The leading contenders for the AFL Grand Final 2021
Despite the season only being a few games old, some of the leading favourites for the 2021 AFL Grand Final are already showing some early season form.
Port Adelaide, Richmond and the Western Bulldogs have all made strong starts to the season with wins in their opening two fixtures with Port Adelaide leading the ladder after two rounds.
In a long 17 game season plus end-of-season qualifiers, semis and a potential final, there is still a long way to go in the 2021 season, so let’s take a look at some of the leading contenders to reach the AFL Grand Final in September.
The Tigers have proven to be the competition’s benchmark for the best part of four years and we can expect another big season from them in 2021. Richmond’s core is still young enough and in the likes of Noah Balta, Jayden Short and Shai Bolton, their next generation appears more than up to the task of keeping them in contention. They also have Dusty Martin – one of the AFL’s most consistent performers on their books.
The Cats finished runners-up in 2020 then added Jeremy Cameron, Shaun Higgins and Isaac Smith to their list. Champions Gary Ablett and Harry Taylor retired but the additions outweighed the departures with Higgins likely to be as effective as Ablett in the forward half and Cameron providing the one-two punch with Tom Hawkins that will be hard to counter. The Cats have only missed out on the finals once since 2006 so will once again be expected to challenge.
Port Adelaide Power
Port Adelaide were one-kick from a grand final last year, losing the preliminary final by a goal to eventual premiers Richmond. It would be an extraordinary drop off to miss finals. Their midfield is dynamic, and Charlie Dixon is one of the game’s best key forwards. Their rookie trio of Zak Butters, Connor Rozee and Xavier Duursma should all get more game time this season, getting more consistent as the season progresses. Port Adelaide are seen by many experts as the biggest threat to Richmond this season so expect big things from the South Australians.
Spearheaded by reigning Brownlow medallist Lachie Neale, expect another strong season from the Lions in 2021. They now have quality on every line with one of the game’s superstar defenders in Harris Andrews and the X-factor of forward Charlie Cameron, another leading contender for the Brownlow medal in 2021. Their midfield is stacked with talent including captain Dayne Zorko, Hugh McCluggage, Jarrod Lyons, Jarrod Berry and Mitch Robinson. Despite defeats in their opening two games of the season, you can still expect the Lions to be in the playoff mix come the end of the season.
The Dogs keep accumulating talent. Adam Treloar’s arrival makes the midfield imposing, Stefan Martin is a timely support for Tim English in the ruck and Marcus Bontempelli can be the game’s premier player. Added to this is the prospect of No.1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan clicking with Aaron Naughton in attack, providing Dogs fans with plenty to look forward to as the season unfolds. An opening day victory over Collingwood was the perfect start as the Dogs look to bed in their new superstars and it would be a big surprise if they fail to make the finals.
West Coast Eagles
The Eagles appear locked for another premiership tilt and will turn Optus Stadium into a fortress in what shapes as the final season for Shannon Hurn and Josh Kennedy. There were no significant list changes, indicating they are confident of rebounding from a surprise one-and-done finals exit. Expect All-Australian Nic Naitanui and Tim Kelly to have a greater partnership this year, while former Lion Alex Witherden should bolster the defence. A narrow defeat to fellow finals favourites the Dogs in gameweek two should not concern Eagles fans who have much to look forward to.
This is another season that promises much and with the return of fans to many stadiums around the country, we can expect some very different results under the pressure of both home and away crowds.