The Western Bulldogs won the 2016 Premiership seemingly against the odds, that was from the outside however, inside the four walls of that football club, they definitely believed the AFL’s ultimate was very achievable.
“Why not us?” was the catchcry used by the Bulldogs that year, and that same sentiment should be held by every club this season, because as this year has proven so far the script for world sport in 2020 is anything but normal.
Every premiership or championship win will have an Asterix next to it, and the rulebook has now essentially been thrown out, and so to should the expectations of a team that wasn’t fancied to achieve much this year.
If you had asked me at the beginning of the year, I would have confidently told you that I thought Richmond would win this year’s premiership.
We knew Richmond were clearly the best team in the competition, and let’s be honest they still are, they aren’t the most star-studded powerhouse we’ve ever seen, but they are certainly one of the most well-drilled.
I can still say with conviction that the Tigers are the best team in the league, but I don’t have the same confidence that they will win this year’s premiership, and that’s not necessarily a knock on them, but just the unknown nature of this year’s competition.
We don’t know how the best teams are going to rebound from the enforced lay-off, and that’s purely because none of the AFL’s clubs have experienced anything like this before.
Everyone is learning, which makes the playing field remarkably more even upon the resumption of football this month.
16 rounds of football remain in the 2020 season before finals, with reduced quarters also in effect, which means less football this season, and less fatigue on younger bodies.
So should the AFL’s younger sides be seeing 2020 as a bit of a free hit? Absolutely.
Gold Coast, Fremantle, Sydney and Brisbane are the youngest sides in the AFL competition, and the Dockers and Swans actually aren’t any younger than the Lions, who made an appearance in a preliminary final last year.
Sure, a club’s age profile doesn’t reflect their readiness in flag contention, Carlton for instance have a slightly older list than Brisbane, and are well behind the Lions in regards to the premiership pecking order.
Now I’m not for a second saying Gold Coast can win the premiership this year, I can’t believe I just wrote that, even putting Gold Coast and premiership in the same sentence makes me uneasy.
I’m also not saying that the Swans can shock everyone and win that elusive flag with Lance Franklin, even though I’d absolutely love that (please, make it happen).
But if you’re those clubs, you might aswell try and seize the day in a shortened season, particularly as we don’t know how some of the better performing clubs will bounce back when footy returns, and 2020 has shown one thing, it’s expect the unexpected.
More realistic surprises would be a team like Essendon, who have shown us their ability to play exciting, fast football – perhaps a shortened season with shortened quarters will suit them, could they steal a flag?
You can never write off a team that has Alastair Clarkson as their head coach, and Hawthorn’s list has received some decent bolstering in recent off-seasons.
You can imagine Clarkson’s head would be spinning with ideas at the moment as to how his side can gain an upper hand, he’s the greatest coach of the modern era and an adept thinker of the game.
If you’re a team like the Adelaide Crows, you entered the season with little to look forward to, a new coach, younger list, 2020 looked like a necessary year to just endure, as they look to build to something more prosperous in the future.
But now with a revised season, and a more exuberant list, you wouldn’t blame them for thinking, it’s only a 17 round season, why can’t we give this a shake?
Port Adelaide (who sit top after round one, as if every Power fan you’ve bumped into already hasn’t told you) and the Bulldogs, like Essendon, are two teams that have also lacked consistency in recent years, but are definitely capable of finishing higher on the ladder.
I actually think one of the Power or Bulldogs could win the whole thing this year, we remember how disappointing Richmond were in seasons leading up to their 2017 Grand Final win, don’t we?
It makes me wonder, is the main danger to Richmond, not one of GWS, West Coast, Collingwood, Geelong or Brisbane, but a less fancied team that attacks this 17 round season with the same “why not us?” attitude that the Bulldogs did in 2016?
2020 has been that unusual, that a well-fancied side winning the premiership simply just wouldn’t suit it.
I think this mysterious season, with less games and shorter quarters, is wide open, and you could mount a case for any club in the AFL, dare I say it, perhaps even Gold Coast.. (could you imagine that?!)
Not many people thought the Bulldogs would win when they did – could 2020 be the year we see someone else steal a premiership?