Finals Week 1 – Preview

We’re here.

The home and away season has flown past us and the finals have arrived. It’s Christmas time for many sport loving Australians!


The first week of the finals sees four tantalising match ups presented to us. Before they kick off on Thursday night, I’m going to cast my eager eye over the match ups and pick who I think may get over the line – spoiler: it’s pretty tough to pick!


West Coast v Essendon – Elimination Final, Thursday night at Optus Stadium

This game is probably the easiest to pick, and that’s saying something about how close the other three will be. Halfway through the season West Coast looked just like they did last year, slowly building form without much fanfare. But the back half of the year hasn’t quite gone to plan, with some disappointing home losses, especially to Hawthorn in round 23, casting aspersions as to what their true form is.


With tall timber all raring to go now Kennedy has been seemingly cleared to play, West Coast should get over the line against Essendon. They have the personnel and their home advantage should grow come September.


Essendon aren’t to be easily written off though. Their spirited effort in the last round despite massive outs is a positive, and when they welcome in a bevvy of talent they will have a formidable team in decent form. Their danger is their finals record, which may come back to haunt them. Playing away in an elimination final, they have to get the jump early and hold onto a lead or else it could be another dismal year for the red and black. With Hurley borderline between playing sore and sitting out, the Eagles tall forwards may prove too strong for Essendon’s back line, especially if the midfield wins enough ball to supply them.


I’m backing in the Eagles, with all of their recent experience, to get the job done with some vengeance after last round’s shock home loss. This game could go multiple ways – either a confident demolition job or a surprise victory much like the Bulldogs’ 2016 elimination final effort in the west. A sliver of me has hope for Essendon, but the Eagles appear too strong to let that happen.


Tip: Eagles by 25.


Geelong v Collingwood – Qualifying Final, Friday night at the MCG

Much has already been said about this. It’s going to be a cracker.

Both teams suffered mid-season wobbles, but finished off strong enough with some back-end wins to find the top four.


Geelong started off like a house on fire, but have struggled to find that dominance in the latter half of the year. With Gary Rohan playing again, Geelong’s forward line could find its groove once more. Their defence may click back to its early season look if Blicavs returns back, but Grundy in the ruck may change this plan and disrupt the Cats. Their midfield, with Dangerfield in form, looks raring to challenge Collingwood’s. They also play well against Collingwood, their game plan of shutting down the centre corridor and slowing up ball movement thwarting Collingwood’s free-running plan of the past two seasons.


But the Pies look ominous. A terrific finish to the year saw them play their best footy of the year, with Elliott and Mihocek coming into some great form. Add Stephenson and De Goey through there and it’s scary. Both look primed to bounce back and find form immediately, while Sidebottom and Moore will boost their star-studded line up. The only query is how this team will click – will they disrupt the past month’s form line or boost it? Will Elliott continue to produce with other returning forwards coming back? Can the midfield stand up and convert Grundy’s aerial dominance?


My tip is that the Pies look so dangerous, and may cause an upset. They know what Geelong will bring to the table, and will be able to break the game open in small spurts. This one is very lineball, as Geelong could hold their nerve much like they did in round one. But Collingwood may erupt, and emerge once more as a dangerous finals packet.


Tip: Pies by 16


GWS v Bulldogs – Elimination Final, Saturday at Giants Stadium

This has been undersold.

With shades very similar to that famous 2016 prelim, the Bulldogs travel up the highway in scary touch. They go up with more backing than in 2016, with their thumping win up there just weeks ago giving their optimism sound evidence. Their young list is clicking at a great time, with Bontempelli, Dunkley and Macrae constituting a wonderful midfield. English will face his biggest test yet, as Mumford will be sure to get physical with him. Their tall forwards could challenge GWS’ defence if the ball is used correctly, while Easton Wood is emerging once more as a real force from the back line.


But GWS have had a very up-and-down season, and this could be their time to bounce back up. It’s critical to remember that their loss to the Bulldogs occurred without Cameron and Finlayson. This time, their forward line will look very different, and much more potent when you add Himmelberg to that mix. Kelly back in the midfield gives them a massive boost, as they will need big games from him and Taranto to quell the Bulldogs’ clearance work.


I can see both sides winning here. The Bulldogs will be difficult to beat as they are on a roll, and know how to win up at Giants Stadium. But this time around they have much more pressure surrounding them, and a new look GWS side could burst out of the blocks and deliver to the Coleman Medallist. It’s tight, but I reckon the Giants are planning a shock September assault. If they are to win, then the Bulldogs will be sure to take it right down to the wire.


Tip: Giants by 7.


Brisbane v Richmond – Qualifying Final, Saturday at the Gabba

Another match, another hard one to pick.

Last Sunday at the MCG gave us a massive insight into both of these teams. Richmond are most certainly the premiership favourites, as their past two months has been very 2017-like. Dusty is back in form, while they have survived most injury scares to have a wonderful team on the park. Nankervis will be a welcome addition to face Stefan Martin, while their defence and forward lines will both continue to function well.


But the Lions could take a lot from their efforts. They proved they can hang in when it’s tough and play well against the best teams. They stuck with Richmond for longer than most expected, and earnt favouritism coming into Saturday night’s clash. Up at the Gabba it’ll be a different match – the Tigers will find it harder to bust out of the blocks, and will have to do so as if they fall behind the pressure may engulf them. The Lions will have to be switched on, and their midfield will have to shoulder a lot of the responsibility. My only question with the Lions is how their tall forwards work – McStay and Hipwood aren’t quite up to scratch for a tall forward set up. They rely too much on Cameron, and Grimes proved he can be quelled.


I can see Brisbane starting off strong, and playing a good brand of footy. But Richmond are more mature, and know what to do. Their away record is questionable, but hasn’t been tested in finals footy. I reckon the Tigers will stick with the Lions and then overrun them in the second half, learning how to stop their forward line and then using their own dangerous forwards.


Tip: Richmond by 21.


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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  1. Caspar McLeod says

    Great preview. My Bombers weren’t quite up to scratch. Now over to the other teams.

  2. Essendon’s bombs dropped turned out to be damp squibs. On the other hand what the high flying Eagles dropped on their opponents was rather toxic

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