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AFL 2021: All you need to know ahead of week two of the finals
BT Sport’s AFL expert Josh Gabelich previews the second round of the finals after a dramatic opening weekend.
We are down to just six teams after a dramatic opening weekend of the 2021 finals series.
Sydney and Essendon have been eliminated at the hands of Greater Western Sydney and the Western Bulldogs, while Port Adelaide and Melbourne have breezed through to preliminary finals.
For the four teams in action this weekend, there are no second chances. It will all end here for two teams.
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With no games played in Melbourne last weekend due to the worsening coronavirus situation in that part of the world, the first week of the finals looked and felt different. Tasmania hosted its first ever final – both elimination finals were played in Launceston – in a barebones stadium in front of just 10,000 fans.
But this weekend will be different. Both finals at Optus Stadium and the Gabba will be played in front of packed houses.
The first semi-final between Geelong and Greater Western Sydney has been overshadowed this week by the suspension of Giants superstar Toby Greene. The dual All-Australian’s latest tribunal appearance resulted in a three-game suspension for making contact with an umpire – and it could be extended when the AFL appeals that ban after the Grand Final.
While that story has commanded all the attention in the build-up to this game in Perth, there is no escaping the fact the Cats are under enormous pressure this Friday.
Geelong has been a powerhouse during the home and away season across Chris Scott’s tenure, but have struggled in finals since they last won a premiership in 2011. If they exit in straight sets, this could be the end of the line for an ageing side who have been in contention for a long time.
The Cats were smashed last Friday by Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval and have lost three of their past four games, starting with a loss to the Giants in Round 21. They will need former Giant Jeremy Cameron to fire, given this is the reason they spent a fortune on luring him from the harbour city last trade period.
With Greene ruled out, Leon Cameron will need captain Stephen Coniglio to return to somewhere near the form he produced during 2019 when he emerged as one of the best midfielders in the competition, attracting godfather offers from Carlton and Hawthorn before recommitting to the expansion side.
When the Western Bulldogs tumbled out of the top-four during a dramatic final weekend of the home and away season, it was Brisbane who pinched their spot by the smallest of margins. The Dogs had been in the coveted double chance spots since round three, only to collapse at the final minute.
Now Luke Beveridge’s men get the opportunity to avenge that late season slide when they fly north to meet the Lions at the Gabba on Saturday, after the Dogs won their first final since winning the 2016 Grand Final, which ended a 62-year flag drought.
The Lions may have earned the double chance, but they wasted one opportunity on Saturday when they struggled to stay with Melbourne at Adelaide Oval, who now look every bit like the premiership favourites.
Chris Fagan has reignited the Lions in the past few years, leading them to a third consecutive finals appearance. But a straight sets exit would be an abject failure for the Queensland side who many thought would challenge for the flag this year.
All eyes will be on big name recruit Joe Daniher on Saturday. The All-Australian spearhead has remained on the park throughout 2021 – which is a miracle given recent issues with his body – but now he needs to fire when his team needs him most.
By the end of the weekend, we will be down to just four teams. The winners will face the Power and the Demons on the penultimate weekend of the season ahead of the first ever Grand Final in Western Australia.