By JACKSON MILLER
The opening week of the 2019 AFL Finals comes after a rollercoaster home-and-away season that threw up surprises right into the final round.
Collingwood prevailed over a tough Essendon side to win by 11, while the Cats made easy work of Carlton with a demolishing 68-point win.
The Eagles were surprisingly booted out of the top four at their home ground by a strong Hawthorn. Meanwhile, Richmond dominated the entire game to beat the Lions by 27.
On the other hand, the bottom four had some good outcomes as well, with the Bulldogs going in hard against Adelaide, and GWS belting the Gold Coast Suns by 72.
The other matches of the final round were: Sydney defeated St Kilda by 45 points, the Demons went down by four to North Melbourne and Port Adelaide took a 43-point win over Fremantle.
The 2018 premiers will be looking to redeem themselves after a humiliating 38-point loss to the Hawks which left them out of the top four.
While the Eagles have had a decent season with 15 wins and seven losses, they will have to work hard to beat Essendon, who, if their close loss to the Pies is anything to go by, are in fine form.
The Bombers were in front of Collingwood for a large portion of last Friday’s game, only losing that lead later in the match. This performance could possibly indicate another upset in the west.
Prediction: Essendon by 20
This match was a given no matter the result of the Richmond vs Brisbane match-up, as Collingwood would have stayed third if Brisbane had won and Geelong would have been knocked to second place.
The Cats have no doubt been the strongest side this season with 16 wins, one of which was when they met the Pies in Round 1. Geelong will be looking to cement their place in the finals once again and go further than last year.
The Pies have had their own decent run with 15 wins, including three in a row in the final weeks. Their run of injuries has slowed them down at times, but they have fought hard to reach the finals for the second year in a row.
With many Collingwood champions, including Jaidyn Stephenson, Jordan De Goey and Darcy Moore confirmed to be coming back into the side, as well as Steele Sidebottom potentially being cleared from injuries, it will be an intense match.
Whichever team loses will have a second chance in the next round, though a spot in the preliminaries will be a great reward for 23 weeks of hard work.
Prediction: Collingwood by 15
Both the Bulldogs and the Giants are coming off big wins, which will make the second eliminator an interesting match-up.
The Bulldogs, having earned themselves a premiership in 2016 from the same ladder position they’re in now (seventh), will be pushing to prove they can once again make it to the big dance from a low position of the top eight.
The Giants, on the other hand, will be looking to become the first of the two newer expansion clubs to win a premiership and will be working just as hard.
Prediction: Giants by 40
Brisbane will be out for revenge for their 27-point loss to Richmond in Round 23 and will be happy to have a home ground advantage when they take on the Tigers in the second qualifier.
With Richmond’s form over the season, especially the fact that they have won more interstate matches than they’ve lost, this match could turn into a repeat.
However, the Lions have had their own run of good luck this season, including being the only team to knock Geelong out of first place on the ladder, albeit temporarily.
So whether this rematch will be a repeat of the final week or a turnaround will depend on what both sides bring to the table.
Prediction: Brisbane by 35.