Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 10.
What's been the biggest disappointment in 2019?
NS: For me it's the fact scores and congestion are still an issue despite the new rules introduced to improve the game. Yes we're only 9 rounds in so the sample size is small, but scores are still historically low and congestion is still a blight on the game, aside from at centre bounces with the 6-6-6 rule. It appears coaches are again one step ahead in creating strategies to defend against any opening up of the game.
JM: There's been plenty but the AFL's inconsistent and frustrating judicial system takes the cake. Some of the verdicts which have been handed down by Match Review Officer Michael Christian this year have left me utterly astounded. Honestly, how can Nat Fyfe, Gary Ablett and Shane Mumford all avoid suspensions!? Whether you're a fan, a player or working in the media, all we want is a system which is fair and makes sense. We don't have anything close to that right now.
MW: Jake nailed it. You couldn't pay me enough to take Michael Christian's job, but some of his decisions have been baffling and judging by the number of overturned rulings, the tribunal is confused as well. Honestly, it points more to a flawed grading system than ineptitude from the MRO; it might need (yet another) rethink in order to produce more consistent outcomes.
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Is the top eight set after nine rounds?
NS: It isn't right now due to the evenness of the ladder -- six teams sit one win out of the eight on 16 points and it wouldn't be a stretch to suggest at least one will leapfrog their rivals to secure a finals berth. I can see Essendon leading the charge but it's hard to trust the Bombers. How big are the Hawthorn-Port Adelaide, Adelaide-West Coast, Richmond-Essendon and Fremantle-Brisbane games this weekend!?
JM: The Bombers will sneak in at the expense of Port, but I think that will be the only change we see to the top eight come season's end. Fremantle have been way too inconsistent to mount a serious challenge and Hawthorn's draw isn't getting any easier. It's hard to make a case for any other side outside the eight right now.
MW: It might just be, save for some positional swaps here and there. It would be a mighty effort for the Lions to hold onto a spot in the top four considering the Tigers and Eagles are coasting away in fifth and sixth, and seeing the South Australian clubs at seven and eight on the ladder makes sense. As for those outside the eight, if Essendon and Fremantle lose this week (to Richmond and Brisbane respectively) it might be curtains for them.
Who is the best Indigenous player of modern times?
NS: Lance Franklin, despite being absent for most of this year, is my No. 1. He's closing in on 300 games and 1,000 goals and has been the league's premier key forward and showman for the best part of a decade. Hopefully he can give us all a reminder of his talents before too long as he does things on a footy field no one else can. On the podium behind him is another Swans great, Adam Goodes, and Adelaide's Eddie Betts.
JM: There's a few legitimate candidates but two players stand head and shoulders above the rest, in my opinion: Franklin and Goodes. One will probably be the last player in history to reach the 1,000 goal milestone and the other is a two-time Brownlow Medal winner and two-time premiership player. Enough said, really.
MW: As a two-time Brownlow winner, Adam Goodes will go down as an all-time player on the field, and his legacy will continue to give off it, but so will that of Eddie Betts. Aside from his ability to kick freakish goals and wow crowds from all corners of the ground, his willingness to call out and educate others on racism is inspiring and is almost as impressive as his on-field efforts.
Does Tasmania deserve its own AFL team?
NS: I can't answer this question unemotionally, being a Hobart boy, but I emphatically believe the Island State deserves its own team. Two years ago, then-St Kilda skipper Nick Riewoldt wrote a brilliant piece for ESPN.com.au encapsulating just why Tasmania deserved its own team, an argument I wholeheartedly agree with. Simply put, a standalone Tasmanian team would work if the AFL wanted it to and it would only enrich the competition.
JM: Jeff Kennett and the Hawks certainly won't like it, but it's time Tasmania is shown some love by the AFL. Every single time they play a game down there the crowds flock to the grounds and it looks a great spectacle. Just imagine how much more interest there would be if the team was actually Tasmanian! Enough stalling, Gil. Get it done.
MW: The AFL has emphatically ruled out giving up on either Gold Coast or GWS, so the challenge isn't whether Tasmania deserves an AFL team, but whether or not it is feasible. Of course Tasmanians deserve a team to call their own, but I can't see it happening without expanding an already large competition, which is a real shame.