Could two big upsets in the first weekend of the AFL season signal something big for the respective clubs and their hunt for the Top 8?

Yes, yes, we know all the cliches. It’s a marathon not a sprint. You don’t make the finals in March. Etc, etc. But what if the Round 1 performances of two sides means something more than just four points. What if the wins, and more importantly the manner of victory, could signal a finals berth? We’re talking about Adelaide and Sydney, who pulled off huge upsets over two Top 4 sides in 2020 in Brisbane and Geelong. And while some may scoff, it’s not like it hasn’t been done before. In fact, there’s some very recent (and relevant) examples.

History on their side

In 2018, Brisbane finished 15th on the AFL ladder and looked miles away from finals footy. The previous year they had finished as wooden spooners, and in 17th both seasons prior to that. But in 2019, they categorically turned it on. And not only did they squeeze into the AFL finals, but catapulted into second.

Perhaps more incredibly, Richmond had finished in 13th in 2016, yet the following year not only finished inside the Top 4, but ran out 48-point winners on Grand Final day.

So quick turnarounds happen. But could they with happens with the Swans and Crows?

Let’s assess both sides.

Sydney Swans: $3.60 to make the Top 8

For those outside the club, the win against Brisbane (where the Swans started at $4.10) was a complete surprise, but those in the know knew that the young Bloods have been building. While John Longmire’s side finished in the bottom four last season, they blooded games into several youngsters. Importantly, they showed early signs that they were intent on taking the game on with elite kicking. And with the edition of elite young talent in Braeden Campbell, Errol Gulden and Logan McDonald (the latter two of which kicked three apiece against the Lions), there’s the makings of a serious side.

Equally significant, they’re a healthy unit as we speak. With just two players (Robbie Fox and Sam Naismith) unavailable, they possess one of the shortest injury lists in the AFL. Provided this doesn’t blow out, Longmire’s side are a huge chance for finals action in 2021.

Adelaide Crows: $5.50 to make the Top 8

The Crows are a tougher case to make for finals action this season. But, if they can replicate the intensity they showed on Saturday against the Cats (in which they started as $4 outsiders), why not? Matthew Nicks doesn’t have the same young talent at his disposal as the Swans, but recent examples (most notably the Western Bulldogs in 2016) show us that those who bring the heat will inevitably prosper.

If the Crows are ANY chance to make the finals in 2021, however, they simply must take advantage of the AFL’s most forgiving early-season draw. Their next six games are all against clubs who did not make the Top 8 last season: Sydney, Gold Coast, North Melbourne, Fremantle, Hawthorn and GWS. At a bare minimum, one would think they must emerge from the Round 7 clash at 4-3.

This weekend

By chance, the two sides face off this weekend at the SCG. And whoever goes to a surprise 2-0 start will likely shorten again. With Lance Franklin back for the Swans on home turf, they start as strong $1.37 favourites with Palmerbet.