A case for every team in the 2020 AFL Finals Series


After one of the bumpiest rides in 2020, the AFL have impressively managed to play a 17-game season across the hubs, with the eight strongest sides dealing best with the circumstances and grabbing their place in the race for the cup.


Here’s why each top eight side could win the premiership in 2020.


Why Port Adelaide can win it:

Ken Hinkley’s men should be commended for their 12-month turnaround, coming from 10thin 2019, to minor premiers in 2020. Travis Boak is having a classy season, averaging 23 disposals. But all eyes fall onto Robbie Gray, who seems to get better with age. Port is the lowest sides for points scored against (869) and have achieved this through the middle men work. Hinkley’s men have shown they are classy, while also breeding youth, which, as history has shown, is the perfect combination for finals glory. Also, keep your eyes on Charlie Dixon, who booted 32 goals in 2020. In the form of his life and fitter than ever, he can’t be left alone if opposition want to keep Port Adelaide’s score manageable.


The X-Factor: It’s hard to ignore the efforts of Steven Motlop in the last few weeks on the home and away season. Booting 10 goals in only 12 games, Motlop can be hit or miss, but when his team is riding high, he can open up the play like no other. Watch him for spectacular goals.


Why Brisbane can win it:

With a solid year of finals experience under their belt, the Lions should have confidence against the Tigers and whoever else they meet along the way. They will enjoy the GABBA and be fresher than Victorian sides, which is a benefit for their younger bodies. With a tidy spread of goalkickers, it seems Fagan’s men have begun playing a team first game style, with everyone having a say in each win. No one can ignore the potential Brownlow Medallist Lachie Neale, with a massive 27 disposal average, but, if he is taken care of, look out for Jarryd Lyons (21.8 average touches) and the ever-trusted Danie Rich to take the young men to a new level. A fresh side who boast a capable young list, this is do-or-die for the new era Lions to prove that you can achieve greatness at any age.


The X-Factor: Lincoln McCarthy. Has flourish since leaving Geelong for sunny Brisbane. When he’s on, it’s difficult to stop him in the air and on foot. Kicked 15 goals from 15 games and can be the running and flying spark when his side need a push.


Why Richmond can win it:

There’s something that opposition sides have yet to undo about Richmond’s game. The way the side brings a manic intensity for four quarters proves they are still the team to beat in 2020. The way Richmond play on at all costs springs fear in their opposition, unable to find composure due to the likes of Dion Prestia (21.2 disposals on average) and Shane Edwards, who, around the ground, force turnovers and keep the Tiger flood moving rapidly. When Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Shai Bolton and co get into the middle, it’s hard to see them turning the footy over.


The X-Factor: Shai Bolton. Really came into his own in 2020. Played in a coveted midfield alongside Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin and proved his worth around the footy. Averages 16.1 disposals and 3.5 clearances, his pace is a major part of Richmond’s manic football that can’t be matched.


Why Geelong can win it:

There seems to be something different brewing in Chris Scott’s men this season. Although their last two matches were rocky, their form for the rest of the year showed glimpses of premiership football. If they can bring back that composure with that mix of hard, rapid attacking football, they’ll apply pressure immediately. Need to isolate Hawkins and play Rhys Stanley for the best possible chance to keep their opposition at bay in the opening quarter. Cam Guthrie an underrated key component of the midfield, with steady hands when needed most.


The X-Factor: Mark O’Connor. Has been a consistent defender all season, but was tested against Tom Papley against the Swans. If he can control small and mid-sized forwards like Connor Rozee for Port Adelaide, he minimises the scoreboard impact if Geelong find themselves under pressure.


Why West Coast can win it:

Beginning their campaign at their fortress in front of a home crowd is the perfect kickstart to what could be a long run in 2020. The Eagles play a more traditional, old-school line up, unlike a small and speedy side. Any side who matches up against them has to fear a mass of tall key forwards including Jack Darling (2 goal average) and Oscar Allen (1 goal average) who both can’t be left alone. And who is to say Liam Ryan won’t be there to contest on ground? The Eagles are one of the best clearance sides in the competition, with teams fearing the ball heading back to the middle after any goal. Watch out for a hungry Tim Kelly, who, after returning home, has quietly achieved a neat 20 disposal average.


The X-Factor: Nic Naitanui. Arguably the best ruck man in this finals campaign alongside Collingwood’s Brodie Grundy. A stellar average of 29.4 hit outs prove he is hard to beat above ground, but is also versatile to follow up his ruck work in the next contest. The Eagles look to their giant in the middle when the game is in the balance, and it’s hard to see why Nic Nat won’t create some magic come game time.


Why St Kilda can win it:

For the first time since 2011, Saints fans can look forward to their boys running out in October. Coach Brett Ratten has changed the morale of the club and given them a shot at pushing to be respected in the finals. New recruit Dan Butler (2 goal average) has brought a new standard and energy to the side, which has been matched by Jack Steele around each contest. But it will be the lesser known packs who need to prove themselves, such as Ed Phillips (12 disposal average), who has been coming into his own in front of goal. Ratten’s men bring a younger element to this finals series, but the Saints must bring composure and maturity in this high-intensity clash with the Dogs. If they can stop the hungry dogs from getting ahead early, especially sowing down their fast-paced midfield, they’ll be able to feed the ball to Max King and steady themselves. Brad Hill must also prove that he was worth the effort.


The X-Factor: Max King. Yes, already a household name, but this is as good a chance as ever to prove that he is well-worth the attention. Must be strong overhead and hold marks, but must not let the pressure get to his head. A very capable young forward, must use his height, but also his agility to overcome some more experienced defenders if he wants to impact.


Why Western Bulldogs can win it:

The third time in five year that the Doggies fund themselves in seventh, many fans are seeing signs of their 2016 run to glory. Taking apart a fair few top eight sides, it’s easy to see that their young legs mixed with some finals experience can come out early and apply scoreboard pressure. With Marcus Bontempelli named in the All-Australian Squad, all eyes will be on him to again reach new heights through the middle in the finals. With an average of 144 handballs each game, it’s evident that the Doggies like to move the ball swiftly, relying on a high-pressure gam to force their opponent to turn the ball over, so they can run it up the corridor. Luke Beveridge has been preparing his team for a smooth run into the finals, building momentum and game time in his younger players like Cody Weightman and Pat Lipinski (16.8 disposal average), to fit right into a side filled with finals experience in To Liberatore, Lachie Hunter and more who were ort of the 2016 success.


The X-Factor: Caleb Daniel. Named in the 40-man All-Australian Squad, Daniel averages 19.8 touches at 82 percent efficiency, one of the best in his side. Often flies low, given him space to impact a contest and use his speed to over the ball forward rapidly. He knows what it feels like to be on the big stage and can deliver some crushing blows to his opposition f they let him run as he pleases.


Why Collingwood can win it:

Eighth position doesn’t show the intensity that Collingwood has brought to each clash in 2020. No Steele Sidebottom may be no issue for Adam Treloar (28 disposal average) and the stalwart captain Scott Pendlebury (24 disposal average) whose smooth games see them delivery quick, but almost flawless marks to their forwards. The Pies play a knock-on game like Richmond, lifting their intensity to cause their opponents to be shaken up around the contest. The lowest scoring side of the season in the top eight (965), however, the Pies are the third lowest side scored against (881). Their defensive game is one that has highlighted them as a serious threat from the start of the year. Laying an average of 51 tackles weekly, Buckley will pull out all the stops to slow t West Coast Eagles’ run on in week one.


The X-Factor: Jack Crisp. The defender seems to be in every contest but flies under the radar when it comes to recognition, which is a positive for the Pies. Averaging 19.6 disposals each week at 77 percent efficiency, Pies fans are sure to look for Crisp if the going gets tough, but also to create the run off half-back.


With every team boasting some superstars and some undercover talent, it’s going to be an intense finals series.



For more from Anna, click here.





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About Anna Pavlou

Anna 'Pav' Pavlou is a current student and a born and bred Melburnian who has a passion for sport and sharing people's stories. She is an intern journalist for AFL VICTORIA and writes for The Roar, the Victorian Amateur Football Association (VAFA Media), the Mongrel Punt and is a Melbourne Cricket Club contributor. She also appears on North West FM 98.9 radio show. Most winter weekends you'll find her down at the Ross Gregory Oval in St Kilda, supporting Power House FC, who play in Division 2 in the VAFA. She works as the Division 2 writer for the VAFA. She completed work experience with 3AW Radio and has been published in The Age as well as with Carlton FC and Geelong Cats. Check out her website below for more sport pieces!


  1. Brisbane v Richmond so crucial, Anna. Can’t see the loser winning the flag. But the winner is a big chance.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Good analysis, Anna! This final series indeed shapes up as one where almost every team involved has a decent chance of ultimate success, as you indicate.

  3. YeahTigers2020 says

    Hi Anna, Agree that Shai bring x-factor. He has been fantastic this season. Love Balta and Baker this season too. Their improvement has been pivotal. Am glad Port and Geelong kick things off this Thu so we don’t have the pressure of the first game.

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