Patrick Dangerfield has been starring but Gary Ablett may be the key factor for Geelong against Collingwood in the first AFL qualifying final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday night.
Now 35 years old Ablett still retains much of the brilliance that has enabled him to become an eight-time All Australian player and dual Brownlow Medal winner.
Although he missed out on All Australian selection this year he has proved to be an invaluable contributor for the Cats since being moved to half-forward.
Besides kicking 33 goals in his 21 games he has always been creative in opening up attacking up opportunities for those around him with, usually, 30-plus possessions.
Dangerfield is also a proven ball-winner all around the ground while captain Joel Selwood, despite being relatively quiet in recent times, can be expected to play an important role in midfield.
It is also significant that, according to Champion Data, Geelong leads the competition in contested possessions, tackles and kicking efficiency, which always makes the Cats difficult to suppress.
The Magpies – fourth placed in those statistics – cannot be under-rated especially with ruckman Brodie Grundy’s ability to dominate the big man contests.
Captain Scott Pendlebury is an inspiring leader, who is backed-up by talented players such as Steele Sidebottom, Adam Treloar and Jordan De Goey so the Magpies certainly have depth.
The blockbuster second qualifying final between Brisbane and Richmond at the Gabba on Saturday night was sold out within hours of going on sale and those fortunate enough to secure tickets are not likely to be disappointed.
Even though defeated by the Tigers at the M.C.G. two weeks ago the Lions were able to kick 6.6 to 6.8 after quarter time which meant they held their own.
Returning to the Gabba will obviously help Brisbane’s cause as would an improved performance from lightning-fast forward Charlie Cameron, who was held to only seven possessions and two goals by fellow All Australian Dylan Grimes.
Interestingly the Tigers have not had to travel interstate for a final since 2014 but that should not really be a factor.
The play-offs will be launched on Thursday night when West Coast – a team playing well below its potential – host the unconvincing Essendon in the first elimination final at Optus Oval.
In a clash that does not set the blood tingling the Eagles should be triumphant.
By contrast the meeting of Greater Western Sydney and the Western Bulldogs in the second elimination final at Giants Stadium on Saturday afternoon could well prove to be a cliff-hangar.
The Bulldogs defeated the Giants 126 to 65 when they clashed at the Sydney Showground Stadium in Round 22 and deserve to start favourites.
Luke Beveridge has had difficulties with his team since the club’s 2016 premiership but as the finals have been drawing closer the Bulldogs, with All Australians Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae in superb form, having been displaying the fast, open style the coach has been trying to create.
That makes the side very hard to combat.
West Coast by 26pts
Geelong by 17pts
Western Bulldogs by 18pts
Brisbane by 6pts