Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 8.
Who is the best player in the AFL?
NS: The crown is there for the taking. After years of Ablett, Buddy, Fyfe, Danger and Dusty being the standout players, it's a wide-open race at the moment. Jeremy Cameron is red hot but he might not even be the best player in his team due to Stephen Coniglio's blistering start to the season. Just look at his impact in centre clearances with the Giants +28 when he's in attendance and -24 when absent (by far the biggest discrepancy in the league). He is a jet.
JM: A fit and firing Patrick Dangerfield is probably the real No. 1, especially when he's playing in the midfield and not as a forward, but right now it's hard to go past Cameron. What he's doing on a consistent basis is extraordinary and the fact we are even pondering the possibility of him kicking 100 goals this season -- he already has 30 after just seven rounds -- sums it up. He's simply operating at a higher level than anyone else right now.
MW: He's in a below-average team, but drop Patrick Cripps into a top four side and he would be an almost unbackable Brownlow Medal favourite. In addition to the usual contested ball and clearance stats he dominates, Cripps is also the league leader for pre-clearance groundball gets and is the No.1 offensive one-on-one player. He's a bona fide superstar.
🎙️ Why the Tigers are roaring 🐅— footytips (@footytips) July 23, 2019
🎙️ @championdata on the last month of footy 📊
🎙️ Xavier Duursma's celebration 👍👎
Ep. 19 of the @ESPNAusNZ #AFL pod:
Will Melbourne play finals?
NS: No. I can see the Demons gaining some momentum through the rest of the season, especially when Viney, May, Lever, Jetta and Co return, but they're just too far behind the eight ball with two wins and a league-worst percentage of 73. After the Suns this week, the Dees have West Coast (Optus Stadium), GWS (MCG), Adelaide (Darwin) and Collingwood (MCG). It's a tough run and they're not in good enough form to get on a serious roll.
JM: The Demons had a horrific opening six weeks, but the reality is they could be just one game and percentage outside of the top eight if they beat the Suns this week. All is not lost for Simon Goodwin's side as this is a long season and it only takes one game to rediscover the magic of 2018. I'm keeping the faith and saying they'll make it... just.
MW: Looking at last year's ladder, 13 wins is the benchmark for making finals, but considering the Dees have the league's worst percentage, they might need to snag an extra win to be in the conversation. They have two wins right now, meaning they'll need a further 11 or 12 from their remaining 15 games. It's an uphill battle and they won't be playing in September.
Which club should chase free agent Stephen Coniglio the hardest?
NS: GWS! Of course every club will be circling him as he's possibly the AFL's best player -- certainly one of the most consistent -- and a future captain of the club. The Giants shed significant salary cap over the off-season, letting Dylan Shiel, Tom Scully and Rory Lobb walk, and that points to the fact they're making room to retain their most important players: Josh Kelly recently, and surely Coniglio will follow.
JM: There has to be 17 clubs interested in Coniglio's services, but I'd be surprised if Carlton didn't pursue him the hardest. The Blues are desperate for some midfield depth and someone who can support skipper Patrick Cripps, both on the inside and outside. But I guess the real question is, would Coniglio even consider a move to the lowly Blues?
MW: Fremantle - and not just because Coniglio is a West Australian. The Dockers have shown enough glimpses this year to suggest they might be a force in years to come. Nat Fyfe is 27, meaning he might only have four or five good years left, and snagging a prime mover like Coniglio would maximise any potential premiership window. Coniglio is one of the best centre clearance players in the league and would be an excellent addition to Freo's midfield.
Would an NRL-style Magic Round work in the AFL?
NS: I don't think it would but I'd like to see the AFL give it a go. What a festival atmosphere that would be! My primary concern would be the ground condition. If nine games were all played in one stadium, it could be a wreck by the end of it, especially if it's raining that weekend. Fair dues for the NRL for trying something new as I'm certainly all for innovation and will be watching with some interest.
JM: I love the concept, but the AFL is never going for this. And why should it? Unlike the NRL, the AFL has no problem with getting fans to games and filling stadiums, so why would it ever attempt this gimmick and alienate a huge percentage of football fans? Leave this one to the NRL.
MW: Imagine a footy festival where all nine games are played in one city over three or four days. Each city takes a turn at hosting and it creates an amazing carnival atmosphere where fans from all corners of the country flock to one stadium to take in as much action as possible. It sounds great, but the AFL would never sacrifice the potential gate takings from big blockbuster clashes outside of the city hosting the Magic Round.