Finals Week 1 Preview – Four legs good, two legs bad!

Greetings all and welcome to finals time!

 

A few scribes and “thought leaders” were disappointed that the Hawks did not suspend Luke Hodge.  But the football world operates in Orwellian fashion – the beginning of careers might have all players equal with chants of “young legs good old legs bad”, but realism does kick and they work out that not all animals are equal.  Many have described Luke Hodge as such but there little doubt about his influence and importance to the Hawthorn team.  The Hawks as much as any club will be supporting any road safety campaigns and community efforts.  They come from a position of strength to this as the premier team, their prime reason for being to win them.  Luke Hodge was never going to be suspended by the Hawks and I would not have expected anything else.  Whether it’s right or wrong is for personal opinion.

Much more gnashing of teeth about the throwing of games last week and what to do about it.  The optimal solution is no longer available after the TV rights deal which requires 22 full rounds of footy, going back to 17 rounds and a bigger finals series would be better but televisual content is demanded!  Maybe the league should just sit back and say “so be it”, the teams have finished where they have and have the right to do as they please.  In particular for Fremantle they put in early, got their position, had every right pick as they please and optimise their chances for this week.

The North Melbourne situation is a bit more complex and if Brad Scott is offended by any of this – I am not sorry.  The main issue being that by losing they pretty much guaranteed a final in Melbourne and removed the potential of a trip to Adelaide – they did not want to win no matter who played – this from a team in eighth position.  They whine incessantly about their lack of Friday night exposure – then are given the prime spot and made a mockery of it.  Not sure exactly what the Channel 7 honchos thought, but those TV types can be a vindictive bunch.

Nevertheless even if both teams were picked at full strength, we should not forget that the game is played 90% above the shoulders.  I am not convinced either Freo or North players in a 50-50 contest would have attacked it with the same vigour unless there was something on the line.  Pretty much how the Crows attacked their game.

Then there was Brisbane!  Commentary this week has exposed what we already know, the benefits of tanking and result manipulation are too great.  The Lions did themselves out of possibly 1st and 2nd draft selection with the win, I suspect the celebrations were stronger in the playing group than the list management team.  That should not be the case.  As I have suggested previously draft positions should be set as teams drop out finals contention.  They should not be set at the end of Round 17 as Commissioner Gerard suggests, there is a fairer way to do this.  That way teams know where they sit in the draft order and Brisbane can go hard at the Dogs and not be penalised for the victory.

 

The trading game taking place in earnest, it is another other travesty of the system.  Free agency seems to be having the desired effect of player movement – as long as they move to the top teams!  However where we have clubs having to consider what their compensation will be is pretty ordinary.  Carlton’s decision whether to keep Matthew Kreuzer or let him go should purely be a financial one of matching any offers from opposing clubs.  However part of the decision seems to be weighing up what compensatory selection in the draft will be.  First of all free agency if we have to have it should be pure – no compensation picks.  Secondly for the Blues – plenty of high draft picks have not delivered.  Before worrying about draft picks – the Carlton environment needs to be cleansed, Matthew Kreuzer delivers all the values and effort required to clean up the pig sty.  Sign him and rebuild around him and the values he brings to the club!

 

Now onto what is really important and this week’s matches.

 

Nic Nat Paddy Whack ($2.05) vs The Pragmatists ($1.80)

Does the threepeat hang on the result of this game?  Not necessarily but the road will be pretty tough for the Hawks who will have to head back to Perth or up to Sydney for the Preliminary Final if they succumb here and assuming they win next week.  They did prevail against the Eagles a few weeks ago at this venue, however Nic Nat did not play in that game and his influence around the ground this year has been sensational.  He has a significant athletic advantage over the McEvoy-Hale combination.  The Hawthorn midfield will welcome back Luke Hodge and they are masters controlling the stoppages – if they can nullify Nic Nat’s work and put enough supply up forward it will go a long way to winning this game.

The defence is the Eagles Achilles heel – lacking height they have been fantastic all year in controlling the opposition with team focussed defence.  But I do note that the Crows tore them a new one a couple of weeks ago booting 20 goals.  The other concern being that finals footy often goes back to one-on-one footy and the Hawk forwards such as Rioli, Roughead, Gunston, Puopulo and Bruest are all pretty good one-on-one players.  By the same token the Eagle have a few fair forwards too with Kennedy, Darling and Le Cras.  One of them will need to get off the chain for the Eagles to boot a winning score.

Where the home team could excel is with outside run, especially if Isaac Smith does not come up.  That Hawk engine room with Hodge, Lewis and Mitchell get plenty of ball but have even stopped chasing in nightclubs!  If the Eagles gain ascendancy out of the stoppages their speed could really hurt the Hawks.  Suspect that Hawthorn will slip a gear and do enough to win this one by 21 points, but certainly a result the other way would not surprise.

 

Pole Position ($1.35) vs Jacked Off ($3.35)

This week Get Stuffed Lyon will reveal if he has been toying with us or if the Dockers have fallen away.  A real worry still exists over the fitness of Nat Fyfe, but his fitness pales into insignificance given the injury and availability woes that have hit the Swans.  “Nosey” Parker and Jack are holes in the midfield, but the loss of Buddy changes the complexion of the game completely.  Just hope that the big man can pull everything together and get life back to his special form of normality.

Goals against Freo are critical and Sydney will have to find something special to kick enough of them.  Maybe the Tippet/Reid/Goodes show could stretch the Freo defence, but somehow I think they will need some ground level brilliance to complement them.  Could Isaac Heeney show the pontificators that the Rising Star should not have been a two horse race?  That fourth banana might be all the difference.

In the middle of the park it will be a tough and willing affair, how Sydney will counter Herman’s effect on the game will be critical.  Even if Fyfe does not play Mundy, Barlow and Neale still offer plenty in the middle and shape up well to the likes of Hannaberry, Kennedy and Mitchell.  Lewis Jetta’s line breaking ability will be critical for the Swans.

At the other end the Freo forward line does not present the danger one would expect from the competition leader.  Their capacity to score is negligible but they do so much to curb any flow their opponents get out defence they are happy to scrounge a few goals and hope it’s enough.  On the other hand Sydney’s defence lacks real quality and it is critical that Longmire gets the Pavlich and Walters match ups right.  Pav has not been in great form but only needs a couple of kicks and can bomb them from a long way out.  Walters provides the X-factor and can get the Dockers on the board.

Sydney are a great backs-to-wall unit and they are fairly and squarely in that position this week.  I do not underestimate their capability to win this.  However Freo at Subi has been a tough assignment for many a year and with the expected dominance of Herman and brilliance of Walters I think they will reign by 14 points.

 

’54 Dreaming ($1.95) vs For Phil! ($1.90)

The Dogs don’t get their preferred venue in the loungeroom, but if they want ultimate success it has to take place on the hallowed turf.  Not much barking out of the kennel since the decision was made so I suspect they have taken the same attitude.  The sacred ground holds few fears for the Crows who have performed well here in recent times.

What bothers me about Bullies is the missing pair of Johannisen and Roughead.  Jason provides a good deal of that kamikaze run from defence and the Young Rough competes well and height will be important against the twin towers of Tex and Jenks.  No Johannsen also limits options to look after the Chuck and Eddie show at ground level.  “Everybody Loves” Bob will provide the class and delivery from defense but worried about the volume of ball coming in.

The Dogs have selected Minson and need a real contest up against a master of the craft in “Sauce” Jacobs, could Beveridge’s handling of Will turn into Pathetic Pittman II.  No matter what they will have to be really good at ground level.  However the Crows have a couple of handy ones at surface level with likes of Thompson, Sloane and Dangerfield.  Well we might run to the telly for Bontempelli I think he will need plenty of help.

The Adelaide defence is also not one laden with big fellas, they also rely on team defence.  The mano-e-mano battles will be interesting but note that not too many Footscray players have experienced the finals cauldron.  It is where they can win the game though with both Stringer and Crameri having pace, power and aerial strength the spaces of the MCG could be a bonus.

Whilst they might be keys at the other end I think the Crows have too many potential match winners and Geelong will have to wait at least one more week before confirming their hand.  Adelaide by 38 points.

 

Gotta Win One ($1.65) vs They might be Sorry ($2.30)

The one thing we can be certain of is that last week’s game is no guide for this week.  Dimma has been spruiking that Richmond 2015 is better than the 2014 version – on face value it is a reasonable view.  But it will all count for nought if they bomb out this week.  North on the other hand are prone to bombing out big time in finals suffering some dreadful pastings over the last few years, but they did win two finals last year which will give them plenty of confidence.

The Roos have loaded the forward line with Petrie, Brown and Waite and that third tall could stretch the Tiger defence.  By the same token those big blokes need to put plenty of pressure on the ball coming out as the Richmond midfield have been working back well to provide the path out.  Umpires will have tunnel vision after the Bremerton-Petrie show earlier this week, I doubt Gough Whitlam was ever served a better Dorothy Dixer.  Will Rance have to adapt?

At the other end Richmond have been challenging Fremantle for lack of fire power in a top team.  They have Super Jack and Ty Vickery to provide the aerial contest and this is where the North defence is challenged.  If Hansen can get across and support his mates they are OK, but are suspect left one-on-one against the best opposition.  Then for the Tiggers there is not much at ground level although the return of Edwards does help.  This where the Kangas defence has excelled turning defence into attack if they can escape and set up the forwards they will have gone a long way to winning this one.  The potential to add Ben Griffiths could really stretch the vertically challenge North defence.

The middle swings it to North for mine a rested Todd Goldstein up against Ivan Maric who just went against the second division last week.  If Todd can provide enough clean ball to the likes of Dal Santo, Harvey and Higgins North could score heavily.  Add in Swallow, Ziebell, Cunnington and Jacobs and they will make life tough for the Tiger engine room.  Their weakness is pace or lack of it to be more precise, if Richmond change up and play a more aggressive outside game North will have some challenges, but their modus operandi has been to keep it in tight.

Both teams have a joker in the pack.  Boomer Harvey can win a game in minutes if he gets off the chain.  By the same token Richmond’s ace in the pack is Dustin Martin on ball his distribution is telling, but thrown forward he is one of the best mano-e-mano players in the business.  The middle and the recent finals win has me tipping North by 26 points, however if the Tigers do get on top it could get ugly for the Roos.

 

Back to Headquarters

A fantastic program at Flemington will make Saturday afternoon a tough one with Freo and Sydney battling it out also.  Three group 2 events and a group 1 has the spring hopefuls stepping out, but the fields are big and full of quality.  Any winners should provide pretty good value.  In Sydney the Golden Rose kicks off the Group 1 events for the 3 year olds and plenty of quality through the remainder of the field.  Here is a look at the big ones.

 

3:45 Rosehill Race 6 – The Golden Rose (G1, 1400m, 3yo Set Weights)

Light on for numbers but what a contest.  Suspect Exosphere (2) can turn the tables on Press Statement (1) but there cannot be a surprise result in this race.  Gold Symphony (3) takes a big step up but Ready for Victory is a great scalp from last start.  Throwing in Shards (5) for fourth for no other reason than “The Magic Man” Joao Moreira is the pilot.

Selections – 2-1-3-5

 

4:05 Flemington Race 7 – The Maybe Diva Stakes (G1, 1600m, WFA)

This one is heavy for numbers and form analysts nightmare.  There are first uppers, fit and firing, internationals, known stars and untapped potential!  The Weird One from Mt Macedon loves winning Group 1 races at Flemington and Fawkner (1) fits the bill perfectly for the Williams team, lots of other hopes but second in a Cox Plate is good enough for me.  D.Oliver vacating the cockpit on Alpine Eagle (14) for him doesn’t hurt as he is my second pick.  Alpine Eagle (14) was so exciting in the autumn and could be a real star if the same form comes through in the spring.  Boban (3) is Boban (3) and continues to perform at the highest level and Rising Romance (15) promoted ahead of Volkstok’n;barrell (11) only for the barrier, racing patterns could swap that easily.

Selections – 1-14-3-15

 

Quaddie Time

Flemington presents us with big fields which big dividends, big spend and big headaches.  But go to have a crack at it.  Rich Enuff comes up short in the first leg however prefer to have a couple more, go one out if you dare.  The Makybe Diva follows at taking all the mentioned runners could also entertain 2,5,9,10,13 and still might not have it.  Noble Protector is very good and could skinny up leg 3, but I reckon there are other hopes too (lots).  Always go skinny in the last and hope we are alive to lay off, wide race but the favoured pair look OK to me although Extra Zero could add one of them to the dividend!

Leg 1 – 1,4,13

Leg 2 – 1,3,11,14,15

Leg 3 – 1,6,8,15

Leg 4 – 5,11

This is 120 combinations so a $30 investment will net 25% of the dividend – go us!

 

Division 1 Ammos

St Marys Salesian player Sid Jones took out the B&F while Friar star Danny Hogan finished 3rd.  In the preliminary final Ormond were more efficient in front of goal and left Old Geelong with all their mates back in D1 for next year.  The Grand Final this weekend sees Kew and Ormond deservedly go at it.  There is a record of 2nd semi reversals in amateur footy, but with Ormond at less than full strength I am picking Kew but they will need to be at their best again.

 

Go Fawkner!

Cheers, Sal

Comments

  1. Peter Warrington says:

    the Hawks set the message about drink driving back 20 years this week. awful stuff. hope the Eagles smash them.

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