The View From Down Here #5

Hey, I received my first email from these columns! And, to Tom, I was going to do just that anyway, and here it is:Ready for this? This is how the finals “work” in the AFL.

The regular season of the Australian Rules Football’s largest (and only national) league – the Australian Football League (AFL) – has just finished. So who made it through, and where to from here? Let’s look at the season so far…

The Ladder
Western Bulldogs
St Kilda
Sydney Swans
North Melbourne
Brisbane Lions
Port Adelaide
West Coast Eagles
So Geelong finished on top again, and only three non-Victorian sides made it through to the finals, the lowest number in years. To explain: the AFL was built on the old VFL (Victorian Football League) which basically went out of its way to destroy all other state leagues by becoming ‘national’. So you have Brisbane, Sydney, Adelaide, Port Adelaide, West Coast and Fremantle from other states and the rest from Victoria; except for Geelong, the rest are really from Melbourne. This led to a dominance for the first half of this decade by interstate teams. But priority draft picks for really bad losing teams saw the Melbourne clubs start to rise. How long it lasts with two new teams coming on board in the next few years is anyone’s guess.

The Goners
Last, wooden spoon – Melbourne. What a shame that the oldest football club in the world, celebrating its 150th year, has finished so disastrously with 3 wins, 19 losses. However, this was not unexpected, and at the start of the year many picked them to finish last.
West Coast at 15th. This surprised many who thought they would feature in the finals. A disappointing year (to say the least).
Fremantle – 14th. How the supporters of Fremantle must enjoy pain. They always promise so much and yet consistently fail to deliver.
Port Adelaide were 13th. How the mighty have fallen! Losers in last year’s grand final to fourth to last. However, their past few weeks have shown that next year they could very well be a team to watch.
Essendon, 12th. A team in the rebuilding phase (as coaches call losing seasons), with what looks like at least another year of rebuilding to come.
Carlton, 11th. Despite have the second-highest goal-scorer in the league (Brendan Fevola with 99 goals), just could not win. They relied on Fevola too much and need to become a team to be a threat.
Brisbane at 10th. The powerhouse from 5 years ago now also-rans, with their coach of b10 years Leigh Matthews having just quit. Although the hottest coaching commodity in Australia in Michael Voss looks set to take over. What will happen in the future? This team is hard to predict.
9th is Richmond. An average year from an average team. Could easily have finished lower or in the finals.

The Finals
Week 1
Elimination Final 1: Adelaide v Collingwood (loser is eliminated)
Elimination Final 2: Sydney v North Melbourne (loser is eliminated)
Qualifying Final 1: Geelong v St Kilda (winner goes straight to preliminary final 1)
Qualifying Final 2: Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs (winner to preliminary final 2)
Week 2
Semi-Final 1: loser of qualifying final 1 v winner of elimination final 1 (loser eliminated)
Semi-Final 2: loser of qualifying final 2 v winner of elimination final 2 (loser eliminated)
Week 3
Preliminary Final 1: winner of qualifying final 1 v winner of semi-final 2 (loser out)
Preliminary Final 2: winner of qualifying final 2 v winner of semi-final 1 (loser out)
Week 4
Grand Final: winners of 2 preliminary finals
If everything goes according to plan, it should be Geelong v Hawthorn in the grand final, though I like the look of Bulldogs v Sydney.

The Final Eight
And how do the teams stack up?
8th, Collingwood. There to make up numbers, really, as their form in the past few weeks has been quite ordinary, including a final round loss to lowly Fremantle.
7th, North Melbourne. See Collingwood above, and replace “loss to Fremantle” with “hiding by Port Adelaide”, who ran over them to the tune of 76 points (148 to 72).
6th is Sydney. If Barry Hall keeps himself under control, then Sydney could do surprisingly well. Will surprise many.
5th, Adelaide. Should have been 4th, but poor kicking and some terrible latter season losses saw them relegated to the elimination section. Should get past Collingwood, then will be slaughtered.
4th, St Kilda. Lucky to be where they are, and lucky if they get past the second week of the finals. Run too hot and cold.
3rd, Western Bulldogs. If Jason Akermanis maintains his awesome form and leadership and keeps his brain from exploding and his mouth under control, this is the ‘sleeper’ team that could surprise many.
2nd, Hawthorn. With Buddy Franklin kicking 102 goals for the season, they have been accused of being a one-person forward. If Buddy is shut down, could spell trouble, but this year they have surprised many and could do so again.
1st, Geelong. Unbackable favourites for the flag and rightfully so, with only 1 loss for the season. Complacency and some off-field dramas (Nathan Ablett quitting again) could be their undoing, and the fact that they are the most analysed team this year.

I’m not sure if you get the AFL in the Americas, but if you do, ignore the Sydney / North Melbourne elimination final, and the rest should be very entertaining, slightly violent and as skilful as anything you’ve ever seen.

And that’s the view from down here!

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