What a fantastic set of finals we were treated to last weekend and hoping for more of the same this weekend. Plenty of talking points and even a few questions to answer in the aftermath. And especially by Get Stuffed Lyon! His attack on reporter Shane McInnes in the after match press conference was a disgrace, the press has a job to do and ask the questions the football public wants answers to. There are plenty of times when their questions delve into areas of a personal nature that I don’t particularly care for; but questions on the game, tactics and strategy are all legitimate. A question regarding whether Freo overdid the aggression early in the game was particularly valid given that at the time Zac the Hack was looking at the potential to miss the Preliminary Final. GSL, there was nothing insinuated by the question – a simple “I don’t think so” would have been a perfectly acceptable response. Shane McInnes’s perfectly valid response to the attack should have been “Get Stuffed”. And the same goes for Mick!
But the question on the aftermath is for the vanquished in Richmond and Collingwood – is it worse to bow out in week one of the finals or avoid the scrutiny and not make them at all? The two clubs have been put under the spotlight and critically assessed – not much fun. But invaluable in understanding exactly where the club is, having also been put under the finals kosh rather than petering out in the Round 23. The fact they were both higher ranked teams will rankle that little bit more.
An extraordinary set of results with only one game going to script, the Hawks certainly now appear to be in pole position. Sydney appear to be in a bit of bother, lacking spark and not winning any clean possession. A pretty ordinary game for the neutral observer, but a perfect one for the Hawk fans – intensity early and a shift into overdrive in the second half.
For all of the misgivings on GSL and his game style – there is no doubt it is highly effective and as pertinently for Freo they play as a team in ALL facets of the game defense, attack and niggle. Yes the Cattery shape might have helped Freo, but their win was about so much more than that. Geelong can respond but need to sort out the rucks and another big forward from a personnel perspective. They also fell into a selfish game style – it is one of Freo’s great strengths that they make their opponents gasp for air as individuals while they work them over collectively.
No matter what Bucks said about concentrating on the game at hand, Eddie’s concerns about a six day break were already out there and great ammunition for Port. Much has been made of Collingwood’s poor use of the footy and it was not great, however Port were brilliant in reading the play and knowing where the Collingwood kicks were heading. I am sure that can be directly attributed to Gotchy’s magnificent opposition analysis!
Sunday was a feast! Two teams playing footy like we want to watch it in front 95,000 – plenty of mistakes but fast and furious and not the rolling maul that features in so many top of the competition clashes. Unfortunately that style can’t really win it all. With all the Tiger ceremony I thought I was following the Washington Generals – a bit over the top and possibly a reason for the second half capitulation. Lots of Tiger energy went early. Despite the scoreboard at half time the game was a contest and as such a lift in the Blues could balance the match. When that lift comes from C Judd then it does more than put you back in the match.
Semi-final weekend has always been a good weekend for the punter. The Qualifying Final losers are always considered in a heap of trouble and the Elimination Final winners are “Flying”. You usually get a great price on the QF Losers who did finish top 4 and they have an over 90% win rate in these games. Can the script be rewritten this week?
Gone West ($1.24) vs Can’t Kill Kenny ($5.00)
Hmmmm – maybe the odds theory is out the window. The Cats might be in bother but they have come up pretty short here, I suspect that the view is Port Adelaide played their Grand Final last week. With their efforts throughout this year, that is a dangerous premise. The Cats are weakened in defense with the loss of Enright, not just from his ability but his leadership and organisation. Freo’s small forwards were effective but did not create havoc, Guthrie did a fine job. Port’s small forwards don’t have the pace of Freo, but Monfries, Wingard and Gray present plenty of other challenges with their skill. However overall the Port attack does not appear to be the same level of threat, noting the naming of Harry Taylor up forward.
The Cats have loaded up at the other end, after last week they had no other option but to name Tomahawk and with the JPod and Harry alongside they can stretch the Port defense. Mind you Carlisle and Trengrove are very capable defenders and Port defend very well as a team. On the ground the Cats have speed and talent, it was shackled last week not sure they will be able to be held on the expanses of the G.
But as always the critical contests will take place in the middle, would love to see Boak directly up against Selwood! It will be pretty busy on the highway with both teams looking to attack through the corridor. On the ground both teams have a battery of strong bodied and willing midfielders, but the Cats have more of them that can provide the X-factor. However in the skies they got a fair old touch up from Herman and The Good Zac, Lobbe might be a lone hand in the Ruck for Port but is playing well. The Geelong rucks must provide a more physical contest than last week.
No matter what result they get this week – by any measure this has been a successful season. The Cats are under the hammer but they don’t lose two in a row very often. I expect history to repeat and Geelong come away with a steady 23 point victory. The odds are pretty much spot on considering history, but I have always thought $5 not bad value in a two horse race.
No Goodes ($1.41) vs Duigan It ($3.30)
What are the true Swannies? Have they fallen away as a team, are they tired or have injuries finally taken their toll. I suspect some truth in all of those, but it is a dangerous game to take the wounded ducks lightly! What are the true Blues is an equally perplexing question? Their best is undoubtedly good enough to win, but can they play it for long enough against what will be a desperate opposition. They are sure to have a tougher contest in the stoppages than last week. Injuries to McGlynn and Rohan hurt – even more so than normal as the Sydney injury list has forced the selection of less experienced players.
The Ted and Reg Show in defense for Sydney always looks suspect – but usually does the job. Mick will want to put something interesting up there to ensure they are stretched, it could be a challenge given the tall resources that may be required at the other end. But the Blues strength in attack is through the midgets – once they are on a roll they are hard to stop. Against that Betts, Garlett and Yarran do not turn a game; they finish the efforts of others further up the ground – usually Judd. But they are a handful and will present challenges to the rest of the Bloods defense.
But the other end will be telling. Tippett, White and the resting rucks will really stretch an undersized Carlton defense. If Sydney can manufacture enough one-on-one contests they might rule the skies – but the Blue defense did work very well in support of each other last week and will need to again. For Sydney it will also need to ensure that they can stop the raids forward generated by Walker and Simpson.
Getting first use of the footy is critical and these two teams have quality rucking combinations in Pyke/Mumford and Warnock/Kreuzer (assuming Kreuzer is fit.) Warnock can’t take a grab but his ruck work is a treat. Can he feed Judd, Murphy, Gibbs and ….? That is one of the concerns on the Blues compared to Sydney is the spread of midfielders. There are others that go through for Carlton, but I reckon only Ted, Reg and Jesse White don’t take a turn in the kitchen. Sydney will ensure they sit on the key Blues, will be great to see Gibbs tagged – he deserves it after his game last week. Mick has taken a couple off the leash and really only using Curnow and Armfield to tag, although Tuohy has done a couple of good jobs on strong bodied midfielders recently. Would be keen to see Bell go head to head with Josh Kennedy and see collectively how many handballs go to the ground!
Sydney are a proud team and while not at full strength still have plenty of talent and a disciplined system, plus they have had 2 extra days which might be important comparing McVeigh and Kreuzer. The Blues are in danger of overexposure after last week, but unlike Port a loss will still mean they finished outside the top 8 and need to have a good hard look at themselves. Let’s remember this is still 4th vs 9th! But Sydney looked tired last week and some of their more energetic players were lethargic and sloppy. The Blues best is good enough, but history says they are very unlikely to prevail. I say they just might by 11 points.
Their Season Was
Collingwood – Maybe Buckley was right after the game and where they are relative to 2010. The Pies were rated top four before the season, but could never get any consistency or flow in their game. At their best they were irrepressible – but in reality that was mainly driven by the efforts of their midfield guns. The cleanout and recriminations have taken off in earnest. The number of injuries did not really hurt, but who got them did with Beams, Toovey and Thomas missing most of the season.
Richmond – A disappointing crash out of the finals, but in reality a pretty successful season given most pundits would not have predicted them to make the finals. This one had them at 11th. But the question is what the future holds, to most the glass is half full and the club with 60,000 members is looking forward. But there is a cautionary factor to consider when prognosticating for 2014, they had a remarkable run with injuries through 2013. In good health they could make the finals, but I reckon they are another middle of the road and need something special to make the quantum leap to the top echelon.
A Rosehill by any other name!
A great meeting at Flemington last week with Puissance de Lune going under but losing no admirers for the first Tuesday – in fact a win may have cost him at the handicappers table. But this week the Sydney Group 1 season kicks off with The Golden Rose (G1, 1400m, 3yo) for $1,000,000 in prizemoney. I certainly have bias to the Victorians in the field, mainly as I watched them a bit closer. None closer than the Macneil at The Heath where Fast ‘ Rocking lost the mantle as the best maiden in the country. The first three in that race were all outstanding with Prince Harada and Thermal Current running great races behind the winner. I reckon they can do the same in this race, but favour Prince Harada who was badly held up at Caulfield before exploding through the gap. But there are many chances, I am putting Zoustar for the Waller yard in for 4th and will be watching Drago closely with the longer 3yo classics in mind
Rosehill Race 7 – 13-2-14-4
At the Valley the feature event is the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes where the Melbourne Cup runner up Fiorente returns and the Kavanagh colt Super Cool dodges his stablemate Atlantic Jewel who will run at Black Caviar odds in the Stocks Stakes for the mares. That race has been scheduled as race 4 to remove the free kick in the Quaddie. But happy to take one in the first leg with the Group One performer Moment of Change. In the DTCNS betting is around Fiorente and Super Cool but Ajeeb is a track specialist and Lidari might be very good. High Esteem is a very short favourite in the 3rd leg and we come home with a wide open affair, that we will trim down and hunt for a return.
1st Leg – 1
2nd Leg – 3,6,8,9
3rd Leg – 1,7,10
4th Leg – 2,6,9,14
48 combinations, a $30 spend will attract 62.5% of the dividend.
The Under 19s held the Northern Blues goalless till half way through the last stanza and were superb. They take on AJAX in the Grand Final this Sunday morning at 9:15am at the Trevor Barker Oval in Sandringham. What a wonderful season they have had considering they played round one against their foes this week and were defeated by 12 goals! They have split the other contests during the season in tight affairs.
Go Friars, Go Blues