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Eagles and Cats premiership favourites: Hill

Former West Coast Eagles and Western Bulldogs forward Josh Hill believes Geelong and West Coast are the standout teams in the 2020 season, backing them to play off in this year’s decider.

Hill, who played 173 games of AFL football over a decade long career and is now in a media role with the National Indigenous Radio Service (NIRS), said the Eagles and Cats have been the standout sides of the season so far.

“You look at the sides that are in the top eight, it’s a tough choice. You’ve got to say the Cats and the Eagles are favourites to make the Grand Final,” Hill told Sports Drive on Monday.

“You look at the history in terms of experience and teams that have been in the finals the past few years and you look at the Geelong Cats and West Coast. They’re two very tough sides to beat late in the season and if they do finish off strong, they will be hard to beat.”

The Eagles are the form team of the competition having won seven straight matches, the last five of which have been at the comforts of their home venue Optus Stadium.

Adam Simpson’s men will return for a second stint in a Gold Coast hub from round 14-18, having lost their first three games in Queensland earlier in the season.

Hill maintained his former club would be a contender regardless of whether they were able to play finals at home this year.

“You would think so. The experiences we had when I was there, we had to travel more than any other side. We had to be able to adapt every weekend, every two weeks we would be travelling to different states,” the 31-year-old said.

“As players you know what the structures are and what you have to do in terms of mental preparation and the physical side of things. Every club is now doing the same thing, so it’s kind of an equal playing field in terms of mental preparations for players.

“Now they (West Coast) have been able to get a few wins on the board, their confidence is sky high and they are sitting in a comfortable position in fourth on the ladder.”

The Eagles are set to be without midfielders Elliot Yeo and Jack Redden for several weeks due to groin and adductor injuries respectively, while ruckman Nathan Vardy faces an uncertain recovery time from compartment syndrome, sustained during an intraclub game on Sunday against Hawthorn.

Hill backed the Eagles to cover the loss of key personnel over a second condensed set of fixtures over the next month.

“It’s tough with the loss of players with injuries, but I think they will be able to come away strong. Who knows they might even get the finals series and even the Grand Final at Optus Stadium. That might be another benefit for them as well, so who knows what will happen.”

Round 14 will see two matches played in the Northern Territory, Carlton facing Gold Coast and Essendon and Richmond playing their annual dreamtime game at TIO Stadium in Darwin.

Hill said it was a great result for the state, which has produced so much indigenous AFL talent past and present.

“I think it’s a dream come true for Darwin. Having the two big teams up there in Essendon and Richmond, the aboriginal colours in terms of jumpers and celebrating the occasion,” he said.

“What a moment. They normally play in front of almost 100,000 people at the MCG, but for them to have the occasion up there in Darwin it’s great for the fans and the supporters to come out and see their two favourite sides.

“Hopefully (Anthony) McDonald-Tipungwuti puts on a show for Essendon and Rioli’s going to step up for Richmond. With what the players have had to go through in the past with the racism towards Eddie Betts and Liam Ryan, it’s tough that players have to deal with it but hopefully this week every player is going to go out there and show there respect for the players and what this occasion means to every indigenous player past and present.”

Sir Doug Nicholls Indigenous Round commences with the Blues-Suns match on Friday night, concluding on Monday night with Collingwood facing North Melbourne at the Gabba.

IMAGE: Zero Hanger.