Finals Week 1 – Finals Preview: It’s Finally Here!

Welcome One and All to September!


Let’s hope Gill doesn’t get too upset by the reaction to the week off, but blimey I got sick of looking at property!


The Club that Keeps on Giving!


We must give thanks to the Richmond footy club giving us all so much even when they do not give on the field, what would the media do without them?  Whilst the natives are being restless they don’t really seem to have any solutions apart from meeting in a gym, my preference would certainly be the pub so I’d be siding with the Malvern Hotel gathering.  Why are the Tigers in this position?


The answer to that lies in parkland to the north of the city and in some pretty recent history.  The Carlton Football Club looked eerily similar in 2011 a mere 3 points from a preliminary final.  They entered 2012 with huge expectations for the group and were premiership favourites after 3 rounds, the rest is history with club falling back uncontrollably through unrealistic expectations and hubris which lead to some incredibly poor decision making.  2011 was fun but it was the proverbial “lipstick on a pig”, losing all five encounters with the top four teams during the season plus one final.  The stark reality was that the Blues were not good enough and the playing list required thorough honest assessment.  In comparison, Richmond have fared better against the top teams, but the stark reality is that their team is just not good enough.  It’s great to take the Safari Animals (Big 5) off the table, but all that is left is hyenas and jackasses.  As a Blues supporter I have seen enough of Hyenas and Jackasses!


A difference though has been the belief in the coach, the Blues board were frothing at the mouth at the prospect of snaring Mick Malthouse and in the process alienated one of their favourite sons.  Brett Ratten may not have been the best coach, but he was treated poorly and made a scapegoat for many other failings of the club.  Richmond on the other hand seem too afraid of pulling the trigger on the coach after going through so many over the previous 25 years.  They rushed to resign Dimma till 2018 when there wasn’t anyone banging on his door.  The team was OK but just filling the numbers in finals.  His own exhortations of how good the team is and setting unrealistic expectations for the Tiger hordes has helped set the current feeding frenzy in motion.  This pontificator got a few wrong at the start of the season, but was very confident in the prediction of Richmond’s fall.  The answer as to who should fall lies in the question of whose strategy it was and remains to pump up supporters expectations with this playing group.  If Damien Hardwick genuinely believes this group is good enough, then he should go.  If he is just keeping the horde happy on behalf of the board, then they should go.


Awards Time


The introduction of the Gary Ayres Award for best finals player has sparked some debate over the best finals players over the journey.  His finals record was outstanding, a very accomplished player but played with all the flair of an auditor!  I want awards that invoke the flair and stand out acts that have punctuated finals history there have been several other players who have performed admirably over finals that are equally or more worthy of the medal.  The media have listed great finals players over the last week Bartlett, Hodge, Matthews, Johnston even Clark “The Lawn Mower” Keating but none in my readings and listenings have covered my pick of finals players – the great Brent Tasman “Tiger” Crosswell.  Not just an amazing finals record, but a player of flair, energy and explosiveness – a player that people would just go to watch.  Of his 222 games 24 were finals winning four premierships and named among the best players in each of those flags, including best on ground for mine in the timeless 1970 Grand Final.  He now lives a quiet existence in Hobart, however the Sage and I are on the lookout for the odd Tiger Sighting.  Of course the finals record his mentor Ronald Dale Barrassi probably surpasses all.  Just reckon taking hone Tiger has a better ring to it than taking home Conan!


But what about the other awards we should be having?  The Mark of the Finals – obviously The Jezza springs to mind, I would argue that The Snake might be as suitable regaling the joy that Phil Baker brought to September.  Goal of the Finals – a few contenders Gary Ablett out of the ruck, Peter Bosustow the smother and snap, KB and the blind turn but surely we would have to name it after Phil Manassa.  Then there might be the other set:


Hit of the Finals – Mark Yeates will feature highly, Dennis Banks and Terry Daniher offers some stiff competition.  But surely to be known as “The Fred” after Freddie Fitzgibbon who copped four weeks in the preliminary final for a king hit and then jumped the fence to join the fray in the infamous 1945 “Bloodbath” Grand Final.  Not sure where Ted Whitfield fits – he never hit anyone but the rap sheet included “abusive language to goal umpire Les Whyte, attempting to strike field umpire Frank Spokes, kicking the ball away after a free kick was given against him, and attempting to conceal his guernsey so goal umpire Les Whyte could not report him”


Smother of the Finals – nor sure it is appropriate if we say “Taking Home the Chick”


Step of the Finals – KB already mentioned, Mark Naley in 87 were good but surely this would have to be the Baker’s Award after Leon Baker’s magic in 1984


Behind of the Finals – some may argue for Helen D’Amico but surely it must be The Breen


Singer of the Finals – what about getting Sticks Kernahan for the pre-game?  Maybe not.



So who will be this year’s contenders, it all finally kicks off on Thursday Night.


Coasting Along ($1.27) vs Strung Up ($4.50)


They played poorly but kept winning, then kept winning against the best including away wins over the Giants and Adelaide.  The Eagles have found the right time to hit form and could be dangerous through this finals series.  They start with the Bulldogs who have been mighty this season keeping a competitive team on the park despite continually being beset by injury.  The Dogs get five back who are all in the best 22, so provided all are fit we can expect a better performance than what we saw against Freo in round 22.  Much has been made of their inability to score and it is a factor, but there are a couple of outliers in the stats that drag them back.  The big issue is that they cannot have another outlier.  Much talk about the need to get in front of Kennedy and rightly so, however one of the keys for West Coast in the last few weeks is the spread of goalkicking with Le Cras and Darling finding the target.  The big thing though will be restricting supply and the Bulldogs need to be that and win contested ball in the middle, they have the personnel to combat Shuey and Priddis but are Libba and Macrae really ready?  Somehow they need to penetrate the Eagles defence which has been superb of late.  Critical that the Footscray forwards contest and present.  I suspect it means they need something special from either Bontempelli and/or Stringer.  The only other factor that could swing the Dogs way is if Scott Lycett does not come up, just not sure Giles can do the job alone.  West Coast to win by 31 points.


Moggy’s Creek ($1.70) vs Fourthorn? ($2.42)


The weather gods are promising some serious activity for Friday – will it be before, during or after the game.  To a certain extent it will have little effect for either of these teams, the Cats have renown mudlarks in Bartel and Selwood but the Hawks are OK in that category also with the likes of Lewis, Mitchell and Hodge.  Structurally though it does assist Hawthorn who are relying on their strength at ground level on the forward line, whereas the Cats defence has its strength in the air although Boris can adapt to any conditions and any opponent.  At the other end it will also suit the Hawks in nullifying Tomahawk, although he will still deliver a mighty contest.  The challenge for Hawthorn will being able to play a precision possession game in probably perilous conditions.  The midfields match up pretty evenly with the one exception of Dangerfield, finding the right opponent is always a challenge.  The Cats seem to have zeroed in on Sam Mitchell with all indications being Scott Selwood will have that assignment.  For both teams all the stars align and I suspect the difference will be how the bottom half of the teams handle the conditions and the occasion.  With such a strong recent finals pedigree, both clubs will have an unexpectedly high number of players in their first final.  Form says Geelong, but that last goal of the season might have a massive impact as the Hawks could line themselves up for four on the trot with a win.  It’s bound to be close and going with Hawthorn by 4 points.


The Old Bulls ($1.46) vs The Other Old Bulls ($3.10)


Probably the one contest Sydney didn’t want, facing the Giants on neutral territory.  However they go in healthy and in good form, the one worry being lack of a real test since the Hawthorn game.  It might be the Giants first final but it is folly to think Sydney trumps them for experience.  From the sides they fielded in Round 23 Sydney’s average age was only 129 days older and the Giants had an aggregate of 20 games more than Sydney.  Then of the spread GWS only had two players with less than 50 games, whereas Sydney had 7 and will get Callum Mills back.  That aside finals experience will be on the Swans side with only six Giants having experienced the heat in the cauldron.  So who wins.  It will be whichever team can get the game on their own terms, yes a bit Captain Obvious but they play such completely opposite games.  The Giants would love to break the game open and get into a footrace, whereas Sydney  will be looking to make it as contested as possible.  Can certainly entertain a Giants victory if they can manage the occasion, however a bit like Grand Finals I think and they have to lose one before they win one.  Swans by 22 points.


Charddy Sippers ($1.20) vs Bye, Bye Boomer? ($5.80)


Just found the week a bit tawdry for North with both Petrie and Waite declaring their fitness and credentials, are they focussed on the club or themselves?  Meanwhile Adelaide were rudely reminded of how much Rory Sloane means to them – I doubt he will be quite as loose (or accurate) in his future spoiling attempts.  He is critical to them, however Brodie Smith also didn’t play and he is probably even more critical.  In partnership with Rory Laird their exquisite kicking sets up so much of the Crow’s forward thrusts, when one is missing the opposition do not have to spread their resources as wide to cut off supply.  The Eagles provided the formula to curtail the Crows, I am sure Don Pyke will put in a few tweaks to make it more difficult for Brad Scott to stop them.  North’s chance is to win midfield contest and get a big performance from one of their forwards.  Ben Brown would be perfect for them as he is the future, not discounting Petrie or Waite who have both performed well in finals.  Then they also have to stop supply into Betts, Jenkins, Walker and Lynch who have been the most productive (and entertaining) forward line of the season.  North not without hope but Adelaide in a 65 point blowout for me.


Friar Time


Not on the field but plenty happening off the field with coach Dick Baker indicating he won’t be continuing due to family commitments, so the hunt is on.  Bakes has been a terrific coach and is keen to remain involved in the club.  Then on Sunday we say farewell to a pair of D1 stalwarts in Old Geelong and Old Mentone who will play off in the Grand Final.  Both teams were impressive during the year with the Panthers recruiting well and getting some great talent coming back to their alma mater, the OGS have been around the mark for a while and with a couple of good recruits and some young talent have broken through.  OGS won both games during the regular season, but their 2nd Semi was a tight affair going to the Panthers.  Don’t expect much different this week,   Tipping the OGS purely in that they have looked the best through the year, but Old Mentonians have proved they are capable.  Good luck to both outfits in 2017.



Fabulous Flemington


Particularly tough pontificating this far out an with storm and pestilence on the way but Flemington’s opening Group 1 for the season The Makybe Diva Stakes (G1, 1600m, WFA) is to be run and there is a fantastic support card.  Concentrating on the main event, it again looks like DK Weir is up to his neck in it with the favourite Black Heart Bart (3) and second elect Palentino (10).  Bart has yet to win beyond 1400, but dad won the derby so no reason he can’t stretch out to the mile.  I reckon there is better value in his stablemate Palentino (10) who won the Australian Guineas over this journey in the Autumn beating the Derby winner Tarzino (9).  He finished off nicely in the Memsie and will enjoy the Flemington expanses as will Alpine Eagle (8)Rising Romance (12) is in good form and is bound to be in the finish.


Selections Flemington R7 – 10-3-12-9




Typically tough Flemington quaddie with open races, that usually means a nice dividend if you can find it.  Going skinny in the last leg with the shorty and one of the Williams pair.  To reduce the spend or bump the percentage I think the Weir pair (3,10) in the big one look good.


1st Leg – 1,2,6,8

2nd Leg – 3,8,9,10,12

3rd Leg – 1,2,8,12

4th Leg – 9,13


160 combinations so a $30 investment will return 18.75% of what we hope is a nice dividend.  However I reckon the weather might bring on a few scratchings.


Go …. Finals!


Cheers, Sal


  1. Hi Sal
    the first three games with Sydney, Geelong and WC 1-39 into Crows -32. paying near $17. Geelong the worry with the rain predicted but Hawks have no one to go with Danger and Selwood

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