Palmerbet Sports Team asks five key questions ahead of what is set to be an enthralling first week of the 2018 AFL Finals series.

1. Are the Tigers ‘morals’?

With 23 wins on the bounce at the MCG, on the face of it, it appears a ‘yes’. Richmond’s premiership odds have whittled down almost every week in the second half of the season. They currently sit as strong $2.30 favourites to be lifting the cup at around 6pm on September 29. If they do so, they will be the first Tigers side to win back-to-back flags since the Tommy Hafey-coached 1973-74 team. But are they more vulnerable this season compared with last? Despite winning their last six games, Damien Hardwick’s side were ranked 14th for pressure since Round 17. This compares starkly with last season, where they were ranked No.2 in the same period. Other stats in this time are also damning:

However, they’ve also been afforded the luxury to do so. Having had the minor premiership locked away for weeks, they’ve allowed themselves to turn off slightly. Hardwick has no doubt in his side’s ability to ‘flick the switch’ back on. It’s hard to doubt him given his club’s last 18 months.

2. Can the Hawks reprise 2008?

Even Hawks fans will admit (quietly) they didn’t expect to be here. Before the 2018 season, if you told them they’d make the AFL Finals, they’d have been over the moon given their list makeup. Instead, they’ve clinched a top four spot and all of a sudden look a premiership chance. Currently, they are $8.50 flag hopes. How did this happen?

Alastair Clarkson has a supreme ability to revive his sides and the little master has done it again in 2018. In 2008, the underdog Hawks triumphed over the heavily-favoured Geelong. Could we see a similar series of event a decade on? Could a less-fancied Hawks outfit knock off the all-conquering Richmond? Keep in mind, this Hawthorn side has 10 premiership players in its squad. They’ve been here before – some, in fact, several times. Clarko’s side get first crack at the Tigers in Thursday night’s qualifying final where they are currently $3.00 outsiders.

3. Will injuries catch up with the Pies?

From a purely objective point of view (which may be tough for some fans), Collingwood has been the feel-good story of 2018. After losing the first two games of the season, many fans and pundits were predicting yet another mediocre year without AFL Finals under Nathan Buckley. At this stage, they lengthened to $30 premiership hopes. But they went on to win 11 of the next 13 and, as it currently sits, are $7.50 to claim their first premiership since 2010.

If not for the league toughest injury list (alongside GWS), the Pies would arguably be shorter. Setbacks to the likes of Adam Treloar, Lynden Dunn, Darcy Moore, Ben Reid, Matt Scharenberg and Daniel Wells (the full list is even longer) have cruelled their premiership run. While Buckley’s side has fought admirably through this season, will the toll of key outs prove too much in September? The head says ‘yes’, but then again, the Pies have surprised us more than once this season…

4. Can the Dees complete the drought-breaking trifecta?

In 2016, it was the Dogs who broke a 62-year premiership drought. Last year, the Tigers saluted for the first time since 1980. Will 2018 be the year Melbourne breaks its flag hoodoo? We don’t need to remind Dees fans that they haven’t tasted the ultimate success since 1964. Like Dogs and Tigers fans before them, the year is etched in their brain as a constant reminder of their failures in the modern game. With commanding wins against West Coast and GWS to finish the home-and-away season though, the Dees are in brilliant form. And while this is their first AFL Finals series in 12 years, could they become the third surprise packet in a row? Fans love a fairytale finish, and a Dees premiership would be right up there. They are currently $10 hopes – the best-priced club outside the top four.

5. Are the Swans the 2018 smokies?

Common wisdom suggests those outside the top four can’t win the flag. And aside from the Bulldogs anomaly in 2016, this largely rings true. But could the Swans buck the trend in 2018? If any side could do it, the battle-hardened Swans can. Heading into their ninth-straight AFL Finals series, John Longmire’s side has a swathe of players with strong September experience. And at $15, they represent one of the juiciest options heading into September. Even if you don’t fancy the Swans to clear the final hurdle, you can still get $9 on them to make the Grand Final. They’ve progressed to the big dance in 2012, 2014 and 2016. Another one in 2018 has a nice ring to it.