Season 2020 has dished up all kinds of surprises and heartbreak.
The coronavirus has turned the world on it’s head, but, as said by Gillon McLachlan, football would always find a way.
This interrupted season has proved fruitful for some clubs, whilst others have fallen well below expectations.
As the home-and-away fixtures move towards the business end, what will the final eight look like come finals?
Here are our predictions:
Port Adelaide (1st, 40pts, 126.6%)
This season has been a massive turn-around from the lows of last season.
With Ken Hinkley’s future looking murky and the playing group not looking up to finals standard, Port were average.
However, with a solid game plan and some outstanding performances from both senior and junior players, 2020 has been successful for the Power up to this point.
With 10 wins on the board and sitting equal top with the Lions, they look to be in the box seat to make a deep push into finals and potentially come away with the flag should things go their way.
The only problem with the Power is when they lose, it isn’t pretty.
Their average losing margin this year has been 42 points, including a 60-point shellacking from the Cats on the back of coming off a big win over the reigning premiers.
Port Adelaide will likely win all of their last four matches, with their only test coming against the Pies in the final round.
With this easy run home, the minor premiership should be theirs.
Predicted finish: 1st (56pts)
Brisbane Lions (2nd, 40pts, 117.4%)
Off the back of a solid second place finish last year, the Lions will be looking to go one better this season.
Their 2019 finals series was disappointing, going out in straight sets at the hands of the Tigers and Giants.
But their 2020 season has shown that last season was no fluke.
Their playing group has risen to the task once again, with Chris Fagan’s side displaying signs of a team hungry to make amends for last September.
However their losses have once against raised questions about their experience in big games.
With a run home not too dissimilar to Port Adelaide’s, the Lions are in the box seat to win all of their remaining fixtures.
Unless the Power slip up, it looks as though Brisbane will fall short of the minor premiership on percentage, but secure another home qualifying final.
Predicted finish: 2nd (56pts)
Geelong (3rd, 36pts, 140.6%)
Run home: Western Bulldogs (A), BYE, Essendon (H), Richmond (H), Sydney (A)
Chris Scott’s side has looked pretty on-par with the competition’s elite for most of the season, with most of their wins this year coming in resounding victories.
27, 59 and 60 point wins over Brisbane, St. Kilda and Port Adelaide respectively have shown that they can trounce those around them.
— AFL (@AFL) August 23, 2020
The side would also have last year’s preliminary final exit to the Tigers in the back of their heads, not wanting to have another off-season of heartache.
Their run in to finals is a bit more difficult than the teams above them.
Whilst they do have a week off after they play the Dogs, the following game is against the Tigers, who are looking to sneak into the top four should things go their way.
If the Cats win all of their games up until finals, they will get a place in the top four, whether it is third or fourth remains to be seen as the Eagles still have a game in hand and are equal on points.
However a slip up could see them drop outside the four with no second chance in finals, a potentially dangerous scenario that the playing group would be wary of.
Predicted finish: 4th (48pts)
West Coast (4th, 36pts, 121.3%)
Run home: Richmond (A), Essendon (H), Western Bulldogs (A), St. Kilda (A), North Melbourne (A)
After a sluggish beginning to the restart, the Eagles are looking back to their best.
Since their 48 point thrashing at the hands of Port Adelaide back at the end of June, the Eagles have gone from strength-to-strength.
Sitting in fourth with one less game played, West Coast are poised for a very good charge at the positions above.
However, the AFL have seen fit not to give the Eagles anymore home games in Perth for the rest of the season, with the team having to fly to Queensland for their remaining games.
On top of this they have some big clashes against top eight sides to overcome.
On Thursday they go up against Richmond on the Gold Coast, whilst in September they will play the Saints in Brisbane.
The Eagles should be too strong for both of the aforementioned sides, but should they stumble against either of these teams, it will almost certainly spell an away qualifying final or at the very worst, an elimination final.
If they do go unbeaten for the rest of the season, the lowest they could finish is third, which looks guaranteed, especially if Geelong fail in one of their final hurdles.
Predicted finish: 3rd (52pts)
Richmond (5th, 34pts, 119%)
Run home: West Coast (H), Fremantle (H), BYE, Geelong (A), Adelaide (A)
The reigning premiers have once again been tested this year with injury.
Their first couple of games back after the restart were unimpressive to say the least, with losses to Hawthorn and St. Kilda leaving many believing that the Tigers were not in contention.
However since then, Richmond have won seven of their last nine with victories, highlighted with wins over Brisbane and the Bulldogs.
Dreaming, connection, gathering, strength and determination.
— Richmond FC 🐯🏆 (@Richmond_FC) August 22, 2020
Although there were still some hiccups against the Giants and the Power, the Tigers showed that they could still be a force despite missing a large chunk of their premiership side.
With their injured stars slowly trickling back into the team, they will need all the help they can get in the next five weeks.
On Thursday they play the Eagles and will face the Cats in two weeks following a bye.
With some key players still out, it will be hard for the Tigers to sneak into the four, with a loss probably on the cards against the Eagles and potentially Geelong hurting their chances.
Predicted finish: 5th (46pts)
St. Kilda (6th, 32pts, 114.5%)
Run home: Melbourne (A), Hawthorn (H), West Coast (H), GWS (H)
The Saints have been doing some rampaging this season.
A notably more successful year has seen them beat Port Adelaide and the Tigers convincingly in spirited performances.
Much of it can be attributed to premiership Tiger Dan Butler who has been in blistering form, tearing apart defences.
Team goal 👊 pic.twitter.com/YlovEGI60C
However, there has been some performances which hark back to the St. Kilda of old.
Heavy losses to Collingwood and Geelong as well as some close ones against the Dockers, Brisbane and the Kangaroos were frustrating to watch.
Their run home throws up some testing matches which will ultimately shape their season.
The Giants and the Eagles will be a stern test for them, whilst Melbourne could prove too tough for the Saints.
Best case scenario is a home elimination final, whether in fifth or sixth, but should they crumble, an away sudden death game could be on the cards.
Predicted finish: 6th (44pts)
Collingwood (7th, 30pts, 109.1%)
Run home: North Melbourne (H), Carlton (A), Brisbane (A), BYE, Gold Coast (H), Port Adelaide (H)
The Pies have been marred by injuries in 2020.
The Pies are struggling to make ends meet.
Coming off a 51-point drubbing at the hands of the Demons, the Pies are in danger of dropping out of the eight.
However, should they regain some of those players as finals begin, there could be some hope of the Pies making something stick.
Their ugly win over the Kangaroos might just be the kickstart they need.
After playing Carlton, they get a much needed week off, before a tough few weeks with games against Brisbane, Gold Coast and Port Adelaide.
With their injury list, Collingwood realistically should be looking at three wins out of the remaining five, with Brisbane and Port Adelaide likely spelling defeat.
This means their most pivotal game will come against the Blues at the Gabba, which will make or break their season.
Predicted finish: 7th (42pts)
Melbourne (9th, 24pts, 112.1%)
Run home: St. Kilda (H), Sydney (A), Fremantle (H), GWS (A), Essendon (A)
Melbourne have dished up some night and day performances in 2020.
They have taken had some big victories, beating Hawthorn, North Melbourne and Collingwood by 43, 57 and 56 points respectively.
On the other hand they’ve had some disappointing defeats, getting thumped by Port and losing closely to both the Lions and the Cats.
However, with a game in hand on the teams above them, the Demons should be looking to sneak into the eight.
If the Melbourne that trounced the Pies shows up, then they will have no problem winning at least four of their remaining five, with St. Kilda presenting an obstacle.
But if play like they did against the Dogs, then they will be looking at a possible ninth placed finish.
Their high percentage of 112.1% will also be a lifeline for them, should they keep it around that level, as the teams that stand in their way all have inferior figures.
Predicted finish: 8th (36pts)
As for the other teams, Carlton will just miss out (predicted finish 9th on 36pts, out by percentage), as will the Western Bulldogs and Greater Western Sydney (32pts each). With their remaining games as well as recent form, it will be difficult to see them being able to get inside the eight and stay there.