AFL Round 4 – Preview: Stop putting lipstick on this pig!

Greetings for Palm Sunday to all,

Plenty of issues this week but the one screaming out is the plight of the Blues.  For opposition supporters it has been a week of schadenfreudian delight, for Carlton supporters it has been a nightmare building.  There has been some solace about a 0-3 start relating a similar beginning in 2013 – bollocks I say.  In 2013 Richmond, Collingwood and Geelong inflicted defeats, the latter two were widely touted as top 4 material and the combined margin for those losses was 38 points.  This year the losses have been against sides that supporters would have considered key teams to beat should the Blues have a chance to rise above last years performance.  Port and Essendon by evidence so far are leaps and bounds ahead and whilst the Tiges have question marks they still dominated the first half against Carlton.  The aggregate margin for the first three games for Carlton in 2014 is 126 points.
As for Mick not seeing it coming – perhaps he just did not want to see it coming.  The signs were very poor in terms of defensive structure and accountability for major periods of the Port and Richmond games which ultimately cost those games.  Last week it was perfected and those traits lasted for the whole four quarters.  All we have heard this week out of Princes Park is rhetoric and bull dust; none of the press releases has covered the specifics of what has gone wrong, none of the players have taken individual responsibility.
There is plenty more to say on the plight of the Blues from a supporters perspective but one more set of stats to consider.  At the end of Round 3 two years ago, Carlton was favourite for the flag (albeit a false one) and the aggregate winning margins were 195 points!  It is time for the club to stop putting lipstick on this pig and start genuinely making changes that might make it a competitor in the years to come.
Right now that is done a couple more to come from the top ropes on.
Beginning with Saturday afternoon football – it has now become the graveyard slot for the AFL.  I suggest that there should be Saturday afternoon footy on only 3 occasions during the year – Easter Saturday, the Saturday of the Queen’s Birthday and the last Saturday in September.  But in doing so the AFL should also encourage the public to go and watch, participate and get involved in the local competitions.  Those competitions usually have week off for the Paschal and Monarchical Celebrations.
Then there is the AFL spin department saying that 62,000 is a good crowd for Carlton – Essendon as they have continued to water down the soft crowd numbers for the season.  Carlton-Essendon games get over 70,000 unless there are extenuating circumstances.  Last year in Round 22 it was poor with the drug debacle and in 2012 it was poor as both clubs had poor form and the Bombers were really tapering off.  (It was also Saturday Afternoon).  The crowds are crap because the crowds are crap, whether it is the pricing, the way the game is played, the lack of genuine competition who knows.  But for the AFL it is time to be honest and make it a priority over maximising revenue, cause without the crowds there the whole appeal of the game disappears.
There is much chagrin about free agency with Carlton and Melbourne stuck right in the middle with Gibbs and Frawley.  The clubs are stuck in a bind where they have to play these blokes even though neither club is a chance at the pointy end of the season.  If players cannot commit to their clubs for the future, then the clubs should be able to leave them out of their sides.  But the free agency system is compromised by the promise of a high draft pick these blokes stay in the team to keep their “value” up.  It would be much cleaner to dispense with the compensation pick and leave it all up to market forces and allow clubs to make long term strategic decisions on who plays and who doesn’t.
But enough – as Million Dollar Mick said – at least there is only a six day break.  I have lamented the Sydney weather over the last few weeks – it is certainly Melbourne’s turn this week.
Kick it to Jack ($2.46) vs Kick it to Trav ($1.67)
Both teams might very well kick it to their key forwards, but I suspect it will be more of a night for the ground level players with the forecast conditions.  The Tigers have their share of mudlarks, however I reckon the Pies have a few more and there are none better than Luke Ball in the slop.  Brodie Grundy is the style of ruck man ideally suited to a Heavy 9 also.  It makes Collingwood my selection, but the odds are pretty tasty for Richmond who should be about a $2.30 chance.
How’s the Bathwater? ($1.14) vs Without Merrett ($7.60)
The Port lads had a bit too much of their own bath water last week, before the Kangas showed that more than one team can run.  They should get back on track this week against Brisbane side further depleted with the loss of Merrett and Rich.
The Waite is Over ($1.15) vs Open Dawes ($7.20)
There should be degrees given to anyone who can follow the Carlton Football Club selection policies and strategies.  The Million Dollar Man correctly observed that to win the flag you have to finish top four, that possibility was dead and buried last week if not earlier.  So then it is time now to bring in youth, great to see Patrick Cripps get a run but Heath Scotland – pull-leeeeease!  A great servant for the club but surely not the future – what a confused and mixed message this sends.  The Dees welcome back Chris Dawes which should provide better quality up forward. Dissecting both performances last week, Melbourne’s had more merit but the Blue rhetoric would indicate to expect a different effort level this week.  With that and a large part of my support for the club they are my selection.  However as a punting proposition $1.15 would take plenty of faith – on the other hand any team put up at $5+ against Carlton has to be worth a shekel!
Loving their Mummy ($2.34) vs Western Districts? ($1.72)
The experience brought in by the Giants really assisted last week and will need to work hard again against the Dogs who did prove the value bet of the round last week.  Their best is very competitive, but there remain questions about their forward line capability.  On the other hand the Giants are loaded with talent up front.  Poor conditions are expected in the nation’s capital and after playing on a heavy deck last week the Giants legs will be heavy compared to their opponents who were on the fast track in the Loungeroom.  That tilts the game the Dogs way for mine.
Hard Corey ($1.25) vs Broken Glass ($4.70)
The Cats get their defensive maestro back in Corey Enright, while the Eagles lose their defensive rock in Darren Glass.  Add another four injuries to the Eagles and they look more like the team of 2013!  It would be stretch to tip them at the Cattery, but the X factor of Natanui does make $4.70 interesting.
The Students ($4.70) vs The Examiners ($1.26)
Gold Coast have gone well in all the preliminaries but this week they have the ultimate examination against the Hawks who get one of the stars back in Luke Hodge.  They still have some missing!  I expect the Suns to get a B for effort but will ultimately fail this time.
Randwick ($1.45) vs Boomtime ($3.15)
On form this should be a beauty – Sydney getting back on track and the Roos running over the Power.  But history says it won’t be – North last defeated Sydney 9 contests ago in 2007 and then we go back to 2004 for their last win at the SCG.  I reckon the odds are a bit too far apart given a likely wet track, however still selecting the Bloods.
Petticoats ($2.18) vs Vinegar ($1.76)
The Charddy is particularly acidic at the moment in Adelaide while the Saints put up a massive effort at Subiaco last week and are playing very competitive footy.  Add Adelaide’s horrendous recent record in the loungeroom and there appears to be compelling reason to select the Saints.  Add Nick Reiwoldt as a factor and I am almost convinced.  But there is the overriding belief that Adelaide and their midfield are ultimately better.  So whilst Adelaide are the selection – i’d be keen to get some $2.25 on the men who would like to be at the Junction again.
Failed ($1.92) vs Bomber’s Boys ($1.97)
Lost in all the fury of being a Carlton supporter last week was the fact that the despised foe in Essendon was very, very good.  What was particularly noticeable was their predictability, players intuitively knew what each other was going to do.  A trait common in premiership sides – now that is even more galling.  The mark of Bomber is being stamped on this group.  They take on Freo who really struggled in their Hawk examination last week.  But they were missing two of the best midfielders in the competition – they are not back yet!  As a student of the stats itpoints to a Bomber win – they have won their last three in Perth (2 against Freo).  However I am not sure how they will go up against Herman – the Essendon midfield were excellent against Warnock and Carlton.  However I suspect Get Stuffed Lyon will have plans to ensure the advantage stays with them.  Ultimately using records the Freo home ground advantage holds sway for me in a flip of the coin game.
Randwick Raffles
The Championships finally arrive at Randwick on what is likely to be another sodden track.  Most unfortunate as there are four Group One events for decision and making a decision on them is very difficult with the conditions – but as the horses will have to do – we plough on!
The babies stretch out to seven furlongs in the Sires Produce Stakes (G1, 1400m, 2yo Set Weights) – with the pressure and the track conditions of the Golden Slipper last week I am discounting those runners.  Some maybe worthy but a risk I am happy to take.  Going with the Sheikh and Kumaon (5) to turn the tables on Time for War (3), must respect the fillies and Peggy Jean (8) closed hard in her last mission.  The X Factor horse is the Hayes trained Zululand (4) who won the VRC Sires Produce Stakes over this journey in great style – but has not seen a wet track.
Selections Race 5 – 5-8-4-3
The Australian Derby (G1, 2400m, 3yo Set Weights) has the fancied types at the top of the list, but with wet conditions who knows what can happen.  Going to take the risk and discount Puccini who laid down a horrible tune in the Rosehill Guineas which is the most logical form race for the Derby.  The first 3 across the line there are in my top four selections along with Gallatin (8) who had a massive win coming from last to win the Tulloch Stakes.  But putting Thunder Fantasy (3) on top, last start Criterion (1) was the victor but the order was the other way around over the longer journey of the VRC Derby.  Criterion (1) must rate a huge chance and Teronado (5) was not far away last time.  Savvy Nature (4) was also close but did not get the trip in the VRC Derby, might have matured but you need to knock some of them out.  The second Darley contender Tupac Amaru (12) has a good heavy track record and slogged away for 5th in the VRC Derby – could be worth a shekel if this is a real slog.
Selections Race 6 – 3-8–1-5
The dashers meet against the scale in the TJ Smith Stakes (G1, 1200m, WFA) – a cracking field but looking for the known wet trackers and as it turns out one of them is Buffering (1) who also has a pretty good 2nd up record.  A shame about the conditions, but if they happen to dry out then Lankan Rupee (3) would be tough to beat.  But given that it is unlikely my others are the Irish raider Gordon Lord Byron (2)Rebel Dane (5) and Tiger Tees (6).
Selections Race 7 – 1-2-6-5
The last raffle is the time honoured Doncaster Mile (G1, 1600m, HCP), this time we look for the mudders that have escaped the handicapper.  Weary (19) fits the profile perfectly and has always had this race as the target, PG Moody switched Dissident (16) from the Derby to this and has been terrific in his own age group.  PGM also has Lidari (15) who found the WFA of the George Ryder too much is way down in the weights and it is impossible to ignore the Hawkes stable with Messene (17) who would be my selection if not for the conditions
Selections Race 8 – 19-16-15-17
Another really tough one, but worth it if you can nail it.  Again need to pick a race to go wide in and hoping that I can get the first two in and stay wide in the Doncaster.
Leg 1 – 1-3-5-8-12
Leg 2 – 1-2-3
Leg 3 – 1-3-4-5-6-7-9-15-16-17-18-19
Leg 4 – 4-8
That is 360 combinations so $30 returns a mere 8.33% of the dividend – maybe some scratching will help – or take out a couple.
Kind Regards, Sal

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