Welcome to the Penultimate Week!
We are now down to four and the news this week has been focussed on the selection of a team that will never play together. The All-Australian team is not something that particularly interests me (Especially when there are no Blues in it) and the discussion and debate over it is tiring. However one particular quirk that intrigued me in listening to Kevin Bartlett sprouting stats to support their selection of Dane Swan, mentioning how he had 40+ possessions in so many games. Fair enough if that’s the criteria, but then explain Cyril – lucky to get twenty in any game – however his mere presence can have profound effect on the result.
But this is the people’s week for footy so a quick review of last week’s predictions before diving headlong into this weekend’s encounters. Once again, as predicted, history repeated and Qualifying Final winners defeated Elimination final losers to take the record to 24 from 26 for the 13 seasons the current finals system has been in operation. But now it onto the games:
Parramatta ($1.64) vs The Carringbush ($2.52)
Having made my selections last week based on history, this game presents a historical conundrum. The Pies record over Sydney is well known, won the last 11 encounters and 7 of those at the venue for this Preliminary Final. However to balance that another glaring stat from finals since 2000 is that of the 24 preliminary finals played only 3 have been won by teams that have come through the semi-finals – Brisbane 2003, Sydney 2005 and West Coast 2006. To spook the Hawks a little in each one of those years the Grand Final result was the reverse of the qualifying final result. (Calm down, Bakes!) But the Pies need to get through this game yet. Collingwood has been through a lot, two tough finals and massive emotional challenges – the emotional stuff does bond the team but I am concerned they played the emotional card last week. On the ground though the teams appear to match up pretty closely, however I am selecting the Swans purely on the fitness factor. I know Dawes has got through this week and maybe he is ready to go, but I have my doubts. Not that he is the pea, but as manful as Jolly has been if Dawes can’t assist then I reckon Mummy and Pyke can rule the skies. However whilst they are my selection, the Pies represent much better investment value. These two teams always provide your cash a chance and $2.50 for Collingwood is a luxury – with the fire power they have and if they can get on top in the midfield they have great chance – not to mention the psychological edge they already possess. To me they are closer to a $2.10 chance.
The Haughties ($1.16) vs Charddy-Sippers ($7.00)
Most games with this discrepancy in the odds only gets the one line during the season and maybe this does not deserve much more. For historical, form, injuries and any other reason Hawthorn are my tip to move into the Grand Final. So the question is how could Adelaide upset them. The Hawks are pretty complete, however there are three areas where they could be exploited. The challenge has been for a team to exploit them for long enough in the game to win. First of all the Hawk kicking game is acknowledged, however when under real pressure a few of those kickers are not as good as they we all think. Sydney could not keep the pressure on for long enough – can Adelaide? The Tigers beat them based around a perception of poor defensive transition in the midfield, if the Crows can get it in the right hands they could exploit that also – however I also believe Clarko has addressed this. Then there is the obvious one (or at least what we all think) – what if someone gets hold of their defence. Geelong probably did it best but still only won after the siren. Can Adelaide separate the Hawk defenders and keep Gibson away from the contest? I reckon they need an extra tall up forward to do that. Finally, they probably have to be able to do all three. History and the odds are against them.
Group Ones return to Melbourne
Remember when we used to have Show Day and the races at Caulfield featured two Group One races the “Politically Inappropriate” Marlboro Cup and the Underwood Stakes. Much to our chagrin Show Day has gone and these two races are spread across two weekends. With the Underwood Stakes WFA over 1800m this Saturday and the race formerly known as the Marlboro Cup – now the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes will be run next Sunday after the Grand Final.
This renewal of the Underwood sees Manighar and Southern Speed clashing again and joining is the Memsie winner Sincero. But there are plenty also on the Cup trails and I will be keen to watch the replay for the big “other” runs. However I expect them to be taking place behind the top three and while Manighar looks too short, I reckon he will be primed to win 2nd up.
Other group races on the day see the 3yo Fillies contest the Thousand Guineas Prelude (G3 1400m), Commanding Jewel is deservedly a short price favourite. But I will be watching the Sheikh’s Dazzler, Snowden generally places his youngsters well. Then there is The Naturalism (G3 2000m) with the winner getting a run in the Caulfield Cup, could not help but be impressed with Zurella at Flemington and Craig Newitt on board at the Heath is a plus. Will also be watching for Folding Gear provided the track remains good. The day finishes with a Mares Group 3 dash over 1200m just in time for the footy. Mosheen did not run to expectations at Flemington, but on a day when the wind had an enormous effect on straight races. I am happy to plonk for her again at odds that no one would have thought possible, but acknowledging there is plenty of talent in the field.
Keeping an eye on Sydney the races return to Royal Randwick with plenty of Group racing and the main one being the George Main Stakes (G1 WFA 1600). The interesting runner is the 3yo All Too Hard who found Piero just that last time. Carrying a feather duster up against the older campaigners will be a good test. Will also be watching the return of Quintessential from a long term perspective.
Hoping for a couple of great clashes this weekend,