The Swans v Dogs match this weekend was a cracker. It reinforced for me my idea that, with the top eight clubs seemingly set, most of the interest for the rest of the home-and-away season is going to come from matches involving the top eight, particularly as the final order of those clubs is far from settled.
Which led me to wonder: what would be the first week finals match-ups that would be most fun to watch? These are my picks:
Geelong v Hawthorn: This is clearly the best rivalry of the past decade (Geelong v Collingwood would be my second choice, Sydney v Hawthorn third). Perhaps it may be a bit tiresome for some AFL watchers now, but the addition of Patrick Dangerfield to the Cats and his demolition of the Hawks in his debut for the club, has possibly breathed some new life into this match-up.
Indeed Geelong has been in so many finals in my lifetime that just about any match-up leads one to recall a previous memorable match. Geelong v West Coast? Potential partial revenge for the ’92 and ’94 Grand Finals. Geelong v the Bulldogs? Reminds me of the Bill Brownless kick after the siren. Geelong v Sydney? Remember Nick Davis storming home in 2005? Geelong v North Melbourne? There’s the 2014 semi-final and the 1994 prelim. For the current-day players though Hawks v Cats is the match that matters most.
Even the clubs that Geelong hasn’t played in finals before offer some tasty match-ups. While for me one high profile ex-player does not by itself necessarily make for essential viewing there would still be some interest from me if Steve Johnson of Greater Western Sydney went up against his old side. And that wouldn’t even compare to if Geelong were matched with Dangerfield’s old club Adelaide.
Basically whoever Geelong ends up playing you can’t lose. But I’d still like to sit at the MCG again and feel the hatred as the Cats take on the Hawks.
Western Bulldogs v Adelaide: The Crows have inflicted on the Bulldogs three of their most painful losses of the past couple of decades – the 1997 and 1998 preliminary final losses, and last year’s close elimination final loss. In all three matches the Dogs were at home and were favourites. I’m not pulling for this match-up because I want to see further misery inflicted on the ‘Scray fans, but that history would make for an intriguing match-up. Plus it offers a chance for the Sons of the West to finally get their revenge.
Sydney v GWS: The AFL, desperate to capture a chunk of the Sydney sports market, would also be hoping for this match-up. The two NSW clubs don’t seem to like each other much, and it would be good for GWS fans if many of them could see their club play its first final in person – which they may well anyway given the Giants look a great chance to finish in the top four.
Sydney v West Coast would also be a good match-up given the rivalry built up from the classic ’05 and ’06 clashes. But those players are gone now, and so an inter-Sydney match is for me the better choice.
North Melbourne v West Coast: By default. It should still be a good match anyway. And the two teams did meet in the preliminary final last year.
Not much movement in the rankings this week. Thankfully though it is the last of the bye weeks and that means there are no more fiddly things with my spreadsheets and hopefully a lot more to talk about from here on in.
Related post: The Top 20 AFL Rivalries.