Finals Week 1 – Sal’s Preview: No Sympathy for the Blues (and some track tips)

Greetings All,


The soundtrack of my life missed a beat on hearing of the death of Charlie Watts.  The Stones were never going to live forever but the music they have made has been my backdrop!  Charlie was the driving beat behind what in my opinion is the greatest band ever.


RIP Charlie


Now for the footy!  While we have four ripping finals on this weekend the Blues have made all the news.  First of all the decision on Teague was probably the only choice – few coaches see out there last year of a contract.  They are either extended or shown the door, I doubt anyone would have thought the train line would be extended.  Whether it was fair or not is of little consequence, how it was handled has been shambolic.  What has been left becomes more problematic.


Cain Liddle’s setting finals expectations at the beginning of 2020 brought undue pressure on the coach and players.  He and new president Luke Sayers have done the same again this week – good luck for the new coach whoever that is.  Perhaps the review also needed an honest assessment of the Carlton playing list, apart from a couple of gems there are a few rocks and plenty of rubble.  The first thing a club needs to be is honest about where there list is and how they will improve it.  The game is also about winning premierships.


The Blues dalliance with finals in 2011 under Brett Ratten is a prime example.  In all fairness they played a solid series finishing 5th then towelling up the Bombers and losing by only 3 points to West Coast at Subiaco.  They finished 5th for a reason – they played the top four teams that year six times in total and did not win one of them.  There were core issues in the playing list that needed to be addressed, instead they fell to 10th in 2012.  Instead of addressing the gaps in playing personnel they went for Messiah Mick and has never recovered. So Luke and Cain my expectation is not for Carlton to play finals in 2022 but to create the environment for a team that will contend for a premiership in the next five years.  This week has not been a good start!


And now for the games


Razza Mattaz ($1.72) vs Tomahawk ($2.36)


What a great contest to open the series with Cats having to travel to Adelaide and face Port.  The Cats will pleased to have their mate Duncan back in the team, must be some query on his match fitness but no doubt about his importance to the team.  Port get the services of Orazio back but at the cost Mitch Georgiades.  Could work in their favour though as Cat defenders love picking off the high ball but are challenge on the ground.  Maybe the Geelong defenders are just challenged without Tom Stewart.  At the other end though there will be plenty of challenges for the Port defense and how they look after Hawkins, Cameron and Rohan.  Who will win that midfield battle and provide enough opportunities.  The Cats are battle hardened and tough as they come inside, Port has both the experience and speed that troubles Geelong.  They should also have the advantage in the ruck.  Last week was critical for Port in beating what was a top four team, does it provide them the legitimacy the Blues didn’t have in 2011?  Finals footy has motivation built in, there is a bit extra for the Cats with their great forward Tomahawk reaching 300 games.  Can they deliver the Satisfaction he deserves?  My Tumbling Dice have come up the other way and just think the speed of Port might get them home by 13 points.


Wild Horse ($1.77) vs Return of the Mummy ($2.26)


Sydney goes to Tassie!  The Swans and Giants have finals history with the Giants prevailing handsomely on both occasions.  The last one a tough and bruising encounter, as can probably be expected here with Shane Mumford back in the Giants line up.  His disciple Kieran Briggs is going OK too, but left out for this week.  The Hickey-Mumford contest will be physical and if one can dominate then go a long to getting their team through.  Probably of more consequence will be whether Jumpin’ Jack Flash or the Street Fighting Man can get off the chain, which ever of Buddy or Toby does probably wins the game for their team.  We do remember Buddy kicking 13 at this venue, he only needs 8 to bring up the 1000!  Sydney probably have the other ace with Papley up forward.  The Maserati Driver has done a great job over the last few weeks leading his team to the finals after looking a lost cause in 12th after round 17.  The Swans are missing a couple of key mids in Kennedy and Mills.  A tough one to pick, reckon Swans fans might need an Emotional Rescue going down by 8 points.


Petty Theft ($1.84) vs Ripe Berry ($2.16)


Melbourne stole top spot last week and get to host Brisbane in Adelaide on Saturday Night.  They have shown their best wins any game provided they play it for long enough.  The Lions were shaky toward the end of the season but also stole their spot in the top four just getting the margin over the Eagles.  Their renaissance has been assisted with the return to the team and form of Jarrod Berry.  Their challenge this week is how do they break through the Melbourne defense led by May and Lever.  Joe and Charlie have a handy support cast that can stretch any defense, the challenge is whether they are prepared to go one on one with the Melbourne midfield to ensure Lever is left accountable.  Noting that at the other end leaving Birchall or Rich spare can hurt back the other way.  The path to a demon victory could be making them accountable, they both lack leg speed and Starcevich will be busy looking after Kosi Pickett.  Both midfields are high quality but give the edge to Oliver and Petracca getting better service from Gawn and Jackson than what the Big O can deliver, with Fullarton not quite at the level yet.  The Demons and Lions will Spend the Night Together but reckon the Dees winning by 25 points will make them Happy.


Dogs ($1.61) vs Bombers ($2.62)


The Dogs are in trouble, they come in off three losses while the Bombers are riding high with three wins.  That third last game was between these two and was close till the Bombers broke it open late, the injury to Bruce in last minute of that game has had a massive effect on the Bulldogs scoring ability.  Meanwhile the Bombers are free wheeling and have ‘Two Metre’ Peter delivering up forward.  The real challenge for Bevo will be to get his midfield firing again, if that key is unlocked then they win.  The wild card is Jake Stringer arguably the best player in the competition over the last few weeks.  If they are in trouble Jake gives Truck the order to Start Me Up, goes in the middle and turns the game on its head.  Sam Draper also presents a challenge, do they play more of English in the ruck or persist with the spare parts ruckman and trust the midfield quality of Bontempelli, Macrae, Libba and more?  The elements could also play a part and have them crying Gimme Shelter as they both prefer the pristine surrounds of the Loungeroom.  If the Jake Stringer show gets going we might see him Walking the Dog out of 2021, however I am thinking the Dogs will be hardened by last weeks game and extend the Bombers finals losing streak by 36 points, leaving them…….Shattered.


Track Time


The season is upon us with the Memsie opening the Group Ones in Melbourne this weekend after Sydney opened with the Winx Stakes last week.  Whether or not these should be at that status is one discussion, but last week’s event delivered with a great contest between Mo’unga and Verry Elleegant.  Poor decisions by a few senior jockeys sees the ranks thinned in Victoria for the next couple of weeks.  A good support card at Caulfield in a meeting that starts to shape the spring.  A few key runners to watch through the day are Artorius (R4, #1) in a great renewal of the Macneil Stakes, Masked Crusader (R5, #1), the Cockram is a beauty with Probabeel (R6, #1) up against Instant Celebrity (R6, #2).  Cup winner Vow and Declare (R7, #1) is on trial, not expected to win but needs to show a zest for racing again.  Finally closing out with Ayrton (R9, #11) in the last.


Caulfield Race 8 – Memsie Stakes (G1, 1400m, WFA)


A pretty open affair with a number of these going in first up and a couple well into a preparation.  A real watch and learn race.  The one I am watching closest is Inspirational Girl (11), has won 9 from 12 all in the West and a couple over this distance.  She is bred to get further and could be a big player during the spring.  Of the favoured pair Behemoth (2) is preferred as Tofane (10) is yet to salute first up.  Reckon the Kiwi Aegon (7) represents better value and could be another key runner in the next few weeks.  Sierra Sue (12) has found form winning last start over this journey, tougher field but has fitness on her side.  It’s 1400 around the Heath so leave Streets of Avalon (3) out at your peril.  Still might not have the winner!


Selections – 7-2-10-12




A couple of shorties so we will go skinny in those legs.


Leg 1 – 1, 2

Leg 2 – 5, 7, 12, 14, 16

Leg 3 – 2, 3, 7, 9, 10, 11, 12

Leg 4 – 3, 11


140 Combinations, $30 investment could return just over 21% of the dividend!


At least the Hammers are top of the table!


Come on you Irons,


Cheers Sal


The Tigers (Covid) Almanac 2020 will be published in the coming weeks. It will have all the usual features – a game by game account of the Tigers season – and will also include some of the best Almanac writing from the Covid winter.  Pre-order right now HERE



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  1. All the footy news that’s fit to print. Thanks Sal. As ever saves me hours of Fox Footy and SEN dross.
    Finals in Perth with no Eagles? You can’t always get what you want.

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