WE’VE made it to the first week of finals for 2019, with all eight teams believing this year can end in premiership glory. While everyone is taking a glass half full approach, the reality is there’s only one flag to be won, with some sides peaking at the right time of year and others spluttering into the finals. There are only nine games left until another season comes to a close and over those final matches, I’m predicting some interesting outcomes to unfold.
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The Bulldogs won’t make it to Week 2
YES, I know the Bulldogs are peaking at the right time of year and are, once again, poised to make a serious push for a premiership from the bottom half of the top-8. An 8-3 record since their bye round does sound impressive on paper, but against fellow finalists, the Doggies only managed a 3-2 win/loss ledger. Questions I had over their ability to kick a winning score have been put to bed, but I do wonder if they can overcome GWS in a tense battle away from home, in what is the must-watch game during the opening weekend of finals.
Nic Nat won’t play multiple finals
DEFENDING a premiership is arguably the hardest task in footy, so for Nic Natanui’s sake and for all my mates who are passionate Eagles fans, I hope I’m wrong here. Ever since injuring his ACL against the Hawks late in 2016, Nic Nat has only appeared in 18 of a possible 74 games, including three matches this season. All signs point to a healthy Natanui being included for Thursday’s clash with the Bombers, but I have my doubts over his ability to play out the finals. What is perhaps most concerning is his latest setback has nothing to do with his troublesome knees as an ankle injury has caused him to miss the last six weeks of games. Again, I hope I’m wrong because if Natanui is fit and firing, deploying him in short, explosive bursts as an impact player could be the driving force behind West Coast defending their crown.
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The Lions vs. Giants Semi-Final will be the game of the year
THIS honour could realistically go to any close final, but should the results fall this way, I’m tipping some serious fireworks at the Gabba in Week 2. Brisbane has been one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2019, with the meteoric rise up the ladder hard to comprehend. GWS has had plenty of positive moments throughout the year as well, with a few injuries woes holding them back from entrenching themselves as a top-4 side, despite their on-paper star power. Both teams, along with the Bulldogs are well set up to make a run at a premiership (or two) within the next five years and this match could kickstart a new, epic rivalry through the next decade.
Geelong AND Brisbane will bow out in straight sets
PICKING Geelong to flop in the finals isn’t a huge shock to anyone, especially after their measly 5-5 record to close out the home and away season. However, Brisbane succumbing in straight sets would be more surprising, especially after the Lions roared to nine consecutive wins following the bye with the Tigers snapping that streak in Round 23. The Cats will be out to refind their mojo and if they can’t do it against Collingwood on Saturday, I’d expect them to fall by the wayside the following week, most likely against the Eagles, regardless of where the game is held in Victoria.
BRISBANE only lost one game at the Gabba this season and finishing 2nd on the ladder gives them the support of their vocal crowd in most scenarios. You don’t finish that high on the ladder by accident and maintaining a healthy list throughout 2019 has the Lions in surprisingly good stead entering the pointy end of the year. They have more finals experience littered throughout their squad then you may think, however, leaders like Harris Andrews, Alex Witherden, Dayne Zorko, Stef Martin and Eric Hipwood are yet to taste action in the big time, which could ultimately be their undoing. I may be forced to eat humble pie by the end of September, but it all seems like too much, too soon for the Lions.
Collingwood’s 2019 finals campaign will mirror 2018
I have Collingwood claiming a win this weekend against Geelong, so their 2019 finals campaign won’t be exactly the same as last year after a qualifying final loss 12 months prior. However, I still expect them to battle GWS at the MCG with another close win likely to keep their season alive. Bad news though Pies fans, after a year marred by injuries and inconsistencies I think it will be too tall a task for them to piece it all together and claim a premiership. Matchups will dictate a lot for Collingwood, but if things pan out as I expect, they’ll get to exact some revenge by making it one step further than the Eagles. Once they do advance to the big dance though, I don’t have high hopes they can walk away victoriously. Sound familiar?
Richmond will win all three finals by over 30 points
TO me, Richmond is the team to catch right now. Despite missing All-Aus backman Alex Rance, the Tigers have hardly put a foot wrong over the last few months, with a streak of seven straight games at the MCG certainly helping them find their feet. To win in September, playing good football at the ‘G is a must and after the home and away season, no team is better set up to do just that than Richmond. They somewhat caught teams off guard last time and romped Adelaide in the 2017 decider, but their foes will be better equipped to combat the Tiges this time around. All the preparation in the world won’t slow them though with Richmond poised to win their second flag in three years.
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