Our experts debate all the hot topics and burning questions as we head into the 2020 AFL finals series.
Which player is under the most pressure this finals series?
Niall Seewang: There are so many different types of pressure but I think Patrick Dangerfield would be carrying a heavy mental burden heading into the finals. He's without question one of the greatest players of his generation -- becoming just the sixth player in history to notch eight All-Australian selections -- but the one missing element on his CV is a premiership. At 30, could time be running out if the Cats falter through this finals campaign?
Jake Michaels: The pressure has already been mounting on my selection so much so that we're not even 100 percent sure he'll play! It's Jaidyn Stephenson. The young Magpie has fallen away dramatically since bursting onto the scene in 2018. In fact, his goal tally of 38 in his rookie year is more than what he's managed in the two years since! It's not quite career defining stuff but it's getting close. He desperately needs a big game.
Matt Walsh: Has a key forward been more hyped throughout the year than Charlie Dixon? From his preseason training rig photos, to some outstanding outings (and a couple of stinkers as well!), not many big men have been talked up more in 2020. Given he plays for the team which won the minor premiership, there's a lot of pressure on Charlie to perform in October.
Jesse Robinson: It may not be public pressure but I reckon under the surface, Gary Ablett Jr. will be desperate to win a flag and sign off from a remarkable career to be with his family. The way Ablett has played this year suggests he'll be in Geelong's best 22 next season should he choose to play on but if he could secure a flag in 2020, it would be a weight off his shoulders and allow him to ride off into the sunset.
Which final are you most excited by this week?
NS: Brisbane vs. Richmond. So many storylines! The Tigers' massive mental stranglehold over the Lions; the fact Brisbane are outsiders despite finishing above Richmond and the game being played at the Gabba; the home team's awful goalkicking woes in recent years (especially so against their opponents this week). All four Week 1 finals games look like crackers, but this is the one that's must-watch in my book.
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JM: It has to be Brisbane vs. Richmond. The Tigers have had the advantage in this match-up in recent times but a win for the Lions will mean they have a serious shot at going on to win the premiership at the Gabba - something which would be inconceivable at the beginning of the year. Plus, who doesn't enjoy watching Dustin Martin and Charlie Cameron play?
MW: All four finals have me excited this weekend and that's not something I'd find myself saying every year. If I had to pick one, I'd say Thursday's clash between Port and Geelong. In the preseason I said this was a make or break year for the Cats and they're set to take on the minor premier this week. Interestingly, they belted the Power by 10 goals earlier this season. Port's under pressure to justify their ladder position, while the Cats need to deliver a flag for Dangerfield and Co. Pass the popcorn.
JR: It's hard to go past the Brisbane vs Richmond clash but the matchup between Port Adelaide and Geelong could just about be an early look at the Grand Final. Both teams have probably looked the strongest in the league this season and there are great match-ups all across the ground. Charlie Dixon will have plenty to prove after their last meeting, Dangerfield, Selwood and Ablett will be intent on securing a week off and their first flag together ... what a way to kick off the finals.
What is your premier/Norm Smith Medal prediction?
NS: Port Adelaide to win the flag, with Robbie Gray for the 'Normie'. There's a reason the Power have sat atop the table all year and I've got no reason to doubt their premiership bonafides. And we all know Gray is one of the league's best big-game players, so who would doubt him having a Norm Smith Medal draped around his neck should the Power reach the Grand Final?
JM: Geelong's premiership window is drawing to a close and Chris Scott knows it. I reckon the Cats can put their finals demons behind them and go all the way this October. As far as a Norm Smith medallist goes, I'm going to skip Patrick Dangerfield, Tom Hawkins and Gary Ablett, and opt for one of the competition's biggest improvers in 2020 - Cam Guthrie.
MW: At the start of the year I picked the Cats for the flag and I'm sticking with it. I'll play the percentages and go with Patrick Dangerfield for Norm Smith, as he cements himself as one of the all-time greats.
JR: Port Adelaide to win the Flag with Travis Boak winning the Norm Smith. They were the best team all year so they deserve flag favouritism and Boak has been leading from the front. I think he would be a standout on Grand Final day.
What lengths should quarters be next season?
NS: Unless the Coronavirus continues to linger next year and threaten another season, I'd like things to return to normal as much as possible. This includes the lengths of games. Let's go back to 20 minutes plus time-on.
JM: I understand 2020 has been a strange year and the AFL deserves credit for putting together a full season, but let's be honest, we need to revert to 20 minute quarters next year. The current 16 minute quarters are way too short and 18 minutes just feels like an unnecessary middle ground. I'm certainly no football traditionalist, but 20 minute quarters is what we need back in the game.
MW: Give me 20 minute quarters but 17 games again. This means players are overall still playing less game time than in a 'normal' year, and given the turnaround time from season to preseason is going to be shorter for 2021 due to the late finish in 2020, it makes sense to me!
JR: It's a little early to tell what situation the world, Australia or the AFL will be in next year. If we were to decide now I think it could be pushed to the speculated 18 minutes, but if time is allowed and we don't require hub type set-ups, let's get things back to normal. As enjoyable as this year has been, it'd be great to have full length quarters back. On shorter quarters, the resemblance of AFLM scoring to AFLW with reduced quarter length is something that hasn't been discussed enough.