The finals watch
By Kayla Voss

The home stretch for the premiership decider is just around the corner as eight teams prepare to battle it out for a spot. The last few spots to play in finals were uncertain going into the final round, but now the spots are finalised and the stage is set. The Western Bulldogs and the Saints have snuck into the final eight leaving Melbourne and GWS out in the cold. While Brisbane and Port Adelaide have claimed the top two spots after a dominant season. The minor premiership will be decided tonight as Port Adelaide look to defeat Collingwood.

Brisbane and Port Adelaide will both earn themselves a place in AFL history if they take out the McClelland Trophy. Brisbane, despite their four year Grand Final run in the early 2000s, have not won the minor premiership. While Port Adelaide will be named as the seventh team to hold top spot for the home-and-away season if they defeat Collingwood. However, Chris Fagan and Ken Hinkley have both stated that while the recognition would be nice, it means nothing in finals. 

Ladder positions in the home-and-away season mean nothing in finals if you are not up for the task. Anything can happen. Teams must play their best footy or risk an early finals departure. So, their players need to be up to the challenge. Finals footy is exactly the time when big players have to stand up and lead the charge. Every team in the finals race have players who can change the game by playing their best footy. 

Lachie Neale is the obvious choice for Brisbane. He attacks the football hard and plays with incredible power, but he also has some young talent around him. Injecting youth into the side has been a part of many team’s plans this season as it inspires experienced players to play with freedom. Travis Boak is certainly one of those players who has the support of young talent around him. Without question Boak is having his greatest season yet, and him playing well in the finals will be crucial for Port Adelaide’s game. 

West Coast and Geelong’s respective gun midfielders Tim Kelly and Patrick Dangerfield are huge influencers on their team’s ball movement. Both teams have an incredible midfield, but those two player’s lead the charge when they play their best football. Dustin Martin and Jack Riewoldt are unsurprisingly players who can turn any game on its head, but Shai Bolton has proved himself to be an important part of Richmond’s game plan. 

Collingwood’s mix of experience in Scott Pendelbury and youth in Jordan De Goey let it speak for itself against the Suns in round 17. While there is debate on whether De Goey should even be playing, his football is the one thing you cannot argue with when he plays his best. The Western Bulldogs have a similar situation as Bailey Smith continues to impress fans, while Bontempelli and Wallace show off their experience. Finally, the Saints have challenged every odd this season, but they have done it in style. Their exciting brand of football is led by Jack Steele and Dan Butler. The top eight teams are armed with many more incredible players at their disposal, but you cannot argue the influence the above players have on their teams. 

The 2020 finals campaign should be an amazing spectacle as eight teams battle to prove their worth. Each team has something different to bring to the finals. Brisbane are desperate to improve upon last year’s finals record, while Port Adelaide are still facing critics due to their history of inconsistency. Richmond’s finals experience is uncontested which I have no doubt will show through their performances, whereas the Eagles are determined to feel premiership victory again. Geelong certainly have talented players at their disposal, but after their six-point win over Sydney, their premiership contention has been questioned. Collingwood will be hoping to have another crack at a premiership this year after it escaped them in 2018, despite a fairly disappointing season. Finally, the Saints and the Bulldogs are against the odds, but no team is to be underestimated in finals. 

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