The next month of the AFL fixture has been released and all systems are “go” for the return of football in 2020.
Yes, there will be the occasional whinge and gripe about who the fixture favours most, and who gets the best run to start the second component of the AFL season, but footy’s back, and on what was the last Saturday in September, and is now one other Saturday significantly later in the year, we will most likely find that the best team for the year holds aloft the cup.
But there is a lot of water to go under the bridge, and whilst we can modify the old saying of “you can’t win the flag in… June (?), you can certainly lose it.
In a 17-game season, a losing record after five rounds almost sounds the death knell for a team. Those extra five games to make up ground are gone, and four points seems to be worth so much, with every game, and every goal counting that little bit more.
So, who benefits most from the recently-released draw, and who will it come back to bite?
On the back of their win over Geelong in Round One, the Giants have three of the four games announced at home, welcoming North Melbourne, Collingwood and Hawthorn to Giants Stadium, whilst travelling to Melbourne just once to play in what should be one of the games of the season against the Western Bulldogs.
Personally, I cannot wait to watch that one.
The Giants are playing quality through the first five games of the season, with Geelong (already a W), Collingwood, and Hawthorn expected to test them. With their recent history against the Bulldogs, this becomes a marquee match-up.
When we reach the end of this fixtured stretch, the Giants have a realistic chance at being 4-1. I cannot realistically see them being worse than 3-2. They’re too good to drop two of the next four, and with this season being the year Toby Greene goes from infamy to superstardom (calling it now!), they should be right at the pointy end as we reach the end of Round Five.
Well, the Lions won’t be leaving Queensland for the first month of the restart, with their game against West Coast the only match-up against a 2019 finalist.
Having dropped their opening game of the season, Brisbane will be eager to dispense with the two Adelaide teams and Fremantle at home, as they will be up against it later in the season when forced to travel to balance out their great four week stretch here.
Their loss to the Hawks was a reversal of their recent dominance of the brown and gold, and Chris Fagan will not want to exit this section of the fixture with a losing record. They handled the Eagles at the Gabba in the first round last season, and would be looking to secure at least a 3-2 record as we hit Round Six.
Anything less than that has to be graded as a failure.
The Bombers get their travel fixture out of the way in Round Two and then receive three MCG games in a row (with Round Five listed as an away game against the Pies).
We’ll know plenty about the Bombers after this section of the fixture. They scraped home against the travelling Freo in Round One and if they can get over the Swans in Round Two, could start to shape as a legitimate threat.
Easier said than done, though… right?
Their recent record at the SCG is appalling – with a record of 0-7 in the last ten years. They will need to reverse that trend in order to play footy without the added pressure that comes with being a fringe team.
Their Round Three clash v Melbourne will give a pretty good insight into where both teams are at, and could be a season-shaping contest.
Yes, the Dockers are stuck in Queensland, but whilst these are all ostensibly away games, three of them have been categorised as such for the Dockers, which means they won’t have to travel to South Australia or back to Queensland for the rest of the season. As a result, the back half of the year should be STACKED with West Australian-based contests, and I reckon they a three to four goal better side playing at home.
The way this pans out, the Dockers will have played four of the first five games of the season as the designated away team, which means they could get eight of the last 12 games based at home.
They may be coming home with a wet sail in 2020, particularly if they can pinch a win or two early in this part of the fixture. They’d be eyeing that Gold Coast game hungrily and would definitely fancy themselves as a definite chance against the Crows and Power.
They could also get to host the Eagles in a home derby later this season, depending how the cookie crumbles.
This break has also allowed some players to get healthy (Alex Pearce aside). If they get a bit of a start, would it be completely crazy to start using the F-word?
They’re not travelling for the whole month and even play at the MCG as an away game. I think it was pretty nice of the AFL to allow them an away game at their other home ground, don’t you?
Settle down, Cats fans… I’m kidding. You touchy buggers.
Getting the Hawks at Kardinia Park hasn’t happened in 14 years, and with games against Carlton and Gold Coast also scheduled for the Cattery, Geelong should be able to emerge from this period with a winning record despite losing to GWS in the opening week of the season.
For the record, the Cats have an average winning margin of 111 points in their last two wins over the Suns at home. If you’re a betting man… go the overs!
Another team with zero travel to deal with in the next four rounds, the Saints get to test their new-look line up against some quality, in Richmond and Collingwood and have the opportunity to put their Round one fadeout against the Kangaroos behind them.
Seriously, had it not been for COVID-19, the way the Saints capitulated to North Melbourne would have been a much bigger story than it was. They should have won that game and have to run games out better.
They get a Western Bulldogs team in Round Two who were even more disappointing than the Saints, and round out their quartet of games against the Blues.
I’d love to see the Saints take it up to one of the big two, in Richmond or Collingwood, but a 2-3 record could be as good as it gets from them. They’d really lament that Round One fade, and must make the most of this period in Melbourne.
The Swans travel just once, to Melbourne to play the Kangaroos. It is a fixture they have not lost in 13 years. Yowzas….
With Essendon, the Bulldogs and Melbourne all making their way to the SCG for clashes, the Swans would be pretty optimistic with the way this fixture is panning out. Of course, they actually have to win the games, but they have been given every chance to restart the season on the winning note.
With their Round One win over the Crows in the bag, I would not be at all surprised to see Sydney entrenched in the eight as this portion of the fixture comes to a close.
They get a showdown at home, which could be considered a win, but at a shared home ground and with no Port fans in attendance, it feels a bit like a hollow victory to me. They also have to play West Coast as a home game in Queensland, which feels like anything but an advantageous situation.
From the outside looking in, if there were ever a time to be the away team in a Showdown, this season would be it. Alas, the Power will come out of this stretch having used two home games for little advantage at all.
A much preferable outcome would have seen them play an away Showdown and bank another home game for later in the season.
I reckon 3-2 is a realistic goal here, with the Eagles and Lions looming as danger games. Still, they handled West Coast well last season – who’s to say it won’t happen again?
If Port could emerge with a winning record heading home, they reap the benefit of no WA or QLD travel for the remainder of the season.
And I hope wearing the prison bars is worth it. That’s still happening, right?
As some of you know, I am a Hawks man. I reckon we’ve got the toughest run of any team, but wait – it’s not a whinge. I’m looking forward to it as it will give a clear indication of just where this team is at.
If Hawthorn comes out of this four week trial by fire with a winning record, lock them in for finals.
They’ve played Brisbane in Round One and then get three very good teams in away fixtures. Geelong at Kardinia Park, Richmond at the ‘G, and GWS at Giants Stadium. That means that after Round Five, they will have played the two Grand Finalists, a Prelim Finalist and the team that finished second on the ladder.
Oh, but they do get North Melbourne in a home game. What a pity that home game is actually at North Melbourne’s home ground, Marvel Stadium. It doesn’t help that I think North will be one of the teams that surprise this season.
If the Hawks manage to be 3-2 here, you’re looking at a contender, but they’ve had no favours done for them in this fixture at all.
So I am sure that others think differently, and I am always open to your opinions.
Think your team is getting a good run? Do you think you’ve been shafted? Let us know.
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