We are all geared up for one last opening week.
Known as a season within a season, everything that happened in the regular season is now gone.
Here’s our final weekly look at each club’s talking points and commentators for each Fox Footy game ahead of the first week of finals. The mine!
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AFL Final Week One (all times AEST)
Brisbane Lions v Richmond
Second elimination final
Thursday 1 September, 7.20pm AEST at Gabba
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 at 6.20pm, hosted by Sarah Jones with Jason Dunstall, David King, Leigh Montagna, Alastair Lynch and John Ralph.
The Lions’ burning question: How will Zorko respond to the betrayal controversy when his people need him more than ever?
Zorko made headlines for the wrong reasons at the Lions two weeks ago with an ill-advised swipe at Harrison Petty that left the Demons youngster in tears. Chris Fagan’s side clinched a top-four berth as Brisbane thrashed Melbourne by 58 points in a quiet game that shone through from the Lions boss. But the Lions will look to put that aside when they take on the Tigers and try to atone for their 1-5 finals record at Fagan. However, premiership-winning Eagles Will Schofield says he will try to get under Zorko’s skin this week after watching how poorly Brisbane played against Melbourne.
“Maybe I should try and piss him off. You want to keep it above the belt, but you want to use everything to your advantage,” Schofield said on Fox Footy. AFL tonight. “Dyne Zorko is a good player and the captain of the team. I think you have to try to upset him and take him out of the game because last week he didn’t have a good game and he was outside of what he usually does. If you put him in that situation again, I wouldn’t take that off the table.
The Tigers’ burning question: How much lift does Dusty provide?
It has not yet been officially confirmed that Dustin Martin is expected to make his first appearance against the Lions since the Round of 16 due to a serious head injury. We haven’t seen much of Martin this year as he only played eight games due to personal reasons and a muscle strain. But he is likely to bounce back from his September streak in recent years, winning three Norm Smith Medals on the biggest stage of all. He also excelled at the Gabba, hitting 10.0 straight in three finals at the position. by Fantasy FreakoIncluding his impressive performance in the 2020 decider. Martin’s return is timely as the Tigers and Lions add another chapter to their final rivalry in recent years.
Speaking on Fox Football AFL 360, Tigers coach Damien Hardwick suggested Martin “plays a different role” if he makes the final team.
“He mostly plays forward. We know he’s played that role in the past and he’s very talented. He had such good games against Brisbane. We know players like Dustin put themselves where they need to be. I’ve said this many times as a coach, the best players put themselves at the best time. You’ve got a good idea of where to put them.
Melbourne v Sydney Swans
Friday 2 September, 7:50pm AEST at the MCG
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 at 7pm hosted by Gary Lyons with Nick Rialtt, Jonathan Brown, Nathan Buckley, Kat Loughnane, Cameron Mooney and John Ralph.
Demons’ burning question: Will the finals bring out the best in the Dees?
Melbourne’s bowling has been a concern in recent times, including a 16th place finish in the competition over the past six weeks. The only obvious knock on the Newbies ahead of their bid for back-to-back flags is that they sit 16th in average pressure (177) and, more alarmingly, 17th in forward-half pressure. 168). It means Simon Goodwin’s side have struggled offensively at times, although Melbourne sent a scary reminder of just how much damage can be done in their 58-point demolition of Brisbane last fortnight.
Saints great Nick Riewoldt suggested the Deces “struggled to move the ball” but that a more chaotic and competitive brand of Finals could make that less of an issue.
“I think all our worries are in the last period when the pressure is so high when they go back to the way they’ve been playing, because they don’t rely on a perfect foot,” he said on Fox. Legs On the couch. “Even when you go back to last year’s grand final, none of Fritsch’s plays were that pretty – it was just forward interceptions and weight of numbers.”
The Swans’ burning question: Are they sleeping giants in the flag race?
Sydney’s recent form is as good as any side – and it makes for nerve-wracking reading for the other finalists. Heading into the finals with a 5-0 record over the past five weeks, the Swans are at their best and armed with stars all over the field, with a good mix of youth and experience that looks hungry for success. Crucially, their premiership profile ranks first among eight top-eight sides (made up of sweepers). [1st]competition after cleaning [4th]ball movement (1st) ball movement prevention [2nd]). So while many have Geelong and Melbourne ahead of Sydney in the flag race, will John Longmire’s side be disrespected? Don’t cut the Swans short of an upset here.
“Their game is made for finals,” said triple premiership-winning Lions Jonathan Brown. On the couch. “In the last six or eight weeks they have been able to sort out their competition issues and their pressing game is fantastic. Over the past six weeks, they are second only to the difference in turnover and points for contested possessions. If they can bring that elite push like they do every week, they will be in the game.
Geelong Cats v Collingwood
Primary qualification final
Saturday September 3, 4:35pm AEST at the MCG
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 at 3.30pm, hosted by Gary Lyons with Nathan Buckley, Jonathan Brown, Nick Riewoldt, Dermot Breton, Nick Dal Santo and John Ralph.
The Cats’ burning question: Will the final woes atone for qualifying?
Now go away Geelong fans. The Cats have won just one of their last seven qualifiers since 2013 and are just 1-8 in the first week of finals since 2012 (including a loss to Collingwood in 2019). Although there’s a different feel at the Cattery this year – and their more aggressive game plan should keep them afloat in the postseason – their playoff final woes remain unblemished at the club. Throw in that Geelong ‘hosts’ Collingwood at the MCG and there’s enough pressure on the Cats that it won’t be an easy win for Chris Scott’s expansive side.
“When you look at their finals record and their opening quarter, they’ve kicked a total of four goals in their last five opening quarters in week one finals – that’s a poor record,” Brisbane great Jonathan Brown said. On the couch. “They’ve scored less than 10 goals in all those finals, so it’s unachievable, especially in the modern game. I think it’s different this year… but that’s hanging over their heads.
Magpies’ burning question: Can the legend continue?
Collingwood’s 2022 season under Craig McRae’s first spell in charge has been nothing short of spectacular – going from 17th to fourth, including an 11-game winning streak and an unprecedented series of close wins. Of course, the Pies’ percentage of 104.3 is the lowest by a top-four side since Melbourne in 1998 and the third lowest in the AFL era. Real Collingwood has sparked debate over how much of a flag threat it is – not that any of its fellow finalists are underestimating the club. But can a string of recent victories really help them strengthen? Perhaps the biggest enigma of the finalists, the Pies got another big chance to test themselves against the flag’s favorite cats.
“It will be a great challenge. We always say that come the end, percentages are a great benchmark. So Geelong was around 160 per cent over the last six weeks, Collingwood was around 105 per cent,” Jonathan Brown highlighted. On the couch. “It will be interesting to see if that comes into play or if Collingwood continue this impressive run.”
Fremant v Western Bulldogs
First elimination final
Saturday 3 September, 8.10pm AEST at Optus Stadium
How to watch on Fox Footy: Channel 504 from 7.30pm, followed by Jason Dunstall, Brad Johnson, Jordan Lewis, Matthew Pavlich and John Ralph. The best on earth With Mark Howard, Jonathan Brown, Nathan Buckley, Nick Rielt and Kat Loughnan.
Doctors’ burning question: Is their strategy the last thing it’s done?
Fremantle are 15th in the ball movement competition, with many questioning whether the club’s slow and methodical approach will suit the finals. The Dockers’ concerns in the forward half have also led to them losing reliable goaltending outside of Rory Lobb, who is set to return from injury to bolster that side of the field. And Nate Fyfe, who has featured prominently this season, could miss the rest of the finals after suffering an injury. Justin Longmuir is well aware that the Dogs are 15th in the competition in defense of ball movement, so trying to capitalize on this opportunity could be key to his side’s victory.
“They have to score. They are 17th in points scored and 15th in points over the last six weeks,” said Demons great Garry Lyon. On the couch. But it’s an opportunity to return home against the vulnerable Western Bulldogs, a team that can quickly catch up with them.
Bulldogs burning question: How will they survive without a key barometer?
The Bulldogs’ main strength is their work at the coal face – first in the competition in clearances and stoppage points and sixth in the post-qualification competition. But unfortunately, if you raise it while standing, the dogs are statistically middle of the road. So their midfield barometer, Tom Liberator, is a hammer blow to injury, a vital part of what makes this side fire. Luke Beveridge has a deep ball brigade including Marcus Bontemplin, Josh Dunkley and Jack McRae, but opponents have historically had great success shutting down the Liberatores.