AS THE clubs that finished seventh and eighth, it’s little surprise Essendon and West Coast will go into their respective finals as the underdogs.
But both teams have reason to believe they can topple their more favoured opponents. Just look at the history books — the recent ones, at least.
The Eagles not only defeated Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval earlier this season, but have won five of their past six matches at the ground.
Essendon’s record at the SCG might not be as formidable.
But the Bombers’ most recent outing — where they blew a 19-point lead in the dying minutes to lose to Sydney by just one point in Round 14 — will certainly give John Worsfold’s side confidence.
“You can’t underestimate confidence from going to that venue,” triple-premiership Lion Jonathan Brown said on Fox Footy’s On The Couch.
“They should have won that game back in Round 14. They should have beaten Sydney that night. They’ll take confidence from that and won’t be as daunted by the venue”
While the Bombers have had defensive deficiencies this year — they’ve conceded the most points of any team playing finals — their ability to hit the scoreboard has never been questioned.
Only Adelaide, Geelong and Port Adelaide have scored more heavily than Essendon in 2017.
Dual premiership Kangaroo David King suggested the Bombers’ ability to score — and score fast — would trouble the Swans.
“They’re aggressive. They’re a punter’s chance. They love coming through the corridor. They love speed,” King said.
“Any team that plays them, whether that be Sydney or any other team going forward, they’re going to be a threat.”
In a similar fashion, the Eagles are being given every chance to inflict heartbreak on Port Adelaide, who haven’t played finals since 2014.
Port Adelaide coach Ken Hinkley joked on Monday that playing at Adelaide Oval would hardly give his side a home advantage, with the Eagles’ record at the venue a reality that can’t be ignored.
And with the shape of Domain Stadium mimicking that of Adelaide Oval, Hawthorn legend Jason Dunstall said he tended to agree with Hinkley.
“West Coast have a good record there because of the narrow ground,” Dunstall said.
“It’s very similar to Domain Stadium and Simonds Stadium is the other one. They’re the three narrowest grounds in the competition.
“The only difference between Domain and the Adelaide Oval, where they’ve won five of their past six, is that it’s about eight metres longer.
“They’re playing similar dimensions to what they play at home. They’re comfortable there, it’s not as far a travel. They go there with every confidence they can cause an upset.”
Despite the confidence Essendon and West Coast will draw from their past performances at the SCG and Adelaide Oval, a number of hurdles must still be overcome.
For the Bombers it’s injuries, with Cale Hooker (bone bruising), Michael Hurley (calf) and Orazio Fantasia (hamstring) all on the comeback trail.
While at Port Adelaide, the difference could come down to one man.
“For me the difference is Ryder,” Brown said.
“I just think he’s been fantastic all year. He had good form against the West Coast Eagles in both games. His tap work is magnificent.
“He gives his midfielders first use and I think their midfield is more explosive than the West Coast Eagles’.”
LIVE stream every game of the first week of the 2017 Toyota AFL Finals Series on FOX SPORTS. Get your free 2-week Foxtel Now trial and start watching in minutes. SIGN UP NOW >>