AFL Finals Week 1 – Preview: Fire Up for Finals

Welcome to Finals Footy,

 

A bumper issue this week with four finals, an autopsy of the vanquished, Flemington and a Friar final.  Then there is the biggest match of all where we get to choose manure from clay – but I will leave that one alone!

Vlad and the team get plenty right, but a real howler this week with the clash of jumpers between Carlton and Port Adelaide, the Blues could have worn their real strip with no clash!  But what about the howler of the year with Clint Jones taking their major sponsors tag line too far and setting fire to a dwarf.  Vlad might have got it wrong too with the chuckling at the incident, but I must admit so was I as I could not quite believe the story.  Mind you a sizeable howler was made earlier with the decision to hire a dwarf as entertainment, I imagine the sage is thinking they could have just hired the coach!

Then there is the Fremantle tanking discussion – Vlad might not like the look, but the team has a squad to pick from and they had earned their position.  Fremantle were obvious in their intent, but I reckon I watched efforts (or lack of) from a couple of Pies late on Sunday that appeared to be careful at best.  Probably subconscious, but I reckon completely understandable.  I do not expect that to occur this week.  There is plenty not to like about Get Stuffed Lyon, but they earned the right to select the team of their choosing.

Amongst all this Melbourne will plead their case for a priority pick – on raw numbers they are a basket case and would appear more than deserving of such.  Many would say they do not warrant a priority pick after the tanking case – but as they were not found guilty that cannot be a reason to deny them.  Eddie everywhere got on his high horse saying the competition should be pure with no priority picks, but I did not hear him offering to put Pendlebury back into the draft.  I don’t reckon a pick is warranted to get them out of the hole, they need to fix many other things first – but based on the numbers I can’t see how it can be denied.

As tough a week to tip last week, only the Pies cost me so not a bad finish.  But it is on to this week’s massive encounters all of which have relatively short-priced favourites, but week one usually produces at least one upset.

 

No Buddy, No ($1.58) vs Horse Tails ($2.66)

Some significant changes to both teams from last week’s entrée.  The Hawks lose their drawcard, but will welcome back Cyril and Bailey.  Their foes will welcome back Kurt Tippett and Dan Hannebery and have named Jetta.  The loss of Franklin is a furphy, as valuable as he is the Hawks have played regularly without him and with great success.  It will mean less panic for the Swans defense but there are plenty of other Hawks who can hit the scoreboard.  Richards and Reg will take the talls, Smith will take his old school mate Cyril.  Breust is dangerous and does not need many possessions to make in impact.  The inclusion of Bailey will allow Hale to spend more time forward also – another challenge for Longmire – he’d love to have LRT back.

Up the other end Sydney will want to stretch the Hawthorn defense and ensure that Gibson has an opponent.  This will allow Tippett, White and the rucks to have more chance of getting one-on-one aerial duels – all the forwards really want, they don’t want Gibson killing everything in the air.  Sydney will need to ensure they spread their targets and not focus all their attack through Tippett, in fact they should make sure they use Gibson’s opponent regularly to ensure accountability.  On the ground the distribution of Mitchell and Birchall sets up their forward raids so Sydney will need to ensure they do not create havoc.  Then if Hodge plays back his influence will require control.  O’Keefe might be a good match up – a good forward target and more than capable in the middle.

In the middle, the Sydney ruck duo would appear to have the ascendancy and they can both be effective up forward.  The inside midfields are both as tough as teak, but I reckon the speed of Jack and Hannebery makes Sydney a bit more dangerous and then add Jetta on the outside.  The Hawk speed is provided on the outside through Smith and Hill, but I reckon Sydney can cover that.  There are plenty of other players in both teams that can have an influence.

At the end of last week’s game Hawthorn turned up the wick and Sydney either didn’t go with them or couldn’t.  I suspect the former, but I am not 100% convinced.  From an investment perspective Hawthorn deserve to be $1.80 favourites, which should have Sydney at about $2.25.  Overall I think Hawthorn will still have too many forward options, look switched on and are my selection to win by 17 points, but Sydney can win and are a much better proposition for the punter at the prices available.

 

Pollies in the Pocket ($1.38) vs Tanked ‘n Stank ($3.55)

As much as I don’t agree with the final being played at Kardinia Park, it is probably fairer as the Loungeroom is pretty much Freo’s second home ground and GSL certainly knows every nook and cranny to clog the game up in!  The last time these sides met was at KP and Geelong towelled up the Dockers, the Freo record here is 1 from 13.

But the Cats must have some concerns.  The primary one being their lack of pace in defence, where clever small forwards in Monfries and McGrath have registered bags against them recently.  The Dockers have two of the most dangerous small forwards in Walters and Ballantyne – add the Geelong detestation of Ballantyne and they could cause massive problems.  Not to mention the work rate and pressure from the rest of the Freo attack.  The Cats have opted for an experienced and smart defensive line up and pace up the ground, they might need add some spark back there for this week.  Oh for Wojo!  Can’t forget that Pavlich was the match winner in their final over Geelong last year.

Up the other end is where the Cats have injected pace and creativity with Christensen, Motlop, Stokes and Varcoe – they are capable of finding holes in the Freo scrum.  They will need to – Tomahawk might take up a good defender, but his injury does not allow him to do everything he wants to – the thing most lacking is defensive pressure.  His opponent should run off him at every opportunity.  Fortunately for the Cats they have plenty of other goalkicking options, which has spread even wider with the recent efforts from the skipper.

The Freo midfield is one of the best in the competition and they work very well for each other; in Fyfe, Mundy and Hill they have a couple of the finest.  Geelong’s though has been the benchmark for years and remains strong, tough and quick with those four aforementioned speedsters also getting their turn in the kitchen.  The concern for the Cats is their inexperienced rucks compared to Herman and Clarke, fortunately Selwood and his mates are adept at reading the opposition if required.

Freo of late have looked fantastic apart from “informed player management” last week, but they a very good at beating up on inferior sides.  Up against the A-graders (Top 4) they have struggled, with their best being a draw against Sydney.  Add the fact that this is at Geelong and the task is harder.  They won’t get the flyer they did last year and I expect Geelong to win comfortably in  a low scoring affair by 31 points.  There is some vulnerability to the Cats and Brisbane’s effort must give hope, I rate them at about $1.50 so anything over $3 for Freo is fair.

 

The New Reg ($1.28) vs Under the Koch ($4.40)

Despite the success of the season the Power from Port did not have much success against sides above them during the season, but by the same token one of those successes was over the Pies.  Is it something they can repeat at the G?

Collingwood have looked so much more dangerous since Keefe has returned and allowed Ben Reid to go forward.  Keefe might not be as good but is sufficient, he will have his hands full with the ‘Hoff.  The match up of Shultz and Brown is a good one, but after that I reckon the Collingwood defense probably has the better of Port’s attack.

Then with Reid next to Cloke and Lynch sucking up another tall defender, the Pie forward line stretches the very best defenses.  Port’s is improving but ranked 11th.  The Pie forwards should get plenty of shots, so long as they get good supply and are not too profligate will kick a winning score.

In the middle, the Pies have their own “Reg” Grundy who has kept Jolly out.  Interestingly both sides have gone with one specialist ruckman.  Port cut the Blues apart early with their derring-do and commitment to the corridor, I reckon they will need to travel another route against the Pies who will undoubtedly try and block the on ramps to the “Geelong” highway.  But in the heart of the kitchen as good as the Port mids have been; Collingwood with Pendlebury, Swan, Beams and Ball look too have that contest under control.

Port have had great resolve all season and could get the upset, but I can’t really see it happening.  Collingwood are too short for mine, but deserve to be the shortest price favourite this weekend.  That means Port are shopping well at anything over $4, but not for mine.  Pies to win by a lazy 34 points.

 

All Aboard ($1.55) vs Bradbury ($2.74)

Is there any room left on the Tiger bus?  A sellout at the G for two teams whose last September meeting was 12 years ago!  A game unfortunately vivid in my memory – it was the first game after the Twin Towers attack.  The pre-match as emotional as any I have attended.  Then the horror of the game, the Tigers clogged the game up and took the win.  To add insult was the injury to Koutafides knee, which spelt the beginning of the end for Wayne Brittain and the start of the Blues decline to lower echelons for many years.  It turned out not to be a resurgence for the Tiges either.  What awaits this week?

At this stage the Blues have named Judd, McLean and Scotland – Malthouse history says that he would be unlikely to play all three unless they were rock solid.  I expect only two of them at most to play – very keen for Juddy to be one of them!  The Tigers welcome back Jack, who is unlikely to be afforded the experimental opponent like the last encounter where Bootsma was overawed and the Tigers booted eight by quarter time.  On paper the Carlton defense matches up OK on the Tiger forwards, but Vickery is a handy forward ruckman and Aaron Edwards provides an X-factor.  Whilst the Blues were missing a couple last time, Richmond did not have Shane Edwards or Jake King to apply pressure up forward.  If that can step up the Blue defense can be brittle.

Up the other end the guns are on the ground for the Blues with Betts, Yarran and Garlett.  The Blue talls can be covered by Chaplin and Rance, but as long as they can bring the ball to ground then it is a matter of the Amigos being able win those contests.  They are confidence players and last week’s win will have done wonders.  Casboult is another wild card, can take a grab but can’t kick – not sure he will be in the mix anyway as it may make them to top heavy.

But if ever there was a game to be decided in the midfield this would be it.  Last time round Martin and Cotchin were well held, Hardwick is sure to have strategies to ensure they are more effective.  Murphy and Gibbs were terrific last week and were also key in the round 21 encounter, it would be a feather in Bryce Gibbs’ cap if he were tagged instead of being the tagger!  Where Carlton could have the edge is if Judd plays and the Kruezer/Warnock team in the ruck.  Importantly the Tigers midfield does run deep so no matter what the Blues will need an even performance across the board and the designated tags have to be effective.

Another factor is the recent record of this game where the 5th placed team has won the last four encounters, however the overall record is closer with a 7-6 split since the current system has been in place since 2000.  I am taking the latter information as hope.  The Tigers record though for the season makes them deserved favourite but closer to $1.80 than $1.50.  Which again makes the underdog great value and better if you can snare $2.70.  These teams are more evenly matched than the ladder position suggests and the Blues best is good enough for mine, I reckon they are capable of making this week’s upset by 15 points.

 

The Season that Was

It’s curtains for many teams as look forward to 2014, but it is worth a look into the time capsule to see how teams fared relative to predictions at the beginning of the season.

GWS – Fulfilled all expectations and finished 18th, would not be satisfied in only registering the one victory.  The money talks big changes for next year – so improvement is expected but who will they be better than?

Melbourne – Were expected to be bottom four, but not as bad as they turned out.  It all might have a silver lining with Roos in the frame to coach, but will be as important to get Dawes, Clark, Hogan and Watts together on the forward line at the same time plus build a more competitive midfield.

St Kilda – Expectations of a competitive season were over-optimistic.  Celebrations of such a season appeared a little out of proportion.  They have blooded plenty of youngsters, however apart from Stevens still too much reliance on the old-guard which might make 2014 another battle and they might be the team that GWS are better than.

Footscray – Only finished two spots above their prediction of 17th, however they finished the season as almost the best team out of the eight.  Griffin raised his game to another level, but the biggest improvement in the team was that they developed forward targets which made them competitive all over the park.  Should be looking forward to a great 2014.

Gold Coast – Would not only be rapt with the eight wins, but ecstatic in taking a couple of big scalps in particular Collingwood.  Plenty will be spruiking them for 2014, but they need to do more than just win at home.  Their only wins away were against the two bottom teams.

West Coast – They always had a tough draw and whilst many expected top four, the bottom half of the eight was the prediction.  But it all went wrong and I am not sure that injuries were the main factor.  Natanui does make them better, but they have lost a couple of stalwarts and doubt about Kerr for next year.  Not sure what they will be looking forward to, but it will be with a more motivated coach.  Woosha looked cooked a fair way out.

Brisbane – Unbelievable were only one point out of the finals for a short time on Saturday and from a club that removed their coach.  On field they have improved and become very competitive, but not sure what is happening in the backrooms.  They finished close to expectations, but need to find something extra to lift them into the next echelon.

Adelaide – Were expected to be competitive for the top eight, but were dealt a massive blow with injury to Taylor Walker.  It exposed an immediate lack of depth up forward, but it also presented opportunities test depth everywhere.  They did well to remain competitive throughout the season and can look forward to 2014 with a healthy list.

North Melbourne – I doubt many teams out of the finals have ever finished with a percentage of 119.5, so they clearly have talent.  They will need to do better away from the Loungeroom.  They have plenty of grunt, but probably need a bit more speed through the middle.  They finished a couple of places above my prediction.

Essendon – On the field they showed they have a pretty good spine, good rucks and fair talent to put around the rest of it.  Performed above expectations and with good spirit, but what will be left in 2014 is a massive question.

 

Fabulous Flemington

A great comeback from Atlantic Jewel last week has the opponents looking at the schedule to see how they can avoid her.  She is good but fragile, I’d be taking it one race at a time.  But this week the Group 1 action is at headquarters with the Makybe Diva Stakes (G1, 1600m, WFA).  Plenty of interesting runners, but the Melbourne Cup favourite Puisannce de Lune will be very hard to beat given most of the opposition are first up in their campaigns to attack riches available later in spring.  Team Williams bring out Sea Moon for its first appearance in Australia, it has a good fresh record and looks the most obvious danger.  Manighar and December Draw both have good records at Flemington.  Ethiopia will have my eye from a November perspective.

Race 6 – 8-6-1-7

 

A Quaddie – pretty tough but the load can be lighten if we go one out on PdL and Rebel Dane can let us narrow down the 3rd leg also.

1st Leg – 1-2-9-14-16-17

2nd Leg – 8

3rd Leg – 3-8

4th Leg – 4-5-16

Could go wider in the fourth leg, but looking to get a dividend.  36 combinations so a $30 spend will attract 83% of the dividend.

 

Friar Time

A gutsy win at a hostile venue by the Under 19s sees them up against the Northern Blues in the curtain-raiser to the Carlton-Richmond game – except that is at Central park in Glen Waverley and starts at 9:15.  They lads held on to a barnstorming Williamstown last week, they have had some great battles against the Northern Blues with a 2-1 record thus far.  3-1 will see the young Friars into the Grand Final against the Jackas.

 

Go Friars, Go Blues

Cheers, Sal

 

Comments

  1. The Tigers will win by 5 plus goals, Sal. Sorry but the Blues are imposters!

  2. Bill Martino says:

    Now looky here, since when did ‘clash’ do a backflip and start meaning ‘look too similar’ rather than ‘don’t look good together’? Surely the problem with the Carlton and Port Adelaide jumpers was that they looked too similar, rather than that they clashed (like striped ties and checked shirts do, unless you’re a fashion victim)? Argh!

Add Comment Register

Leave a Comment

*