Our AFL experts Niall Seewang, Jake Michaels and Matt Walsh dissect all of the main talking points during the pre-finals bye.
If you were Stephen Coniglio, where would you play in 2020?
[Note: This was written prior to the Coniglio re-signing with the Giants for seven years]
NS: Much like AFL boss Gillion McLachlan, I like the romance of one-club players so if I was Coniglio -- assuming the financials from all the offers were in the same ballpark -- I'd stay at the Giants. He's a likely future captain and has elevated himself to an elite level as a midfielder ... imagine his place in history if he led the club to its first premiership?
JM: The exciting prospect of lining up alongside Blues superstar Patrick Cripps at centre bounces has to have Coniglio seriously considering a move to Carlton. David Teague's side has shown tremendous growth in the second half of the season, going 6-6 since the bye, and with Coniglio on board they could make a push for finals next year. The Giants' premiership window is closing quickly and most of Hawthorn's talent is ageing. Sign with the Blues, Cogs.
MW: If he was going to stay with the Giants, it's bizarre he hasn't already signed, so it seems like Coniglio is on the way out. Both Hawthorn and Carlton are enticing prospects; the Blues may be a slower burn, so he may go to a Clarkson-coached Hawthorn which boasts a talented core of young players (Worpel, Hardwick, Sicily, Lewis) as well as returning Brownlow medallist Tom Mitchell.
Who should be the AFL's MVP?
NS: This question is a toughie! There are so many worthy nominations and you could throw a blanket over the contenders to be crowned the league's MVP. I'll go with Patrick Cripps though - not only is he in conversation as the game's best player, he's by far the most important to his team. Imagine the Blues without their inspirational skipper bursting through packs, tackling and generally carrying them on his back?
JM: What Patrick Cripps and Max Gawn have done for their sides this year has been enormous but the most important thing in football, and something which is constantly spoken about, is kicking goals. Nobody did it better than Jeremy Cameron this year who averaged 3.3 goals per game to land his first Coleman Medal. For the Giants, Cameron is their most valuable and important player heading into finals.
MW: It's a bit of a left-field nomination, but Dylan Grimes wouldn't be the worst choice. In the absence of All-Australian full back Alex Rance, he has stepped up magnificently to lead the Tigers' defence, which maintained its status as one of the hardest to penetrate. He also averaged career-high numbers in contested marks and rebound 50s. Valuable? Try invaluable - he's been crucial to getting the Tigers the double chance.
Is Geelong's home ground advantage a poisoned chalice?
NS: It's certainly a double-edged sword. Because the shape of the ground is so unique, it means the Cats barely lose in Geelong and more often than not sets them up for an annual finals campaign. But of course, the biggest games of the year are played at the MCG and Geelong have recently been found wanting on those wide expanses. The commentary -- from within and outside the club -- about whether or not they should play finals at GMHBA doesn't help - it can only be a distraction at best and a disruption at worst.
JM: Of course it is. They play nine home game at GMHBA Stadium, the club's true home ground, but when finals roll around they have to head into Melbourne and play at the MCG -- often against teams who play at the home of football every second week! Chris Scott has every right to be frustrated with how this works, but his constant complaining isn't going to change anything, at least this year.
MW: No, because remember, they're the only Victorian side which has the luxury of training at their home ground, and GMHBA Stadium's unique dimensions mean they have one of the last great home ground advantages. Funnily enough, they also play home games at the MCG, so maybe that's the poisoned chalice in this instance, and not the stadium in Geelong.
What's been the moment of the season?
NS: Among all the wonderful, thrilling and crazy storylines this season, the best for mine is the return to health, and return to the field, of North Melbourne's Majak Daw. The key defender's fall from the Bolte Bridge in December stunned and saddened the footy world and could easily have been even more catastrophic than the broken hips and pelvis he suffered. Daw literally had to learn how to walk again but found the physical and mental strength to return to the field in the VFL late in the season. Inspirational.
JM: The moment which really stands out for me is hearing the news Collingwood young gun Jaidyn Stephenson was being investigated for gambling on AFL games. It was such a shame as Stephenson and the Pies were building nicely, but kudos to the AFL for dishing out a tough yet fair 10-match suspension. This just cannot happen in the game.
MW: Mine isn't an on-field moment, but an off-field one. The response to the Adam Goodes documentary was powerful - most of the footy public (albeit far too many years too late) recognised the hurt and suffering that Goodes -- as well as other Indigenous Australians -- went through during their football career, and there was widespread acceptance that as a community, football needs to do better. It was truly heartwarming.