Geelong at Adelaide Oval.
Port Adelaide open the betting as $1.75 favourites and rightly so.
They’ve been on top of the ladder since Round 1, have an impeccable record at home and for some strange reason, they are still in the fourth line of premiership betting at $6.50.
Perhaps we still need Port to prove their worth?
When these two teams met back in Round 12 this season, Geelong dismantled Port by 60 points and Tom Hawkins booted six goals (and set up two) in a power forward display that gave plenty of joy to most footy fans (bar Port) in the age of ultra-defensive, low-scoring contests.
I highly doubt we will see a similar outcome in this matchup.
Geelong has been steady this season and their best football very much puts the Cats in the mix to go all the way this finals series – as has been the case for the good part of 13 years.
The Cats managed to escape a scare from the Sydney Swans in round 18 as Patrick Dangerfield played a vital role in ensuring a 6 point win and more importantly, a spot in the top four.
Having also been belted by Richmond the previous week, one must ask – did Geelong peak early or can they regain that form in finals?
This team has featured in many a finals series and has been bundled out in a few preliminary finals.
Even with some significant ins just at the right time – what can Geelong do to ensure they feature in that one night in October?
As for this game itself, I think Port will be out to make a statement.
They should win the first final and find themselves in a prelim in a couple of weeks time.
The Brisbane Lions (proudly sponsored by Neds) have had an amazing 2020 season.
Another top-two finish, unbeaten at the Gabba – the venue of this year’s Grand Final, a Brownlow medallist-elect in Lachie Neale – things are looking rosy.
The premiership is there for the taking.
There’s never been a better time for the Lions to take the flag.
However, there’s one major monkey off the back the Lions would really like to get off – beating Richmond.
This is a team that beat them comfortably by 41 points back in Round 10 at Metricon and by 47 points in last years Qualifying Final at the Gabba.
Brisbane have beaten Richmond just once in the past 16 years and that was way back in 2009 and the Tigers haven’t lost at the Gabba since 2004.
Beating the Tigers in a home qualifying final would be a wonderful way to break the Richmond hoodoo.
Can it be done?
Well, yes but yet again Richmond is looking really, really good at exactly the right time.
It’s been an eventful year for the Tigers, but they’ve let their football do the talking and have pulled off some big wins over fellow finals contenders during the year.
The usual suspects Jack Riewoldt, Trent Cotchin and Dustin Martin are starting to get their grove on.
Richmond has one of the best problems to have heading towards a finals series – just who to put in the team.
Tom Lynch is likely to come back in the side, as is Harris Andrews for the Lions.
This game should be a beauty.
Of course, Neds want the Lions to get up, but we’re punters first and foremost.
We think this game will be close and think there’s some really good value in any side under 15.5 points market.
I’ll level with you here punters, this is a bloody hard game to tip.
You could mount a case for either of these teams.
On their day, the Western Bulldogs and St.Kilda could beat anyone – let alone each other.
Both have had serious issues when it comes to being consistent this season and one would hope they bring their respective A-games come Saturday at the Gabba.
Either way, it’s always exciting to have these clubs in the finals.
This is the Saints first taste of finals football since 2011 and the Bulldogs will be out to get back into winning finals form after bundling out in week one against the Giants last season.
The Western Bulldogs have also finished 7th on the ladder –as they did back in 2016 which some of the old Footscray faithful may see as an omen.
For what it’s worth – I’m backing the Saints to win this one.
While the Dogs have won four of their past five, St Kilda looked mighty impressive in their 52 point win over the Giants in Round 18.
They also beat the Bulldogs by 39 points way back in Round 2 and there’s something about the belief and spirit of a team when it comes to finals football.
Tipping a winner in this game is a legit toss of a coin, but I’ve made my bed and backing the Saints to win.
The good St.Kilda I saw against the Giants better turn up.
You’ve already seen that I’ve tipped Collingwood to beat the line (-13.5) and think I’m crazy right?
West Coast at home against the injury-depleted, just scraped into the eighth spot Collingwood who’ve had to spend time in quarantine should be the easiest tip to make in week one of the 2020 finals. I know, I get it.
However, West Coast and Collingwood have a history of epic and thrilling finals so why can’t 2020 be any different?
Steele Sidebottom is a significant out for the Magpies but there’s still the likes of Scott Pendlebury, Jordan de Goey and Brodie Grundy.
Optus Stadium – a venue that is not hosting the AFL grand final, is a fortress for the West Coast Eagles.
Josh Kennedy, Nic Naituanui, Tim Kelly, Elliot Yeo, Dom Sheed – the likes of them play some of their best footy at the ground, not to mention the rowdy West Coast crowd right behind them.
There’s no reason why West Coast shouldn’t win this and send Collingwood packing, but I don’t rule out the Magpies having a decent crack in this one.
The line is set at -13.5 in favour of the Eagles, but I reckon the Pies can get within two goals come the final siren and I’m willing to back it.