Sport AFL We predict the AFL final eight

We predict the AFL final eight

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So the AFL season comes down to this: the artist formerly known as Round 22 – Round 23 – is on this weekend.

It doesn’t promise the same agony and ecstasy as last year, when late goals from Lewis Jetta and Jack Darling nudged West Coast Eagles above Melbourne on percentage, but there are some unmissable games.

The teams assured a finals spot (only Geelong could potentially drop out) will be doing everything they can to jockey for best position.

We take a look at all the contenders, and tell you how they’ll fare.

Richmond – 17-4, 68 points, 138.3 per cent

Position: 1st
Opponent: Western Bulldogs at the MCG
Best case scenario: 1st
Worst case scenario: 1st
Where we think they’ll finish: 1st

A tough one to get started. Sure, we can all pray for a salary cap scandal to break between now and Saturday afternoon, and we know messrs Martin, Rance and Riewoldt are on a fair quid, but the Tigers are two games clear with one game remaining. They’ve won 20 on the trot at the MCG, and with Dogs’ tails wagging at the prospect of a mad Monday off the leash, we’re predicting they’ll make it 21. Still, it’s all been a little too much of a procession for the Tiges this year – anyone else getting a Geelong in 2008 feel about them? That they might simply waltz to the big dance and bottle it? Just me then?

West Coast – 15-6, 60, 120.8

Position: 2nd
Opponent: Brisbane at the ‘Gabba
Best case scenario: 2nd
Worst case scenario: 4th
Where we think they’ll finish: 2nd

The Eagles should be favourites against Brisbane, which doesn’t have a whole lot to play for, but we know they’ll be without Nic Naitanui, Andrew Gaff and Josh Kennedy. Jack Darling should be right after being concussed on Sunday, but West Coast appears vulnerable. That said, it has been great for most of the year and should be able to get it done in what was once footy’s longest road trip – before they started going to Shanghai.

Collingwood – 14-7, 56, 120.7

Position: 3rd
Opponent: Fremantle at Optus Stadium
Best case scenario: 2nd
Worst case scenario: 6th
Where we think they’ll finish: 3rd

Nathan Buckley must be close to coach of the year, having defied an injury list longer than an Anthony Rocca torp to still be in flag contention. The Pies face a tricky trip out west to play a Fremantle side surely smarting from its 133-point mauling at the Cattery. As with the Eagles’ trip to Brisbane, it’s a potential banana skin that could lead to a painful slip down the ladder. But we think Collingwood will hold on to third spot, and it is only 0.1 per cent behind West Coast, so will be in pole position for second should the Eagles falter.

Hawthorn – 14-7, 56, 120.5

Position: 4th
Opponent: Sydney at the SCG
Best case scenario: 2nd
Worst case scenario: 6th
Where we think they’ll finish: 6th

The Hawks will tumble out of the top four should they fail to beat Sydney and Greater Western Sydney beats Melbourne. Sydney proved too good at the MCG in Round 8, courtesy of the Ben Ronke show, and we’re tipping the Swans will get them again on Saturday night to cost the Hawks a double chance.

Sydney – 14-7, 56, 110.6

Position: 5th
Opponent: Hawthorn at the SCG
Best case scenario: 2nd
Worst case scenario: 6th
Where we think they’ll finish: 4th

Second may be best case scenario, but it’s pie in the sky stuff – the Swans would have to demolish Hawthorn to make up the 10.2 percentage points between them and West Coast. Nevertheless, with the Swans engine room starting to rev up nicely before finals and Lance Franklin (seriously, the form he’s in he should never train again) kicking them for fun, we think Sydney can lock down fourth spot and set up a very tasty clash with Richmond in the first week of finals.

GWS – 13-7-1, 54, 118.1

Position: 6th
Opponent: Melbourne at the MCG
Best case scenario: 3rd
Worst case scenario: 7th
Where we think they’ll finish: 5th

Third is possible, but largely fantasy – the Giants would need Fremantle to beat Collingwood, Sydney and Hawthorn to draw, while enjoying a percentage booster over Melbourne themselves. That said, we think they’re good things against the Demons. They enjoyed a win in their only MCG appearance this year, against Collingwood in Round 2. The Giants had won five in a row to be looking very ominous before their loss to Sydney on Saturday, and we think that sting – coupled with the emotional (and physical) letdown Melbourne might suffer after that heroic win over West Coast on Sunday, will see them home.

Melbourne – 13-8, 52, 129.8

Position: 7th
Opponent: GWS at the MCG
Best case scenario: 4th
Worst case scenario: 8th
Where we reckon they’ll finish: 8th

We get the feeling Melbourne will struggle to back up this week against the hard-running Giants. Their big win in Perth came in hot conditions, and with a day more of a break, we think GWS will be too strong. That could be enough to see Melbourne hold on to seventh, but those pesky Cats will have something to say about that.

Geelong – 12-9, 48, 125.7

Position: 8th
Opponent: Gold Coast at GMHBA Stadium
Best case scenario: 7th
Worst case scenario: 9th
Where we reckon they’ll finish: 7th

Geelong needs to make up 4.2 per cent on the Demons – and we reckon a rudderless Gold Coast could be just the side to do it against. Geelong looked truly scary at times against Fremantle, booting 23 unanswered goals. Tom Hawkins could be in career-best form, and the Cats are starting to purr at the business end of the season.

Port Adelaide – 12-9, 48. 109.6

Position: 9th
Opponent: Essendon at Adelaide Oval
Best case scenario: eighth
Worst case scenario: 12th
Where we reckon they’ll finish: 9th

What a season of missed opportunities for Ken Hinkley’s men. The second Showdown loss, Jeremy McGovern breaking their hearts after the siren, that pathetic performance against Fremantle on the road – the Power just couldn’t get it done when they needed to this year. They’ll likely be too strong for Essendon on Friday night, and it won’t make a lick of difference.

The New Daily’s finals week one predictions:

Qualifying final: Richmond v Sydney at the MCG
Qualifying final: West Coast v Collingwood at Optus Stadium
Elimination final: GWS v Melbourne at Spotless Stadium
Elimination final: Hawthorn v Geelong at the MCG

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