The home and away season is done, the serious stuff about to begin. So with the AFL Finals Series on our doorstep, who will make this September theirs?

West Coast v Essendon @ Optus Stadium

Thursday 5th September, 20:10 (AEST)

West CoastEssendon
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
S. Hurn, T. Barrass, W. SchofieldB A. Saad, C. Hooker, A. Francis
HBB. Sheppard, J. McGovern, L. JettaHBC. McKenna, M. Hurley, M. Redman
CD. Sheed, J. Redden, A. GaffCA. McGrath, Z. Merrett, D. Parish
HFW. Rioli, J. Darling, C. MastenHFJ. Stringer, S. McKernan, P. Ambrose
FJ. Cripps, J. Kennedy, L. RyanFA. McDonald-Tipungwuti, M. Brown, O. Fantasia
FOLN. Naitanui, E. Yeo, L. ShueyFOLT. Bellchambers, D. Shiel, D. Heppell
I/CJ. Waterman, T. Hickey, J. Nelson, M. HutchingsI/CJ. Laverde, K. Langford, W. Snelling, B. Ham


History:
Played 53: West Coast 24 v Essendon 29.

Last Meeting: AFL Round 14, 2019: West Coast 14.22 (106) defeated Essendon 11.5 (71).

Final Thoughts: The Eagles find themselves in far shakier waters than before Round 23, with a do-or-die elimination final to kick off the AFL Finals Series. A win over Hawthorn was all that was needed to secure a top four spot (and with it, the double chance) in the last game of the season, but Adam Simpson’s side let it slip and allowed Collingwood to take their spot. Equal premiership favourites with Richmond (at $3.75 with Palmerbet) just three weeks ago, the Eagles are now out to $9.50. Still, they should have too much firepower for the Dons on their home deck. History suggests they will find it hard to win the flag from fifth, but who would ever write off last season’s premiers? And with Nic Naitanui due to return, they are a side that should be feared.

The Bombers, quite incredibly, haven’t won in September since 2004. After a strong mid-season purple patch they’ve limped to the end of the season, and will need to pull something special out of the hat to salute in the west. With uncertainty over John Worsfold’s future and the fitness of several key players, can they put 15 years of finals pain to bed with their backs to the wall?

Tip: To get 30+ disposals: Elliot Yeo (WCE) @ $3.30

Geelong v Collingwood @ MCG

Friday 6th September, 19:50 (AEST)

GeelongCollingwood
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
Z.Tuohy, M.Blicavs, H.TaylorBL.Greenwood, J.Roughead, J.Howe
HBM.O’Connor, J.Henry, T.StewartHBJ.Crisp, D.Moore, B.Maynard
CM.Duncan, P.Dangerfield, B.ParfittCT.Phillips, S.Pendlebury, C.Mayne
HFG.Ablett, E.Ratugolea, G.RohanHFS.Sidebottom, B.Mihocek, W.Hoskin-Elliott
FL.Dahlhaus, T.Hawkins, J.BewsFJ.Elliott, J.De Goey, J.Stephenson
FOLR.Stanley, T.Kelly, J.SelwoodFOLB.Grundy, A.Treloar, T.Adams
I/CJ.Kolodjashnij, T.Atkins, G.Miers, Q.NarkleI/CJ.Noble, C.Brown, J.Thomas, R.Wills


History:
Played 233: Geelong 100 v Collingwood 132 (1 draw).

Last Meeting: AFL Round 1, 2019: Collingwood 9.11 (65) lost to Geelong 10.12 (72).

Final Thoughts: Collingwood welcome back a bevy of stars for this intriguing Qualifying Final. Jaidyn Stephenson is back after an extended ban, last year’s Gary Ayres Medalist Steele Sidebottom returns, proven big game specialist Jordan De Goey comes into the side after an injury layoff, and Darcy Moore return to sure-up the defence. But how will they deal with this many ‘ins’ at once? Nathan Buckley has assured fans each player will be fine. Certainly the return of De Goey and Stephenson provides extra headaches for the Cats, who in recent times have been brilliant in defence against Collingwood, conceding an average of just 56 points in their last three clashes.

For Chris Scott, he’ll take confidence in the fact his side finished the home and away season strongly, and also that they have the recent wood over Collingwood (three straight wins). Questions remain whether two media narratives – Geelong playing ‘home’ finals at the MCG rather than GMHBA Stadium, and their recent post-bye record of 2-11 – will play any part in the result. What we do know is that Cats ruckman Rhys Stanley has a huge task to quell the influence of Brodie Grundy. Given the last five matches between these two sides have been decided by 1-39 points, whoever gets consistent first use of the footy from the contest could determine the result.

Tip: Margin: Collingwood by 1-39 pts @ $2.50

Greater Western Sydney v Western Bulldogs @ Giants Stadium

Saturday 7th September, 15:20 (AEST)

GWSWestern Bulldogs
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
H.Shaw, P.Davis, S.ReidBT.Duryea, Le.Young, H.Crozier
HBA.Corr, N.Haynes, L.WhitfieldHBJ.Johannisen, Z.Cordy, E.Wood
CZ.Williams, T.Taranto, A.KennedyCL.Hunter, M.Bontempelli, E.Richards
HFJ.Finlayson, H.Himmelberg, B.DanielsHFB.Dale, J.Schache, S.Lloyd
FT.Greene, J.Cameron, B.DeledioFB.Smith, A.Naughton, T.McLean
FOLS.Mumford, H.Perryman, D.LloydFOLT.English, J.Dunkley, J.Macrae
I/CS.Taylor, J.Hopper, J.Kelly, M.de BoerI/CM.Suckling, R.West, P.Lipinski, W.Hayes


History:
Played 11: GWS 5 v Western Bulldogs 6.

Last Meeting: AFL Round 22, 2019: GWS 9.11 (65) lost to Western Bulldogs 19.12 (126).

Final Thoughts: One of modern footy’s best rivalries resumes on Saturday afternoon and the stakes are high yet again. In one of this century’s best ever games, the Dogs upset the Giants in a 2016 prelim thriller on the way to their drought-breaking flag win. Could they notch another famous away victory? Punters certainly think so. Despite finishing a game below the Giants on the AFL ladder, behind them on percentage, and being forced to travel interstate, the Dogs start as $1.78 favourites in Western Sydney. Why? It’s all about momentum. And Luke Beveridge’s side have it in spades. They’ve won seven of their last nine and are one of the competition’s in-form sides, peaking (like in 2016) at the perfect time. Just three weeks ago the Dogs booted the final 12 goals of the game to completely overrun the Giants.

But Leon Cameron will take solace in the fact that missing that day was a number of key players, among them Coleman Medalist Jeremy Cameron. The Giants have been one of the most inconsistent sides in the top eight (alongside Essendon) this AFL season, and one of the biggest questions heading into this elimination final is which side will rock up: the one that thrashed Collingwood in July, or the one who were thumped by the Hawks three games ago? We know the talent is there, but whether they can match the Dogs grunt will decide the contest.

Tip: Line: Western Bulldogs -3.5 @ $1.90

Brisbane Lions v Richmond @ The Gabba

Saturday 7th September, 19:25 (AEST)

BrisbaneRichmond
PosPlayerPosPlayer
B
L.Hodge, H.Andrews, M.AdamsBD.Astbury, N.Broad, D.Grimes
HBA.Witherden, D.Gardiner, D.RichHBB.Houli, N.Vlastuin, J.Short
CD.Zorko, J.Berry, M.RobinsonCB.Ellis, D.Prestia, J.Caddy
HFC.Cameron, E.Hipwood, H.McCluggageHFD.Rioli, T.Cotchin, K.Lambert
FO.McInerney, D.McStay, C.RaynerFS.Bolton, T.Lynch, J.Riewoldt
FOLS.Martin, L.Neale, J.LyonsFOLT.Nankervis, S.Edwards, D.Martin
I/CA.Christensen, L.McCarthy, Z.Bailey, N.AnswerthI/CI.Soldo, L.Baker, J.Graham, J.Castagna

 

History: Played 30: Brisbane 8 v Richmond 21 (1 draw).

Last Meeting: AFL Round 23, 2019: Richmond 12.10 (82) defeated Brisbane 8.7 (55).

Final Thoughts: After an exciting clash in Round 23, these two sides meet again – this time back up north at The Gabba, and with far more at stake. The Tigers are unquestionably the team to beat this September. Their form and momentum heading in to the AFL Finals Series is reflected in the markets, too, as (current) $3.10 flag favourites with Palmerbet. Damien Hardwick’s side have incredibly won their last 13 encounters with Brisbane, with the Lions last win coming back in 2009, which is also the last year they played finals footy.

But despite starting as $1.65 favourites in this one, the Tigers’ path to a second premiership in three years is far from straightforward. As we well know, those who have written off the Lions at various stages throughout season 2019 have invariably ended up with egg on their face. Chris Fagan’s side have been this year’s surprise packet, finishing in the top four despite starting the season as $12 outsiders in that market. And what they lack in finals experience (14 Lions are yet to taste September action) they make up for in talent and ferociousness around the footy. This is a side who haven’t let up in 2019, and they sure as hell won’t be doing so on Saturday evening. Strap in for a big one.

Tip: Winning Margin: Richmond 1-24 points @ $3.20