Invincible. As of late, this word has become extinct in the AFL.
Only a couple of rounds ago, such a bold term would have been used by most football fans and ‘experts’ to describe St. Kilda. However, a group of finals-hungry Bombers put a stop to that notion last Sunday.
A year ago, many would have labeled Geelong invincible. But with last night’s 14 point defeat at the hands of an up-and-coming Western Bulldogs outfit, no one can deny that Geelong is limping towards September.
21 rounds into the AFL season and the 2010 premiership is far from a done deal for any team. While one couldn’t possibly deny St. Kilda the much-earned label of ‘favourites’ as a result of a solitary defeat, it’s clear that on any given day, any team can beat another.
After all, was anyone expecting Hawthorn to beat Geelong last year in the game that mattered most? Added to that, would anyone have expected Hawthorn to now be in real danger of missing this year’s final series following their ‘break-out’ 2009 season and premiership?
And that’s what’s so thrilling about our game. At any point in time, it is always possible that the wooden spooner can defeat the benchmark team.
So, one round out from the finals, what can we expect to see in September? We can expect a highly competitive finals series. The top four are very hard to split.
St. Kilda have earned their place as favourites. But who knows what will happen in September. Let’s face it, there’s very little finals experience in that St. Kilda team. As Geelong have discovered in the most painful of ways, that last day in September can throw up anything and everything.
Added to this, is anyone really brave enough to completely discount Geelong at this stage? There’s no doubt that they are the walking wounded at the moment but we haven’t hit September yet. Inject some experience in the form of Brad Ottens and a fit Stevie Johnson or Paul Chapman and they are still as capable of ever.
Speaking of capable, Collingwood has been showing rare form as of late. While losing such an experienced assistant coach in Brad Scott won’t be of any assistance to the Magpies’ premiership plight, everything seems to be falling nicely for the Pies. Travis Cloke’s form is improving and no one can deny that this is one well-drilled and selfless team.
And to round off the top four contenders, let’s speak of the Western Bulldogs. Arguably, they are the sentimental favourite. They’ve struggled throughout their history and what better way to see Brad Johnson thanked for his many years of service to the Dogs.
But in only focusing on the top four, we are also ignoring the very possibility of an ‘outsider’ causing some major trouble. If Essendon goes on to make the eight, who’s to say a repeat of last week couldn’t happen again? Added to this, Carlton seem to be flourishing at the right time. Even Adelaide are no easy beats.
Bottom line: the 2010 AFL premiership is still very alive for any team that makes the finals.