After weathering serious disruption to the 2020 AFL season, the condensed Aussie Rules calendar is now entering its 16th week, with 23 rounds in total anticipated to be completed prior to the finals.
At the beginning of the season, Irish interests were high with 17 players AFL registered to play with 9 separate outfits. However, only a certain number of Irish players have managed to make a notable contribution to their sides’ finals efforts. Mark O’Connor (Kerry) & Zach Tuohy (Laois) of Geelong Cats, and Conor McKenna (Returning to Tyrone) of the Essendon Bombers have been the most impressive.
Geelong boasts a very experienced side and is currently 2nd on the ladder. Having finished 1st at the end of last season’s regular season, but ultimately succumbing to eventual winners Richmond, they will be keen to return to this season’s finals and capture their first Premiership since 2011.
McKenna hit the headlines earlier in the season after becoming embroiled in a Covid-19 controversy and was harshly vilified by the Australian press. However, he has gone on to have an excellent season. The Bombers sit 11th on the ladder, just 2 points off Melbourne Demons, who currently occupy the coveted 8th spot. Essendon’s next three fixtures are crucial as they face West Coast, Geelong, & Port Adelaide. A strong showing in those fixtures could see the Bombers return to the finals for the second successive season.
Mark Keane (Cork) made his Collingwood debut this season, and while he hasn’t made the impact that he would have hoped, he is still very young. Collingwood are currently in 6th position, and having fallen at the final hurdle last year, will be hoping to go one better this time around.
Traditionally, Victorian-based teams have had a huge advantage as the Grand Final has always been played at the historic 100,000 capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG). However, due to the Covid-19 impact on Melbourne, this season’s final looks set to be played at the Gabba in Brisbane. This is the first time in the competition’s 134-year history that the final will be played outside of Victoria, and is sure to provide an interesting subplot.