Welcome to the Winter Solstice,
The last weekend of the byes and the last weekend of report cards, looking at it from a competition perspective it is pretty sad in my opinion. The top four is virtually settled half way through the season and from there we can select the premier, that is not necessarily an unusual situation. Bombers and Pies might disagree with my assessment, but even they don’t counter the issue at hand. The issue to my mind is that there are no real surprises in who makes that top four, it is almost predetermined at the beginning of the season. The competition is starting to look more and more like the EPL. It goes beyond just who can win the premiership, whilst there are many who despise the odds being presented the games they do provide accurate a reflection of the likely results.
Last week Adelaide were the shortest price outsider at $3.35, every game was one sided to the punters and apart from some boldness from the Blues every game matched the expectations. This week we have a similar scenario with 6 very lopsided fixtures. Vlad’s plan to seize the world might be reasonable, but if every season follows this path of utter predictability and the battling clubs are just cannon fodder interest in the competition will dwindle. It is acknowledged Essendon has joined the top clubs and could challenge for the top four, but they have the finances and the support – the question is do Melbourne or Footscray have the access to resources required join the elite? For the future I hope the game can become less predictable.
Another problem got a massive boost this week with Australia qualifying for the World Cup in Brazil. The previous week’s win over Jordan was a dominant performance with an early goal putting a dagger into the heart of the opposition. This week’s effort in Sydney was an uglier game but showed why the world is so passionate about this game with it played on a knife edge at 0-0 for so long. Critics indicated that the Aussies played a young and weakened Iraqi side, the reality is that the new players in that team were there to prove themselves and win themselves a spot in the national team for their next campaign. They played accordingly and made life more difficult for the Aussies than expected until a super substitution from the coach. We should also recall the change he made last week injecting Archie Thompson into the game at a crucial time and Australia scoring the insurance second goal soon after. On another note what a disgrace the surface presented was for a showcase event. I can accept that the rain did not help, however the grass was left at the level suited for Rugby League surely for a World Cup qualifier our national team deserved better!
Not to mention the Stephen Milne problem!
But onto the final reviews.
Essendon – Rank 5th, Points 63, Upside 76, Downside 52, Flag odds – $18.50, Finals Odds – $1.16
Grade – A
Golden Boy has used the saga to embolden his team and create an “us against them” mentality. No matter what everyone thinks about the Dansky Dalliance, the Bombers are going extremely well and whilst some have seen signs of a drop off as occurred last year, I am yet to see any real evidence. Goddard may not be the star many expected, but he has added flexibility to the team and does make them much better. They have a sound set of key players and it should hold them in good stead. Their draw has been favourable so far and only meets Hawthorn and Collingwood as other top four aspirants in the run home. I have them rated 5th, but they can easily hold their top four position if they continue to beat the middle ranked set of teams.
Collingwood- Rank 6th, Points 57, Upside 64, Downside 52, Flag odds – $14, Finals Odds – $1.18
Grade – B
By their own admission the Pies have not been firing on all cylinders and injuries have had an effect – so they are delighted to be at 8-4. In addition they have a nice run home and should start favourite in all encounters bar those against Hawthorn and Sydney. Despite the great record they have still dropped in my prediction from 4th to 6th but could make that up if any of the top 4 stumble.
Carlton – Rank 8th, Points 47, Upside 60, Downside 36, Flag odds – $55, Finals Odds – $1.89
Grade – C-
The big recruit does not look like delivering the Blues to the promised land in 2013, for that matter the question being asked is whether or not they have the list to get there in the first place? I suspect that is one of the objectives Mick had for the season and assess close up the list he has at hand. A few cards already have appeared to be marked, but overall there are still plenty of questions. The main issue being the inability to take big scalps on a regular basis, the fact that they have had small losing margins has some positive aspects. However it raises more concerns to me around leadership and attitude. The loss to St Kilda was most costly, the Blues are capable of losing out of turn but can’t win out of turn. They must win one of their next two against quality opposition in Sydney and Collingwood. Whilst many Blues are disappointed so far, they are meeting my expectations. Thought they’d finish 7th and have them down for 8th now. Whilst they might be meeting expectations, they are far short of aspirations.
Adelaide – Rank 10th, Points 38, Upside 44, Downside 28, Flag odds – $250, Finals Odds – $8.40
Grade – C-
At the beginning the loss Tippett was the concern about Adelaide for the season, the loss of Walker has left them as competitive side but without any real forward line structure. As such their fortunes and predictions have plummeted, expecting them to finish 10th. Whilst the Crow fans might not like the situation, it is one where the club has the opportunity to test and learn about its list in preparation for 2014 when they get Tex back. Which is exactly what any club that does not have top four aspirations this year should be doing.
Gold Coast – Rank 13th, Points 34, Upside 34, Downside 28, Flag odds – $630, Finals Odds – $12.50
Grade – A
Have already reached expected wins for the year and are displaying a great amount of talent with strong structure to their game. Metricon Mansion might not quite be a fortress but it is certainly a challenge for opposition lubs to visit. The reliance on Gazza has diminished and in Jaeger O’Meara we might be watching the next maestro. They have plenty of winnable games in the run home and none against the top five – they could do extremely well in the run home. I think they would be better served with a couple against the best in comp to really understand where they sit in the pecking order. Have jumped from 16 to 13 in my predictions.
GWS Giants – Rank 18th, Points 5, Upside 8, Downside 0, Flag odds – $1000, Finals Odds – $100
Grade – D
Second year blues? Set themselves for a crack at Port and got blown away – their only chance now are the Dees and the Dogs. They will need Buddy in 2014!
Onto the this week’s set of games, last week proving a round for all the favourites and for me ultimately but sadly making the right call on the Blues against the Hawks.
The Prime Contender ($1.17) vs Wooshing Away ($6.60)
The Hawks stay on their roll and come up against what was thought to be one of the main contenders for the season in West Coast. Injury, form, age and more have plotted against the Eagles and they are struggling to stay in touch. From that perspective West Coast will be primed for this game and if they are any good they should strongly challenge the Hawks. To win a game they are not expected to would be a great result for both their confidence and prospects. However Hawthorn will be keen to maintain their position on top of the ladder and it would take a turn around in form for the Eagles to deny them. By the same token $6.60 is pretty juicy, but not for me.
Giant Slayers ($8.20) vs Giant Neighbours ($1.18)
Port were able to take one Sydney team apart last week, I very much doubt they can do anything close to the same against the other Sydney side. The Premiers get to unveil their boom recruit in Kurt Tippett, much has been said of the Swans capacity to afford him. It is becoming pretty droll, the payment advantage is fair in my opinion. I would certainly need a hefty enticement to move and live in Sydney and they did move on a number of players to clear space in their salary cap anyway. Oh and they will beat Port.
Tip Rat ($1.18) vs Lab Rats ($6.80)
For the Saints they are missing Stephen Milne, much debate about whether or not he should be allowed to play. Without taking a moral position on this, I believe the Saints are best served without him this week purely due to the pressure they would all be under if he were there. Meanwhile the Dees finally make the move that was always going to happen after the first two games of the year, we welcome back the Nutty Professor to the coaching ranks. It will be interesting what pieces of cheese he has been having the Dees chase this week. I rate Melbourne a real chance to win this, the Saints have had a horribly disruptive week and I don’t reckon footy would be front of mind. Melbourne’s week has been disruptive but for the players also probably some relief knowing the club is taking action, will they once again show the “Dead Coach Bounce” phenomena. Reckon the Saints with the Nick’s 250ths and in particular Reiwoldt presence up forward will be too much for the Demons, but the price on offer for Melbourne is great value.
Dog Day Evening ($7.00) vs Duck Shooting ($1.14)
The other Reiwoldt copped a caning this week for ducking into a tackle and reaping the ill-gotten rewards, he takes on his chief critic in Bob Murphy this week. A worthy little side show in what otherwise would appear to be another one-sided contest. The Dogs will try hard, but the Tigers will have too much polish.
The Man in Black ($6.80) vs Spurred On ($1.16)
What a great promotion, the Lions asking the fans to wear Black to the game in honour of their record-breaking champ. What a fantastic player Simon Black has been over the years, skill, courage, vision – has been a joy to watch even as he taken my team apart over the journey. I’ll be wearing black watching this one. But then the Cats have their share of imminently watchable stars and none more so that Jimmy Bartel who needed a bit of a break and watch the Spurs over his break. Nice for some to be able to allow that! He will be refreshed, the Lions will be better at home and with Brown and Merrett but not good enough for Geelong.
Step over Toe Hold ($1.33) vs On the Road Kill ($3.90)
Freo get to strangle another victim on their patch in the Kangaroos this week. Some commentators have rated North a chance with their speed and think they can exploit Freo on the long ground. Can’t see that myself, they exploited West Coast because West Coast are slow. Freo don’t lack for pace and Freo’s success in shutting down this ground has nothing to do with the length, but the it is quite narrow and makes it easier to lock down. Freo to reign again!
The Mighty Friars
The Seniors did what they needed to in defeating the cellar-dwellars Glen Eira, however a significantly better performance will be required this week against Bulleen-Temp to avenge the round one defeat. The Under 19s recorded a 20 goal turnaround from round one inflicting an 8 goal defeat over AJAX – this week they shoot for another victory over Old Xavs.
Go Friars, Go Blues