The stakes are high in any elimination final but a loss for Richmond or North Melbourne on Sunday will have ramifications far beyond this year’s AFL finals series.
Rightly or wrongly, the coaching tenure of Damien Hardwick or Brad Scott will be thrust firmly under the microscope shortly after the final siren sounds at the MCG.
Each coach is in his sixth season at the helm and, while both have delivered their respective clubs back to the finals in recent years, just being a participant in September action is no longer enough.
After making a preliminary final last year, anything less than another prelim appearance would be considered a disappointing result for Scott, who added veterans Jarrad Waite and Shaun Higgins to his squad in the off-season.
And for the Tigers, the prospect of losing a third elimination final in succession would surely be enough to keep Hardwick up at night.
Either way, one club is about to embark on a long off-season of soul searching.
But North assistant coach Shane Watson doubts that prospect has been given a moment’s thought this week at Arden Street or Punt Road.
“That’s a glass half-empty approach to it but, for myself, I’m a glass half-full guy,” Watson told AAP.
“One club has played finals the last couple of years, in Richmond, and we got to a preliminary final last year so the expectation for us is to at least reach that again and, for the Tigers, it’s to win a final.
“Externally, in terms of your improvement from one year to the next, that’s what people will look at and that’s ok.”
Far from being burdened by that expectation, key forward Ben Brown, who this week signed a new two-year deal with the club, said the Kangaroos were embracing it.
“We want to go all the way to the grand final so, if we don’t win the grand final, then that’s a failure to us,” Brown said.
“We both have a lot to lose – it’s finals footy.
“Anything less that a win is a failure for any club that’s going into a final but we go in with confidence and we expect to win.
“(But) we’ve got to get the job done (against Richmond) before we worry about next week.”
Scott invited even more scrutiny when he controversially rested nine first-choice players for last week’s clash with the Tigers, but the Roos already feel like they’ve seen some benefits from the move.
“They feel well rested, energised and ready to go,” Watson said.
“It was all about getting the team prepared as best we could but the proof will be in the pudding.”
North recalled all nine rested players for the elimination final, plus Lindsay Thomas, back from a foot injury, while Hardwick took a gamble on Ben Griffiths and Reece Conca, returning after lengthy injury absences.