Many AFL fans and tipsters will probably have this week’s set of finals victors cut and dry.
But what if it doesn’t go as expected? What if even just one fixture does not go to plan?
Let’s consider what may happen given any possibility and combination of victories this week.
1. West Coast Eagles vs Western Bulldogs, Thursday, September 8, 6:10 PM, Subiaco Oval
If West Coast win: The West Coast Eagles are strong favourites on their home track of Subiaco Oval, where they have lost just once all year.
The Western Bulldogs have a shocking record in Perth, where they have recorded just seven victories from 22 outings, the second worst record of any active venue at which they have played at least 10 games.
Win this, and the Eagles will face either Geelong or Hawthorn in Melbourne, whom they have a combined 1-3 record against this season. It will take their brilliant best to get through either of them.
If Western Bulldogs win: As mentioned, the Bulldogs have it all to do here. They have a terrible record out west, have been dogged by injuries (excuse the pun) and have made five changes to last week’s losing effort against the Fremantle Dockers at…Subiaco.
To win, they will need to win the contested ball in a landslide, keep the scores low, and hand the Weagles their second loss at a venue they have lost once at all year.
If that all somehow happens, their combined record against Geelong and Hawthorn, whom they will face the following week, for 2016 is 0-3. One way or another, it looks like no Grand Final this year for the Dogs.
2. Geelong Cats vs Hawthorn Hawks, Friday, September 9, 7:50 PM, MCG
If Geelong win: As mentioned earlier, the Cats will be about as unconcerned about a loss here as you could be for a finals match.
Win, and they’re one win away from the Grand Final. Lose, and they will have to take the long way around, but given their record against West Coast and the Doggies, that will not keep them up at night.
Still, expect the Cats to take this one out. I cannot see anyone in the Hawks’ lineup being able to stop the irresistible unstoppable forceful object that is Patrick Dangerfield.
If Hawthorn win: The Hawks last year showed us that going the long way to the Grand Final and ending up as premiers is still a distinct possibility.
They also have a good record against the Eagles and Bulldogs, but given they have looked a little more fragile this year as opposed to last, they will want to minimise the amount of football the play if they are to win four in a row.
Say they lose this one and win the next. The only certainty will be travelling to Sydney, where they have this year beaten the Sydney Swans in a tight one and been destroyed by the Greater Western Sydney Giants. Interesting times ensue if Hawthorn drops this match.
3. Sydney Swans vs Greater Western Sydney Giants, Saturday, September 10, 3:20 PM, Stadium Australia
If Sydney win: Despite being favoured by many for the premiership, Sydney will definitely be keen win this one and avoid the Crows, who beat them in their only encounter this year at Adelaide Oval.
If big time outsiders North Melbourne managed to win through to face the Swans, they also gave them a tough run at the SCG this year.
The Swannies will want to avoid any hiccups altogether and extend their six game winning streak to seven following a victory over their cross-town rivals.
A win will send them straight through to the preliminary final, where they will likely face one of Hawthorn or Geelong.
If Greater Western Sydney win: Despite being one of the league’s more fancied teams, no one quite knows how Greater Western Sydney will react to finals pressure.
Their club has never been to the finals. Most of their players have never been to the finals. Their coach has never been to the finals. Is this all actually a good thing? Either way, a win this week would be far bigger for the Giants than their older brothers.
There’s only one day on which the premiership can be won, but many would argue that a win for the men from the west of Sydney would be as good as mentioned above.
4. Adelaide Crows vs North Melbourne Kangaroos, Saturday, September 10, Adelaide Oval
If Adelaide win: This one looks as clear-cut as finals come. Interestingly enough, North Melbourne beat Adelaide in Round 1, but oh how times have changed since then.
Their latest encounter saw the Crows win 100-67 at Adelaide Oval, a 43-point swing in the Croweaters favour from their Round 1 loss and an accurate depiction of the changing fortunes of the two sides.
Win this one and Adelaide will go into next week with massive confidence, facing one of the two Sydney teams, whom they have a combined 2-0 record against this season.
If North Melbourne win: As unlikely as it seems, the Kangaroos do have one victory over the Crows this season, but have had an awfully tough initiation heading towards finals, with losses to GWS, Sydney, Hawthorn and the Bulldogs.
Hopefully for Kangas fans, the run has toughened them up, and the impending departure of four club stars is enough to get at least one finals win across the line.
Last week the Weagles travelled to Adelaide Oval and shocked the AFL when they walked away with the victory, and a convincing one at that, winning by five goals. The Roos would be wise to investigate that match, along with their early season victory in order to best prepare.