Our experts debate all the hot topics and burning questions as we head into the 2020 AFL Grand Final between Richmond and Geelong.
Does free agency need fixing?
Niall Seewang: Free agency is serving its primary purpose, which is for players to have more freedom to choose where they work. So through that lense, it is working. However I am worried about the growing gap between the 'haves' and 'have nots' - one of the things I love about the AFL is (or was!) the relative equality between teams, unlike some leagues where the big clubs continue getting more and more powerful. After Jeremy Cameron's decision to join Geelong, that feeling of unease is only growing for me,
Jake Michaels: Free agency was never introduced to benefit clubs, it was brought in for the players. From that point of view, it's doing its job -- facilitating player movement -- and doesn't require any sort of fix. However, the way it currently works is never going to please the majority of fans who simply see it as a mechanism for the rich clubs getting richer.
Matt Walsh: The AFL Players Association would hate this suggestion but if a player gets to free agency, it shouldn't be up to the player to nominate where they want to go, rather, it should be an all-out bidding war with the highest-paying club securing the services. It would allow clubs like North, Gold Coast and teams that pay unders in their caps for a year or two to secure 'big fish' talent. Don't like it? Ask your club to secure a trade -- which is fairer -- the year before.
Jesse Robinson: Free agency is working in that players are regaining some control over their own destiny, but it seems to be that we are getting a bit too much of the rich getting richer. Whether that's Tom Lynch, Joe Daniher or the eventual Jeremy Cameron move, the teams at the top of the table seem to be benefiting greatly from the new system. I like that the system favours the desires of players and they can nominate where they would like to go, but it may not be in the best interests of competition.
What Grand Final storyline is most interesting?
NS: Beyond the result, I'm most interested in how Patrick Dangerfield performs in his first Grand Final, and whether he can enhance his legacy by collecting a first premiership medallion. Rightly or wrongly, players are often judged on how many flags they win and for Dangerfield, it's the only thing missing from his immense CV. He's a polarising figure on and off the field but no one would begrudge such a champion finally tasting the ultimate success.
JM: Wow, there's plenty to choose from, but for me it has to be the Dustin Martin legacy. He's played in two Grand Finals up to this point, won both games and been awarded the Norm Smith Medal on both occasions. He's the bookmakers' favourite to do so again on Saturday night which would have to put him (if not already) in the discussion for greatest player of all time.
MW: The Chris Scott narrative interests me greatly. There are some in the footy world who think Scott was lucky to inherit a flag-winning list when he won the premiership in 2011 but now, nine years later, he has the ability to shut the doubters up once and for all. We know he's been a good coach -- his record of making finals says that -- but a truly 'independent' flag would top it off.
JR: Dusty vs. Dangerfield. How often do we get to see the two best players in the competition face off on Grand Final day? While they may not match up on each other, you'd expect them both to play pivotal roles and be favoured for the Norm Smith Medal. Whether they are bursting out of the centre or isolated at full forward, it will be truly incredible to see which of these superstars comes out on top.
What surprised you most on Brownlow night?
NS: A lot! From Lachie Neale's margin of victory to Nic Natanui's lack of love from the umpires ... but what really stood out for me was Josh Daicos winning Goal of the Year. There is no way it was a better kick than Jack Newnes' incredible after-the-siren match-winner from the boundary line. I hate the fact a fan vote decides the winner of awards like that, which gives clubs with a broader fan base a better chance of winning. It's not the biggest deal in the world but it chips away at the integrity of the sport.
JM: It probably didn't surprise me but it really just reiterated the fact that the Goal of the Year and Mark of the Year awards are just popularity contests. I honestly don't believe either Sam Walsh's mark or Josh Daicos' goal were the best in 2020. Surely Charlie Dixon and Jack Newnes can feel a little stiff!
MW: Patrick Dangerfield's outfit was easily the most surprising thing from the evening - what was he going for, the 'Oh crap' guy from The Simpsons? I know the black tie dress code was put on hold, but what a statement - the bone/cream/beige get-up was an eye-opener!
JR: I was surprised at how smoothly it all went, but the biggest surprise was that Lachie Neale had to present himself with the medal. I understand he couldn't have Nat Fyfe there to present but surely Chris Fagan, an AFL representative or even a teammate could've done the honours!
Grade the seasons of Port Adelaide and Brisbane
NS: I'll give the Power an A- and the Lions a B+ ... the Power came from outside the top eight to sit on top of the ladder all year, and they were a smidgin away from winning through to the Grand Final. The fact they couldn't overcome the Tigers on their home deck, with an extra week's rest, will burn in their guts all summer. The Lions get a harsher mark because of the huge suite of advantages they enjoyed all season, and the fact it was a second successive finals failure after 2019.
JM: Both sides will be disappointed to fall short of a Grand Final berth but they can hold their heads high after strong 2020 campaigns. I'll give the Power an A. Ken Hinkley's team found an identity and dominated the home and away season, before narrowly falling in a prelim to the best team of the last four years. The Lions get a B+ from me. They proved 2019 was no fluke and went better by making the last four, but they will rue the missed opportunity of playing a Grand Final on their home deck.
MW: Both teams get a B+ from me. I can't quite bring myself to give an A to Port, a team which failed to make the Grand Final despite leading the ladder all season long, while I also can't quite give an A to Brisbane, who went undefeated at home and had the luxury of a rare home Grand Final. I've shifted the goalposts a little from preseason expectations, especially for Port, but it's a touch disappointing.
JR: Both teams get an A. Port Adelaide had a terrific season and look primed to go again next season under Hinkley, with a great crop of young players supporting their stars. Brisbane were everything we'd hoped they would be this season, and they broke the finals hoodoo and can now reload for a big 2021 when they might make that final leap to becoming a premiership team. Expect both to compete at the top of the league for a number of years.