Originally Posted by vic_orthdox
There are going to be some absolute humdinger games these finals, but really the fate of the flag rests on whoever wins the 1 v 4 and 2 v 3 games.
Not much separated Carlton last year from WCE who were fourth, and the semi-final over in Perth between the two was an absolute cracker, and knocked the stuffing out of the Eagles. Compare that to Hawthorn, who played the Swans (who along with St Kilda and Essendon, were another level below WCE and Carlton, who themselves were a level below the top 3 again), and the effort they put up in the Prelim compared to WCE, where they probably should have beaten Collingwood.
There's going to be some ripping games throughout, but it's going to favour the winners of that first week enormously. Tough to see them not making the GF, whoever it is.
Yeah, with only one bye this year, the week off for the victor of 1 v 4 and 2 v 3, will be like gold and, as you say, very much put them in the box seat. That said, the teams that finish 5-8 this year (namely, WCE, Geelong, North, Carlton perhaps) all seem in form. Additionally, there's no standout top four side this year, in my view. So it's quite open.
I also think, as born out by that WCE v Carlton final last year (where Carlton lost by a bee's dick at arguably the hardest away venue in AFL) the home ground advantage in finals is not as telling as it is in the regular season. Everyone is "up" at finals time and the away team, having made finals, is a high quality opponent.