Our experts debate all the hot topics and burning questions ahead of Round 15.
If the Saints miss finals, is it a wasted year?
Niall Seewang: It depends on how you look at it. Three weeks ago, the Saints were flying and looked a chance of finishing top four. Four games and three losses -- two by a combined margin of five points -- later, and suddenly they're a big chance of missing finals (as our Tipping Toolkit suggests). I'm sitting on the fence here - I think they'll be gutted if they miss finals, but satisfied with their improvement either way.
Jake Michaels: If at the beginning of the season you told me the Saints would finish ninth, I wouldn't say it's going to be a wasted year. But after such a hot start, and wins over premiership fancies Richmond and Port Adelaide, everyone adjusted the expectations. I still don't think it's fair to call it a wasted season, but if they don't make the eight in 2021 there will be some serious questions asked of the club.
Matt Walsh: In the past four years, they've finished 14th, 16th, 11th and ninth. Bringing in Brett Ratten as coach and going after players like Brad Hill, Zak Jones and Dan Butler, as well as drafting strongly over the years with Max King, Hunter Clark and Nick Coffield, suggests they were ready to push. After Round 10, the Saints were SECOND on the ladder. If they miss from here's it's a massive wasted chance, no ifs or buts about it.
Jesse Robinson: It's not to say that 2020 doesn't count, but any lack of success in this turbulent season should be given a little bit of a pass. The Saints have been reborn, led by Jack Steele and have some great talent rising in Max King, Dan Butler and the unheralded Ben Paton. The club and Ratten will have learned so much this year that it can be looked at almost like the Lions of 2018 when all those narrow losses were the beginning of what has become two very impressive seasons.
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Should Joe Daniher commit to the Bombers?
NS: Wasn't it exciting to see him back? When players are injured for so long, it's so easy to forget how great they are when they do return to action. Should he re-sign? From the outside, it all depends on his happiness within, and possibly more importantly, outside footy. When he sought the Sydney trade, he said it was mostly about wanting to escape the Melbourne bubble ... is that still how he feels? The answer to that question will reveal his football future.
JM: If the options are between the Bombers and Swans, I'd be staying at Windy Hill! I actually don't mind Essendon's list. When Dyson Heppell, Michael Hurley and Orazio Fantasia are all in the team, along with Daniher, they are definitely a top eight side. I can't say the same about Sydney who have further to fall before rebuilding. Don't go, Joe!
MW: It's ultimately up to him. If he can regain his fitness, he'll be around for the next six-to-eight years - and if he wants a change of scenery, as was the indication last year, he fits the Swans' list profile very well. There's a bit of water to go under the bridge before we start really considering his future, though, and he might feel compelled to do right by the team that has rehabbed him...
JR: That's entirely Joe's decision, if he is happy in Melbourne and at Essendon then absolutely ... if he still wants to escape Melbourne and the limelight somewhat, then head north to Sydney or wherever else he sees a future for himself. It was great to see him playing and looking happy again, let's hope we see plenty more of it, whether it's at Essendon, Sydney or outside of football.
Will another AFL club take a punt on Cam McCarthy?
NS: I can't imagine so. For someone who started his career so brightly -- remember his second season in the league, when he booted 35 goals in 20 games for GWS? -- he really has been a disappointment. The fact a club like Fremantle that struggles for forward targets is happy to let him walk for nothing says it all. At 25, I think his time in the AFL is over.
JM: He's still only 25, so it wouldn't be the worst idea. Key forwards are hard to find and McCarthy showed in his early years at GWS that he can certainly play. He's had his fair share of drama -- both on and off the field -- but I wouldn't be giving up on him just yet. There are three or four clubs which should definitely be keeping tabs on him this offseason.
MW: Is it worth the drama to tie up a list spot rolling the dice on McCarthy? Remember, lists are going to be slashed by up to seven spots for 2021, so clubs need to think hard about whether a speculative player is worth the hassle. For me? No. He's had two chances.
JR: McCarthy is a proven goal-kicker who is free to join any club that wants him, so why not? We've seen this year how difficult goals are to come by so there shouldn't be a lack of suitors. The biggest issue for McCarthy may be the swirling rumours of the reduction of list sizes for future seasons, but goals win matches so you would expect that there'd be clubs looking for his services.
Should Matt Rowell win the Rising Star?
NS: This is so tricky! In just four games, Rowell proved his Rising Star bonafides and I think he's been the most impressive first-year player by a fair distance. In a season where no other Rising Star candidate has stood head and shoulders above his peers, I'd love selectors to be brave and give Rowell the nod, despite his paltry games total.
JM: He's not going to win it but I definitely think he should. We have basically never seen a player do what Rowell did in his first four-and-a-quarter games, so why shouldn't he win the Rising Star? I understand not winning an award which is scored game-by-game, but this one isn't like that. We are picking the best young player and Rowell's body of work, although small, is more impressive than anyone else vying for the honour.
MW: No eligible player has been more impressive in the games they've played, than Rowell for the four-and-a-bit games he played. He should probably win it, but having said that, it would be unfair on players who've built a good season. Rowell will likely get a chance to win it next year.
JR: I wish he could, he's clearly the best young player but let's just write his name on the trophy for next year when he'll still be eligible and reward a body of work this season. His mate Noah Andersen has a good claim, as well as Izak Rankine. Brandon Starcevich has revolutionised the Brisbane defence, Caleb Serong looks to be a future star next to Nat Fyfe. There is too much talent in this year's crop to give it to Rowell, who will almost certainly win it next year.