6-6-6: Breaking the AFL Teams Into Three Groups Based on Their 2020 Premiership Aspirations

THE term 6-6-6 became a popular phrase in the AFL over the last 12 months. It’s inclusion to the game was meant to radically reduce congestion around the footy, but it had little effect in 2019. Given that we are in the lull of the AFL offseason with little relevant news to be found, I’m creating my own 6-6-6 method model, breaking the league into three separate tiers based on their flag chances in season 2020. Some squads were harder to categorise than others and I’m ready for the hatred from fan bases who find their team ranked lower than they believe.

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Tier One – The Favourites

Richmond Tigers
West Coast Eagles
Collingwood Magpies
Western Bulldogs
Greater Western Sydney Giants
Brisbane Lions

THE top-2 in this category I believe are in a class of their own and will be the powerhouse teams in the race for the 2020 flag. Having claimed the last three premierships between them you’d be hard-pressed to find two more balanced lists than that of the Tigers and Eagles entering the next decade. Here’s hoping we get to see these two square off in the big dance at least once in the next few seasons. Collingwood still remains in the contender’s tier, but I could see a slide coming for the Pies if they can’t capitalise on their position within the next few years. They have the star power to compete with anyone and after 23 seasons of coming up short as a coach and player, Nathan Buckley will be praying he can get the monkey off his back and claim the coveted cup.

FOLLOWING those three comes another group of promising teams with Brisbane, GWS and the Western Bulldogs all poised to make noise in the premiership race. Buoyed by a brigade of young stars the Dogs and Giants made it to the last game in September in the last few years, with one happy ending and one day the club would rather forget. Either way, that pair are expected to still be standing when the business end of the season arrives. I thought long and hard about Brisbane’s legitimacy as a top-tier team after a record-breaking turnaround in 2019. I still wouldn’t be waging any of my hard-earned money on them to go the distance next year, but I will acknowledge their achievements thus far and leave them amongst the serious threats.

Brisbane LionsImage from lions.com.au

Tier Two – Fringe Contenders

Hawthorn Hawks
Port Adelaide Power
Adelaide Crows
Geelong Cats
Melbourne Demons
Essendon Bombers

THE middle tier was the hardest to rank, determining who’ll be fighting for the fringe spots inside the top-8 this year. A reasonable case can be for each of these teams with Geelong the biggest threat to push for a flag in my opinion. You can never count out Alistair Clarkson and the Hawks, but the Cats have been a model of consistency over the last 15 years winning double-digit games in every campaign dating back to 2003. I do wonder how much juice this playing group has left in the tank, but Geelong will still be in contention for the ultimate prize next season. The aforementioned Hawthorn Hawks are another team who has excelled in the 21st century and with a healthy Brownlow Medalist in Tom Mitchell back on the field, they should be right in the mix to return to the finals.

AFTER experiencing mixed results in the last few seasons, both South Australian based clubs find themselves smack bang in the middle of the rankings, with plenty of questions marks around their legitimacy. Port Adelaide swung for the fences in the free agency period in 2017 and it has resulted in back-to-back 10th placed finishes. Their rookies a year ago impressed mightily and another strong draft hand might help them return to the top-8 to kickstart the 20’s. The Crows will be out to best their cross-town rivals and complete a finals comeback of their own. Ever since qualifying for the 2017 Grand Final, Adelaide has been struggling to find their mojo, winning exactly half their games and twice finishing on the outside of the finals mix looking in. New head coach Matthew Nicks will be out to stabilise the Crows after an intriguing offseason that saw half a dozen experienced vets walk out the door and if he can galvanise the group and stop the bleeding, then there is the hope they can make 2020 a worthwhile campaign.

ROUNDING out the middle division are two teams that could honestly go in any direction in the upcoming season. The Bombers have ping-ponged in and out of the finals for the last decade, but have failed to win a September clash over the last 15 years – their last triumph coming in 2004 against, ironically, the Melbourne Football Club. The Dees have had their own postseason troubles, with their 2018 run to a preliminary final marking their first finals campaign since 2007. However, they came crashing back to Earth last season, winning just five games and finishing second last on the ladder. I don’t have a ton of confidence in placing this duo in the second tier, but they have the on-paper talent to challenge for a finals spot, leaving them a whisker ahead of some tier three clubs.

Tier Three – Not Going To Happen

Sydney Swans
North Melbourne Kangaroos
St Kilda Saints
Fremantle Dockers
Carlton Blues
Gold Coast Suns

SYDNEY fans will argue that their team is the outlier in this tier and I can see why they would view their team as a better one than some of the second-tier outfits. However, I don’t have a lot of faith in Sydney’s squad right now and even though there are bright spots to be found, contending for a flag in 2020 is a stretch. Similar can be said for the likes of St Kilda, North Melbourne and Fremantle. Both the Saints and Dockers had successful offseasons in the eyes of the AFL public, but I can’t see them bouncing up the order and making a serious push. Much like Fremantle did for half the season last year, one or both of these sides might appear to be in contention for one of the last remaining finals places, but again like the 2019 Dockers, I can’t see either of them holding onto that top-8 rung.

CALL me a hater, but I’m really not a fan of the North Melbourne list. I don’t think it’s an unpopular opinion to state their lack of clear A-grade talent with Ben Cunnington, Shaun Higgins, Ben Brown, Robbie Tarrant and Todd Goldstein perhaps the only players who fit that label (sorry Jack Ziebell), all of whom are at least 27-years old. That leaves the Carlton Blues and Gold Coast Suns. I shouldn’t really have to elaborate on their 17th and 18th place finishes in the premiership race and I am actually a fan of the way both franchises are rebuilding their list. This time around. Achieving anything of note next year isn’t a stretch and honestly, if they are even close to the finals mix after a decent amount of games, it would be considered as an overachievement by the majority of footy fans. Their future is looking brighter, but the only thing they’ll finish at the top of in 2020 is the draft order.

Peace ✌️

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