Sport AFL Nathan Burke: AFL finals have the step-sisters but no Cinderella

Nathan Burke: AFL finals have the step-sisters but no Cinderella

Damien Hardwick and Trent Cotchin lift the premiership cup
Richmond had a Cinderella story in 2017, but this year who really wants it to win? Photo: AAP
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Whether it is the downtrodden battler or the success-starved drought breaker, we all love a good sporting Cinderella story.

Looking at the clubs left in the race for the AFL premiership, I see more ugly step-sisters involved than downtrodden, deserving waifs.

Quite frankly none of them carry an interesting storyline that would make me cheer for them as a neutral fan.

Geelong certainly has some individual stories that could add extra emotion to a 2019 flag.

It would most likely be the last hurrah and a great send off for the inimitable Gary Ablett Jr plus a fitting reward for Patrick Dangerfield’s brilliance.

But even these plot points aren’t enough to overcome the fact that the Cats have become a little bit sooky under coach Chris Scott.

But the Cats have won a few now, they aren’t overly likeable and for some reason have promoted a siege mentality down at Sleepy Hollow.

If you want an ‘us against them’ attitude, don’t expect the ‘them’ to get behind you when we have a choice between you and your opponent.

The Magpies came agonisingly close last year and by releasing a documentary that highlights the warm and fuzzy human side of the club’s inner sanctum, it shows the PR department has a few genius’ on board.

Showing the once brash and uncompromising Nathan Buckley as the new age and authentic leader he has become did tug on the heartstrings.

Here is a man who gave his all as a player and now coach without ever reaching the pinnacle. If there is a man worthy of success it is surely Bucks.

Which is all well and good, but in the end we are still talking about Collingwood.

I can’t bring myself to barrack for the Pies and it only brings back memories of having to endure their rabid gloating fans as a Saints’ supporter in 2010.

West Coast won it last year, so that automatically disqualifies them from any Cinderella story. The Eagles went to the ball and the dream came true.

West Coast Eagles celebrate their 2018 premiership. Photo: Getty 

Then there are the Tigers.

The breaking of their 37-year premiership drought had the footy world saying ‘good on them’.

However, the subsequent return of the formidable, yet totally arrogant, Tiger Army is enough for the rest of us to never want to see that bandwagon roll into town again.

This leaves Greater Western Sydney and for some reason it is just hard to get behind the Giants.

Perhaps it is the way they were introduced into the league direct from AFL HQ and the sheer amount of young talent that has been handed to them over the journey.

The AFL’s policies on the Giants certainly stifled the development and access to players many other teams desperately needed.

I can’t even feel empathy for their long-suffering band of loyal supporters because basically they don’t know what suffering is.

Try supporting a team that is more than 140 years old and only ever won one flag.

We lost two sides on the weekend but really they offered no help with my dilemma anyway.

Essendon hasn’t won a final for 15 years and in normal circumstances this may garner some support from the footy world.

But given John Worsfold’s apparently tenuous hold over his coaching job, many neutrals would prefer to see the car crash than avert it with a finals win.

With one loss the whole narrative surrounding the Bombers changed into a more interesting one for the football public.

The Western Bulldogs have also enjoyed one of footy’s best ever Cinderella stories in 2016. Coming from seventh on the ladder to break a 62-year drought is just too hard to top.

Which just leaves us with the Brisbane Lions.

By finishing last season in 15th and rising to second this year, the Lions will have attracted plenty of new fans.

Brisbane Lions coach Chris Fagan has got his team in contention for a flag. Photo: Getty 

They play a great brand of football and have a coach in Chris Fagan who is almost impossible to dislike.

Yet how many of us have forgotten the Lions domination of 2001 to 2003.

After a hat-trick of flags, most neutral fans probably reckon they deserve a longer time out of the spotlight.

So I have concluded that we have no Cinderella story this year and have to pin our hopes on the winner being simply the best team through the course of the finals series.

With some of footy’s biggest clubs in the mix, it should be engrossing for the fans involved. For the rest of us – let us know when it is done.

Nathan Burke is a former St Kilda captain who played 323 AFL games for the Saints, winning three Trevor Barker Awards as best-and-fairest player.

AFL finals schedule –

Friday Sept 13: First Semi-Final, Geelong v West Coast at the MCG, 7.50pm

Saturday Sept 14: Second Semi-Final, Brisbane v GWS at the Gabba, 7.25pm

Friday, Sept 20: Second Preliminary Final, Richmond v Geelong/West Coast at the MCG, 7.50pm

Saturday, Sept 21: First Preliminary Final, Collingwood v Brisbane/GWS at the MCG, time TBC

SATURDAY, Sept 28: AFL Grand Final

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