Finals Week 1 – It’s Great to be a Neutral Sometimes

The first week of the finals is my favourite round of the year. As a neutral supporter, you get to watch matches for the pure enjoyment of the game and the ruthless intensity that finals bring. With my only trepidation going into the weekend being Patrick Cripps getting an nasty infection from a coral cut in Tahiti, I was able to enjoy a weekend of games that lived up to the hype and produced some outstanding results and performance.


While finding a whole concept of school night football deplorable, the Doggies demolition of the Weagles was one for the ages. Of all teams playing in the finals, the Western Bulldogs were the ones with the most to gain from the previous week’s bye. Players who have been carrying injuries or returning from injury got an extra week that undoubtedly placed them in position to beat West Coast. I doubt very much that they could have pulled off such a famous victory had they travelled to Perth on two consecutive weekends. Another thing the bye allowed was extra time for coaches to put in place team strategies and the Bulldog’s Luke Beveridge did this to perfection. Normally teams have one to two sessions at the beginning to week going through video and opposition match ups. The Bulldogs probably went through four sessions leading up to Thursday night’s game.  And didn’t it show. Not only were West Coast blown off the park by the Bulldog tactics and run, it was hard to find one of their players who beat their opponent. That is a fairly amazing achievement for any team visiting Subiaco.


Friday night clash between Hawthorn and Geelong was yet another classic in what is surely the biggest rivalry in modern football. And boy do they hate each other guts. I reckon had it been grand final there would be more blues than King Street at closing time. The seasoned midfield of Lewis, Hodge, Mitchell and Burgoyne took it up to Cat’s with a combination of physicality and at times plain sniping. However, there was no denying the brilliance of Dangerfield and Selwood as they dominated centre clearances. The Hawks midfielders were getting the footy but the pressure of the game cause unfamiliar turnovers and skill areas which were not accustomed to seeing from the slick Hawks. The tag on Mitchell was also effective. The madness which has the last ten minutes saw the Hawks bombing it long. With no talls on the end, Tom Longegan quickly sent the ball back the other way allowing the Cats to claw back the deficit and eventually hit the front will minutes to play. The game became a war of attrition until it came down the final kick of the night, after the siren. Would the Hawks pluck another victory from the fire as they had done five times previously this year? Nope. Smith pulls his shot from in front and the Cats go from funereal to hysteria. The Hawks versus the Doggies next week sets up for exciting match and if the Sons of the West play as well is last week, the Hawks chance of four premierships in a row might be out the window.


Saturday afternoon’s game at Olympic Park looked on paper to be a game of men versus boys. Thankfully some dunderhead found out that the Giants playing list was actually slightly older on average than the Swans. But let not get fact get in the way of cliches. Right from the opening bounce it was clear that this was never going to be a one-sided affair some had predicted. We all know that the other Sons of the West can play amazing outside footy with the fast midfield setting up the attacks into the forward line. What we weren’t expecting was the inside pressure and their ability to play the Swans at their own game and doing is far better. Mummy was making his presence felt in the ruck providing the Giants’ smalls with good delivery which is they took full advantage of. Inaccurate kicking from both sides kept the game pretty close and the first half showed there is no love lost between the two sides. Rather than big verses younger brother, they were both just angry siblings scrapping it out in the backyard. Buddy decided that he would spend most of the first half up the ground. Bruce thought this was very effective for the Swans. Davis thought his Christmases had come at once. I thought kicking goals might have a greater impact of the result. The second half saw the Giants lift another cog. The Swans had been battered and out played and the speed of the Giant midfield blew the Eastern Suburbs boys away. Cameron’s third quarter was telling with three goals however it the Giants’ engine room that will have the rest worries.


The fourth final was predictable in it outcome yet unpredictable how was achieved. The Roos had limped into the finals after an ordinary second half of the year. The Crows where licking their wounds after an ordinary effort in the last round that lost them a top four spot and a second chance. The Crows turned that form around and after some initial fight from the Kangas, everyone grabbed a drink and sat back and watched the Eddie Betts show. Like Cyril. Eddie doesn’t get many total possessions but hell does he make you pay for the ones her does. Six goals in a BOG performance made the North defenders look silly. The Crows have a potent forward set up and solid defence. Their mid field might be their Achilles as, other than Sloane, their use of the ball can be slow and inaccurate at times. The Swans, in form, will exploit that and make them pay on the score board. Still the trip the Sin City is not that daunting as it might have been two years ago and the Crows have good recent form there. Still it’s hard to see Sydney not making them pay for their pantsing by the Giants.


So now all games are for keeps. The Cats and the Giants get to watch the other four belt the handbag out of each other and both look good for a GF appearance. The Giants get a home game at the Showgrounds and they will take some beating based on Saturday’s form. The Cats probably played below their best and will need to lift for the prelim. The Bullies are the great unknown but how far can spirit get a team up that has had so much go wrong for them this year. The Crows fans are on the band wagons north and their boys can expect a different Swans this week. Quick delivery into their forward line on the little ground is their best chance.


Who will benefit most from the bye, the teams with momentum or the well-rested. History says the well-rested but is two games in four week too much of a good thing.

About Tony Robb

A life long Blues supporter of 49 years who has seen some light at the end of the tunnel that isn't Mick Malthouse driving a train.


  1. Hang on – what’s this about Crippa?

  2. Sorry to alarm. Should have wrote the possibility of a nasty infection

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