MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 28: Tom Lynch of the Tigers celebrates a goal during the 2019 Toyota AFL Grand Final match between the Richmond Tigers and the GWS Giants at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on September 28, 2019 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Willson/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

On 28 September 2019, we witnessed only the second Grand Final in AFL or VFL history in which neither team finished in the top two places of the ladder.

The team who would leave with a silver medal, Greater Western Sydney finished sixth – 12 points adrift from league-leading Geelong. Richmond, on the other hand, finished third but on the same points as Geelong and the second-placed Brisbane Lions – placing lower on point percentage.

While this does mean that the titbit mentioned having only occurred twice in the league’s history is a little contentious, it also shows how close the AFL was last season. This season, it’s expected to be an even closer contest but, as is often the way, the reigning premiers are favoured at this stage.

Tigers stay the course

One of the more remarkable aspects of Richmond’s 2019 campaign was that they did it without Alex Rance, who they’ll be without this season as well following the fullback’s retirement. Nick Vlastuin, David Astbury, and Dylan Grimes stepped in to fill the void and did so admirably.

At some point over the offseason, the Tigers may have expected Rance to return and add even more quality to the newly crowned premiers, but the team did well enough to mostly just stay the course. The team just won the Grand Final, has undergone very few personnel changes and has plenty of young talents knocking on the door of the best 22.

Coming back with very much the same team that marginally missed out on the summit of the ladder and landed the trophy, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the Tigers are the favourites to win it all again in 2020. In the Aussie Rules betting, Richmond stand as the 8/15 favourites. However, it’s a very closely contested field, with West Coast at 3/5, Collingwood at 6/5, and Greater Western Sydney at 6/5.

It speaks volumes of how exciting the 2020 AFL season is going to be, which team looks poised to be the main threat to Richmond’s throne?

Will all the noise bring them the trophy?

Without a shadow of a doubt, the West Coast Eagles made the most noise in the off-season. In a huge statement of intent to finally bring in the player who they’ve wanted for a couple of years, West Coast paid up to bring in Tim Kelly.

The Eagles took the biggest step forward by landing the biggest move of the trade period. Sure, they almost certainly overpaid, but bringing in Kelly might just prove to be the move that makes them premiers. They’re a better team now, and Kelly is a star, giving them very real title credentials.

Collingwood, who finished fourth last season, on the same points as West Coast, didn’t get much worse, but also didn’t get any better. The Magpies basically stayed the same while all of the teams around them improved.

GWS is one such fellow contender which had a strong offseason, bringing in ruckman Sam Jones to patch a major hole in the team. Last year’s finalists look to be coming back to try and go all the way this season but perhaps aren’t as strong as the likes of the Eagles or the Tigers.

The tight odds on the four leading contenders in the AFL for the 2020 season just shows how competitive the league is and how exciting it’ll be to see it unfold. As it stands, Richmond are the pick of the bunch, but there’s been plenty of movement beneath to foresee a team usurping the reigning premiers.