Dustin Martin and the Tigers will take on Hawthorn in the first qualifying final.
Dustin Martin and the Tigers will take on Hawthorn in the first qualifying final.

‘Staggering’ AFL finals decision slammed

AFL great Garry Lyon has slammed the league's decision to schedule the biggest clash of the first week of finals - reigning premier Richmond's MCG blockbuster against Hawthorn - on a Thursday night.

The AFL locked in the fixture on Sunday night, placing the Tigers and Hawks on Thursday night and the Demons and Cats on Friday night before closing with the Swans-Giants (Saturday afternoon) and Eagles-Magpies (Saturday night).

Lyon thought the line-up was baffling. "(Tigers-Hawks) on Thursday night. That's staggering," Lyon told SEN Breakfast.

"Richmond and Hawthorn on a school night. What about those in the country that have got to get back for school?

"If you're a Richmond or Hawthorn supporter, you're thinking what the hell? The Tigers finished on top, they should have the prime picking."


Thursday, September 6

First Qualifying Final Richmond v Hawthorn at the MCG, 7.20pm

Last clash: Tigers 15.12 (102) bt Hawks 13.11 (89), R3 at the MCG

Ladbrokes: Tigers $1.40 Hawks $3.05

Remarkably, this will be the first time the Tigers and Hawks have met in a final. Richmond will go in favourites and they boast a 21-game winning streak at their MCG fortress. But the Hawks are in strong form, having won their past six games. The Hawks' rich finals experience also means the 2013-15 premiers will not fear the September cauldron.

Friday, September 7

First Elimination Final Melbourne v Geelong at the MCG, 7.50pm

Last clash: Cats 16.4 (100) bt Demons 14.14 (98), R18 at GMHBA Stadium

Last final: Cats 18.8 (116) bt Demons 9.7 (61), 2005 elimination final at the MCG

Ladbrokes: Demons $1.74 Cats $2.15

The Demons are finals greenhorns, having made the top eight for the first time since 2006. By contrast, the Cats are battle-hardened and have missed the finals only once in the past 12 years. But Melbourne confirmed their finals return with big wins over West Coast and GWS, so they're ready. The Cats have waltzed into September, walloping lowly Fremantle and Gold Coast at home by a combined margin of 235 points.

Saturday, September 8

Second Elimination Final Sydney v GWS at the SCG, 4.20pm

Last clash: Swans 11.14 (80) bt Giants 8.12 (60), R22 at Spotless Stadium

Last final: Giants 12.19 (91) bt Swans 7.13 (55), 2016 qualifying final at ANZ Stadium

Ladbrokes: Swans $1.70 Giants $2.20

The Swans should regain key players Lance Franklin and Luke Parker from groin injuries. They beat the Giants in round 22 and will rate their chances. The Giants have faltered with the losses to Sydney and Melbourne but coach Leon Cameron says the pre-finals bye will help them. Stars such as Zac Williams and Toby Greene are also pressing for recalls.

Second Qualifying Final

West Coast v Collingwood at Optus Stadium, 8.10pm

Last clash: Eagles 15.12 (102) bt Magpies 9.13 (67), R17 at the MCG

Last final: Eagles 10.13 (73) bt Magpies 9.6 (60), 2012 semi-final at the MCG

Ladbrokes: Eagles $1.68 Magpies $2.25

Eagles coach Adam Simpson says spearhead Josh Kennedy and Lewis Jetta will return from injury, giving their attack a major boost. Collingwood are in their first finals series since 2013 and have done remarkably well, given their horror run of injuries this season. All eyes will be on Magpies trio Jeremy Howe, Adam Treloar and Tyson Goldsack in the next few days as they try to prove their fitness.


Semi-final match-ups:

Loser Richmond-Hawthorn v winner Melbourne-Geelong

Loser West Coast-Collingwood v winner Sydney-GWS.

- with AAP