Sport The questions to be answered for each team in the 2020 AFL finals series

01:01  29 september  2020
01:01  29 september  2020 Source:   msn.com

The AFL all-time great alphabet teams: Letter R

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The 2020 Australian Football League finals series will be the 124th annual edition of the VFL/ AFL finals series , the Australian rules football tournament staged to determine the winner of the 2020

2020 AFL finals series Week 1 First qualifying final : Port Adelaide Power vs Geelong Cats 7:40pm (AEST), Adelaide Oval, Thursday October 1 Geelong just They’ll play the Western Bulldogs – a side they clashed with frequently in the later years of last decade – in an elimination final at the Gabba on

It was no certainty we would get this far — but now it's time for four weeks of AFL finals unlike any we've seen before.

We always look to September to answer key questions for all the sides in the top eight. This being 2020, we are swapping September for October, but the same idea will apply.

On the basis of this crazy, shortened-quarters, hub-based season, we've already learned a lot about the eight remaining teams in contention for the flag.

But here are some of the key issues still unresolved, that only the nine games left in the season can put to rest.

The AFL all-time great alphabet teams: Letter S

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The Toyota AFL Finals Series fixture has been announced A premiership Eagle will miss the rest of the season The Power face a selection dilemma. 40 players, but only 22 spots. Find out who's in contention for the 2020 AFL All Australian Team .


Can the Bulldogs make a big finals run like 2016?

Is this a year where someone can win the AFL flag from seventh?

The Western Bulldogs did it in 2016, but you need everything to go right — and the Dogs are already taking a chance by bringing back spearhead Aaron Naughton (fractured cheekbone) and Mitch Wallis (shoulder) for the elimination final against St Kilda.

They have won five of their last six games going into finals, but they don't have that feeling of a danger side the way they did four years ago.

The Bulldogs have a talented team, particularly with Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Josh Dunkley in midfield — but Naughton is a game-changer, if he is fit and firing.

They will also want to get physical, after being monstered by GWS in last year's finals.

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It's a hard road to get there — beat the Saints, then take on the Lions or Tigers in order to get a shot at Port Adelaide or Geelong in the prelim.

It seems highly unlikely — and yet with all we've seen in this unparalleled season, you couldn't completely discount it.


Will Collingwood cut the handball and go direct?

The Magpies have won three of their last six matches, and they have done enough to make finals.

But where are the winning scores going to come from? Collingwood's attack averages just 56.76 points a game for the season.

This is eight points behind the next highest scoring finals side, West Coast, and more than two goals on average behind Geelong (70.46 per game).

One of the key questions for Nathan Buckley's team is their style of play and whether it can get things done in finals. The Pies are heavy on the handball — against Port Adelaide in round 18, they had 161 kicks and 150 handballs, a ratio of 1.07.

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Over the entire season Collingwood has a kick to handball ratio of 1.21 — only the Western Bulldogs (1.16) have more handball in the mix.

The other element is that when the Pies do kick the ball, it is often down the line rather than through the corridor.

Collingwood already has the toughest route in the finals, having to travel to Perth for a "win or go home" match against the Eagles.

When you add in going slow and wide to the mix, it makes their challenge even greater.


Can the Saints get their mojo back?

The Saints have waited nine years to make the finals, since being bounced out by Sydney in week one of 2011.

They want to make an impression on their return — but the question is, which St Kilda will turn up?

After a mixed first few rounds, St Kilda got moving in 2020 — they hit the top four after back-to-back wins at Adelaide Oval, including a stunning victory over high-flyers Port Adelaide.

But then towards the end of the 17-game season, the Saints lost their way again.

Three losses out of their last four games — to Geelong, Brisbane and Melbourne — meant Brett Ratten's men go into the finals with no great momentum.

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ESL students are often very good at answering questions because a normal mode of class operation is that the teacher asks a question and the student answers it. It’s an excellent way for them to work together as a team and to have a bit of fun in the process.

Let me name each team as A, B, C, D, E, F. So, lets start counting number of matches played by each team one after the other. 1. Team A will play with B 1st scenario: 4 teams reached semis based on Points table. So 2 semis & 1 Final . So total number of matches played in the tournament is 15+3= 18.

When they were firing, the Saints were clearance and contested possession demons, with the likes of Jack Steele, the now-injured Zak Jones, Jack Billings, Hunter Clark and the mobile Rowan Marshall playing a big part.

They also seem to work better when goal-sneak Dan Butler is taking his chances.

That combination hasn't been clicking lately, and if it doesn't come together against the Bulldogs, the Saints will be waiting for 2021 to make that impression.


Will the Eagles have the cattle to go deep in October?

West Coast is an enigma — a team that knows how to get the job done in finals, yet at times in 2020 a team that couldn't get the bread and butter wins on the board.

Conditions and attitude proved a problem early on, as the Eagles did not adapt well enough to their temporary Queensland home.

Early losses to Gold Coast, Brisbane and Port Adelaide put them behind the eight ball. West Coast recovered when the team got back to Perth, but late season losses to finals rivals Richmond and Western Bulldogs denied them a vital top-four spot.

The injury list at the Eagles has been a growing problem, with Elliott Yeo already gone for the year, and players such as Luke Shuey, Lewis Jetta, spearhead Josh Kennedy and key defender Jeremy McGovern all missing time.

The plan may be to roll the dice and bring most back. But will they all stay on the field?

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There is a danger — particularly with McGovern's troublesome hamstring — in taking a chance on players who may not be 100 per cent.

It's not all bad news, since any team with Nic Naitanui taking charge at stoppages is never without a chance.

There are more issues than personnel for West Coast, though — the Eagles at least have the advantage of a first home final against the eighth-placed Magpies.

However, this is an elimination final, so if they win they will have to cross the country again, most likely to the Gabba.

Whether West Coast's kick-and-mark gamestyle translates to October evenings in Brisbane is another big question.


Will the Cats avoid getting jumped early?

It's a time-honoured cliche that finals football is a step up in intensity, so if teams are not on their game from the opening bounce they will be in a world of trouble.

Unfortunately for Geelong, this lesson does not seem to have sunk in yet.

In 2017, the Cats played Richmond in the qualifying final. They were kept goal-less in the first quarter, had two goals to half-time, and ended up losing by 51 points.

After beating Sydney in the semi-final, they were crushed by the Crows in the prelim, blown out by six goals to one in the first term.

In 2018, the Cats lost to Melbourne in an elimination final after again kicking just two goals to half-time.

And last year the team kicked one goal to quarter-time and just seven for the match against Collingwood to lose a qualifying final.

In the closing stages of 2020, similar poor starts against the Bulldogs, Swans and Tigers led to two uncomfortably close wins and a loss.

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The Cats last won the flag in 2011. Since then, the "dynasties" of Hawthorn and Richmond have taken over.

The team has plenty of experience, the dominant forward in the game in Tom Hawkins, and a potential game-changer in Patrick Dangerfield — but unless the Cats discover a way of starting strongly in finals, that wait for a premiership is set to continue.


Can the Lions learn to kick straight and win home finals?

Last year, Richmond came to Brisbane for a qualifying final and showed the Lions how to kick straight when it counted — the Tigers kicked 18.4, the Lions booted 8.17, and lost by 47.

The following week was a cut-throat final against GWS, and the Giants did enough to win by three points, with the Lions kicking 11.14 to end up on the wrong side of a devastating loss.

This season the trend has continued. The worst example came against Richmond in round 10.

The Lions kicked a wayward 4.17 as a string of gettable shots went narrowly — or not-so-narrowly — wide.

This time round, there is no excuse for Brisbane. They have last year's experience to draw upon.

They have avoided most of the big draining road trips (not to mention hub life), so they should have the energy for the challenge of finals.

The Lions control their own destiny — two wins at home will give them the chance to win the flag on their home ground at the Gabba.

The question is — have the Lions learned their lesson?

Can Eric Hipwood, Charlie Cameron, Cameron Rayner, Lincoln McCarthy, Callum Ah Chee, Lachie Neale, Dayne Zorko and others take their opportunities in front of goal?

If they can't improve their conversion, it could be another disappointing finals series in Brisbane.


Will the Tigers stay under control in the finals?

Richmond's all-out approach to football has brought them great success in recent years.

That high-energy, get-it-forward-at-all-costs game style has proven hard to stop for opposing teams.

The Roar’s NRL expert tips and predictions: Finals Week 1

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However, there have been times this season when the Tigers have taken things a little too far.

Aside from a couple of high-profile COVID-19 protocol breaches, the team has had a number of on-field incidents where their version of unsociable football got them in trouble.

Tom Lynch and Jack Riewoldt are among a number of Richmond players that have been guilty of going a bit too hard at times this season.

While Lynch has been ruled out of week one of the finals against Brisbane with a hamstring problem, the Tigers will hope to have him back for the business end of proceedings.

At their best, the Tigers appear capable of taking care of anyone in their way as they challenge for a third flag in four years.

They have game-winners like Dustin Martin, who has plenty of room for improvement in October.

The Tigers have handled playing in Brisbane well — and they trounced the Lions at The Gabba last year in the qualifying final so the venue should hold no fears for them.

The bottom line is that finals campaigns can turn on a few incidents. The question for Richmond is whether the team can produce controlled aggression that helps them get the edge on their rivals, or will someone step over the line and disrupt their challenge for the flag?


Can the Power stop teams taking marks inside 50?

Port Adelaide led the ladder from round one to round 18, so why aren't they going into finals as strong favourites?

They have only lost three times, but it's not just that the games they dropped were big losses — it was that they were wiped by teams that they are likely to face in October.

Against the Lions, Port Adelaide conceded 12 marks inside their defensive 50 to just four marks inside their own forward 50.

The Saints didn't win the marks inside 50 — or contested marks around the ground — but they won almost everything else, and proved too strong.

And against Geelong? It was a painful night for the Power, as the Cats had a massive 18 marks inside 50, against just two for Port Adelaide.

With that many set shots at goal, even if some of them were at disadvantageous angles, a fair number of them were going to go through.

Then in the final game of the regular season, Port Adelaide looked shaky at times against Collingwood — the Magpies took seven marks inside 50 to the Power's four, with Mason Cox and Jamie Elliott accounting for several.

The Power prevailed in the end, but it was a close run thing.

The obvious point to be made here is that several of their rivals for the flag — particularly Richmond, Geelong and West Coast — have some dangerous tall forwards, and Port Adelaide's stock of tall defenders is not deep.

If they want to win in finals, against the top teams, they have to avoid giving their opponents too many straightforward opportunities.

The Roar’s NRL expert tips and predictions: Finals Week 1 .
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