Rarely has a loss in the final home-and-away-match been as harmful as Adelaide’s loss at home against the West Coast Eagles last week. If the Crows had won they would have finished second and gained a chance to have home ground advantage in the finals up until the Grand Final. With their loss the Crows fell to fifth, and will now have to win in Sydney and Melbourne to win this year’s premiership. As I’ll talk about further when I get to my finals predictions below home ground advantage is pretty important. Adelaide in fact has won the premiership before after finishing fifth and travelling to both Sydney and Melbourne in the finals, back in 1998. But the fact that is the only time a club has ever won from fifth suggests the Crows’ chances have become a whole lot slimmer.
Moving into first spot on the rankings is this season’s minor premier the Sydney Swans, after a massive win against Richmond to finish off the home-and-away season. As discussed last week Adelaide has held the number one ranking for the most weeks this season, but Sydney has shot up at the right time of the year and the rankings say it has been the most in-form side of the past five weeks. Elsewhere at the top Geelong looks to be in better form after a similarly big win against Melbourne, and West Coast is rated closer to the competition’s leaders following the aforementioned win against the Crows.
Now on to my AFL Finals predictions … Based on the rankings, and taking into account home ground advantage, I am predicting that the higher-placed club on the ladder will win each final this time around. But a bunch of these match-ups look to be really, really close. For example, while I predict Sydney to beat GWS in their qualifying final this week, there is less than a goal separating them on the rankings, which suggests the opposite result could very well occur. Other match-ups that look to be very close should they occur are Hawthorn v West Coast, Geelong v GWS, and Sydney v Geelong.
Home ground advantage is decisive for a few of my predictions here. I wouldn’t pick Hawthorn to beat West Coast if their potential final occurred anywhere but Melbourne, for which I give the Hawks a two-goal advantage. Similarly I would tip GWS to beat Geelong if their potential final was anywhere but Melbourne as well, while GWS' home ground advantage gives them the edge for me in a potential match-up against Adelaide. And in the case of a potential Sydney-Geelong Grand Final I predict the chances become much more even because the Grand Final is played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
If Adelaide had finished in the top two I would have predicted it would make the Grand Final in Geelong’s place. But once again, it’s really close this year – if all of these predictions came true it is that which would surprise me.
Qualifying and Elimination Finals
Sydney def. Greater Western Sydney
Geelong def. Hawthorn
Adelaide def. North Melbourne
West Coast def. Western Bulldogs
Greater Western Sydney def. Adelaide
Hawthorn def. West Coast
Sydney def. Hawthorn
Geelong def. Greater Western Sydney
Sydney def. Geelong