Finals Week 1 – Sal’s Preview: Spring is in the Air!


Welcome to the Finals!


Finally they arrive.  Gil loves the week off cause he can schedule a Thursday Night Final – frankly I don’t.  One of the reasons being a Thursday Night final, another being the lack of continuity.  That lack of continuity is part of the reason for my apathy to the finals this year.  Others being my team not participating, but I should be used to that, another that the Friars are participating in their finals and taking plenty of mind share!  From a media perspective, aside from the individual awards, most of the focus has been on the clubs not in the finals with who they may or may not be courting for next season.  Anything to get eyeballs, generally it’s rumour and innuendo, occasionally researched and accurate.  How many were reporting that Coniglio would sign for the Giants?  For the betterment of the game this was a good outcome after the desertion of Treloar, Smith and Sheil from the Giants. Getting one to stay was important for the club’s future.  In direct contrast to the league’s greatest problem child further north which lost both their captains last year and more to follow.  Their pleas to aid their cause with greater tenure of draft picks and some priority deserve serious consideration.


While not at the fever pitch I usually am for AFL Finals, these games are all of intrigue with all teams a chance to succeed, with selections made all the more difficult with the unpredictability of the season.  Here is what I reckon might happen!


Nic Nat Back ($1.24) vs Ready for the Hurley Burly ($4.90)


That week off has influenced selection for both teams with Shannon Hurn being named despite a hamstring injury along with stopper Mark Hutchings coming off a similar complaint, while the Bombers have named Michael Hurley after what looked like a nasty shoulder injury. There has to be a some concern about all their readiness to play. The other one back is possibly the key to the chances of West Coast defending their title.  They have not had premiership form coming into the game, the addition of Nic Nat assuming he is fit enough could make all the difference.  From a match up perspective, there is not much between them, Hooker and Hurley have Darling and Kennedy covered while at the other end McGovern and Barrass should be too much for any Essendon key forwards they try. The Eagles probably bat deeper across the midfield, however Essendon does have an ace up its sleeve.  Jake Stringer has been explosive when shifted into the middle and turned games around, he has had two weeks off and should be fit and firing.  Their other “go to” move is Hooker forward, good in the air and very dangerous.  However it is all taking place in Perth and everything has to go right for the Bombers and it hasn’t in a final since 2004. West Coast to win this by 27 points.


The G Factor ($1.84) vs Pendles ($2.16)


The only game at the home of footy for week one could be a ripper.  Chris Scott’s confidence in his defence along with the predictions of storm and pestilence means this could turn into a dour struggle.  Probably not what the Pies want, they would love their champ and 300-gamer Scott Pendlebury to celebrate in style.  If he can get the service from Grundy he may just do that. How Geelong counter the ruck advantage Collingwood have will be critical to the result.  The Cats recent finals record has been pretty poor. In those years their Kardinia Park advantage got them higher on ladder than warranted and really they just played to form. The question is whether this team is better than the last couple of years. In 2018 their record at the G was 2-6; this year it is significantly better at 4-1 including wins over the Pies and Tigers. Have they made the adjustments in defence to defend the ground better? An average of 66 points against this year compared to 82 last year would seem to indicate so. They have beaten the Pies twice over that time with 9 and 10 goals being enough to win.  The Pies want this to open up and if it does I think they win.  Geelong, though, is a better team than the 2017 and 2018 version, they know how to stop the Pies here and I reckon they will lock in a MCG Preliminary Final by 15 points.


Of Leon and Jeremy ($2.06) vs Jack? ($1.92)


The fate of Leon may very well rest on the success of Jeremy in this match. The Bulldogs were Giant killers in their last encounter chopping them down and not allowing a goal in the second half. They famously also cut them down in the 2016 classic Preliminary Final. The ground holds no fears for the Dogs. However form from that Round 22 match needs to be considered carefully. While the Giants’ capitulation was miserable (a too often occurrence under the Maserati driver), they weren’t firing on all pistons. Missing from the team were Mumford, Cameron, Findlayson, Hopper, Coniglio and they lost Hayne early in the game. That loss of Hayne will put some spice into this game as it was Bontempelli’s high shot that put him out of the game. We wait to see if he comes back this week. Another case of MRO inconsistency in choosing to ignore the medical report and only hitting the perpetrator with a wet newspaper! On that paper, the Giants should present as a more experienced and competent outfit, although Coniglio will still be missing. On form, the Dogs come in full of confidence and, with a 2016 swagger, a very dangerous proposition. GWS will need to keep the Doggie defenders at home rather than raiding forward. Just think the Giants will present a stronger, better outfit to take this one out by 25 points.


Gabbatoir ($2.30) vs Dusted Off ($1.75)


The Round 23 combatants go at it again, different venue, different climate – does it get a different result? If 2016 comparisons are in order for the Dogs, then 2017 is surely in order for the Tigers. That key factor from 2017 for the Tigers is Dustin Martin.  He is back to his Brownlow winning best, some commentators have lamented that he has not been tagged. His presence on the ground at the moment defies anyone trying to tag him. He was too much for Elliott Yeo the game prior, not sure the Lions have anyone close to capable. Have not started on the rest of the Tigers who are also in pretty good knick. To counter that, they have had plenty of favours in the last seven matches, not just playing at the G but also often in conditions ideal for their brand of footy. This time they go to the Gabbatoir where they have not played since 2017, but have not lost their since 2004. Not really relevant as this is a different Lions outfit. The 29 degrees predicted is daytime, the game is at night, dew and humidity can make it very slippery. The Tigers might not be used to the temperature, they won’t be fussed if the ball is slippery.  The telling factor in the previous encounter was the Lions lack of a defender capable of supporting Andrews against Lynch and Reiwoldt. Marcus Harris is handy but too slow for Jack and too short for Tom. At the other end, key light key forwards in Cameron and Hipwood are bread and butter for the Tiger defence if the ball comes in high. The Lions need to be prepared to play a ground ball game in their forward line. The Gabba holds plenty of favours for the Lions and the general opinion being they competed well in that last game. If all goes right, they can win. Reckon the Tigers actually held them at bay in that last encounter and just have too many players that will be difficult for the Lions to control and expect the Tigers to win by 19 points.


There will be at least one blowout but none predicted – most likely Eagles (possibly Giants)


Friar Time


A great week for the Friars with the only blemish being the Under 23s who went down in the 1st Semi to a very well organised and strong St Kevins outfit. The Seniors went out and put in their best performance for the season blowing away Brunswick to the tune of 143 points and claiming a berth in the Grand Final. They will face either Brunswick again or the MHSOB Unicorns. The Reserves also defeated Brunswick in the 1st Semi and take on Glen Eira this week in a Preliminary Final at Parade College. Then the competition best and fairest awards were announced with Claire Fernandes winning the women’s and Kristan Height winning the mens’s award.  Perhaps all this explains the lack of concern for the AFL!


Go Friars,


Cheers, Sal



Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.


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