Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points ahead of Round 19.
Who has been the most disappointing player of 2019?
NS: Mason Cox. Anyone who saw him singlehandedly tear Richmond apart in last year's preliminary final in just his 43rd game would have expected his progress to continue but he's gone backwards at a concerning rate in 2019. Most of his key stats are down compared to last year and he appears to have been worked out by key defenders, who can push him under the ball too easily in marking contests. He has some unique weapons and has to learn how to use them.
JM: I know he's still managed to kick 32 goals, but West Coast's Josh Kennedy has looked a mile off his devastating best in 2019. His productivity has dropped dramatically in almost every statistical category and I'm surprised he hasn't copped any criticism. Only once in his past 12 games has he managed to reach a double figure disposal count and that tells me he just isn't working hard enough. I'm not even sure he's the club's best forward anymore.
MW: Taylor Walker hasn't been able to bounce back from similar criticism he faced in 2018. Perhaps he has been a victim of being a club captain locked in a forward line which has struggled at times throughout the year, but Tex has been thoroughly underwhelming and it's little wonder his spot is in jeopardy. If Kennedy's 32 goals has disappointed, Jake, then Walker's 29 is just as bad.
Which team would win a 4x100m relay?
NS: Surely Essendon have the fastest quartet going around with Anthony McDonald-Tipungwuti, Adam Saad, Andrew McGrath and Conor McKenna! Watching them tear Adelaide apart with their pace was a reminder of how fast the Bombers are when they're on song. If that awesome foursome combined to sprint around an athletics track, there's no doubt they'd leave their opponents in their wake.
JM: Well the numbers would suggest Geelong are the favourite. The Cats have three of the eight quickest (top speed) players in the league in Gary Rohan, Tom Stewart and Jordan Clark, so I feel pretty comfortable there. I'll chuck in Patrick Dangerfield as the fourth member who can kick off the relay. My order is: Dangerfield, Clark, Stewart and Rohan.
MW: Collingwood would have to be a good chance at taking out a relay. With Will Hoskin-Elliott, Jaidyn Stephenson, Callum Brown and Brayden Maynard pulling on the track spikes, I'd be backing them to take out the crown. There's a good mix of tall and rangey as well as small and nimble - so you might as well hand over the gold medal now.
Is the top 8 set?
NS: I think it is. I think you can rule out all the teams underneath eighth-placed Adelaide, who are one win and percentage clear of ninth. There's not a team outside the eight that looks consistent enough to pull off a string of wins and it would take an almighty stumble from Adelaide or Essendon to allow those underneath to play finals, but the Crows still have games against Carlton, St Kilda and the Bulldogs to come, while the Dons have Gold Coast, the Bulldogs and Dockers.
JM: Yes. The eight sides currently in the top eight will be the ones that contest finals. We're obviously going to see some shuffling around in the final few home and away rounds, but I think the North Melbourne, Western Bulldogs and Port Adelaide charge has well and truly died. Those teams are just far too inconsistent to make the final eight and have blown their chances.
MW: It might just be. The Crows are currently in eighth and one game clear of ninth-placed Port Adelaide, but have a much easier run home than those teams below them. If anything, we might see some shuffling within the eight; the Pies could fall as low as sixth considering both the Tigers and Giants could win all of their remaining five games. This week's clash between Collingwood and Richmond is crucial.
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Who deserves the Friday night game in Round 23?
NS: I understand the calls for a Richmond vs. Brisbane game to kick off Round 23 but I can't go past Collingwood vs. Essendon. Two traditional rivals who will pack the MCG to bursting point in a match that could decide top two or top four aspirations would be one of the biggest home and away games in recent memory. And imagine if they then played again in the first week of finals!
JM: I'll be really disappointed if Richmond vs. Brisbane is not the Round 23 Friday night fixture. It's been five years since the Lions last contested a Friday night, primetime game and they absolutely deserve one. Not only are they now a top four lock, but the style of football they play is great viewing. And then there's the Tigers, who are roaring towards September and probably play the second best brand of football. Lock it in, Gil.
MW: The Pies and Bombers have had their fair share of Friday night matches this year so it only makes sense to give the last one of the year to a team in the top four who hasn't played one in more than five years! The Lions are ready, and taking on the Tigers at a packed MCG (they could pull 80,000!) is the perfect rehearsal for a return to finals footy. It's not often I agree with Jake, but lock it in, Gil.