Finals Week 2 – Preview: It’s still all about the Blues!

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Greetings All,


A handy start to the finals picking three of the four winners and nailing the two Group 1 winners.  Let’s hope it’s a trend for the next few weeks!


Last week’s footy results have been greeted with a fair degree of schadenfreude, some of that being joy over the plight of the Tigers, but so much more of it directed at the Blues.  So many laughing at their own jokes out loud about the Blues – I tell you it’s just not funny.  But it did have me thinking about the other side of recruiting, Carlton’s poor selections at the draft are becoming stuff of trivia nights, but they fare better on the offloads than the current crop of headline grabbers suggest.  After watching another pair of Blue offloads share the Ammo’s Premier Section Best and Fairest, my mind pondered who the Blues have set free that have had the ultimate success?

Sure the pickings have been slim for a number of years, but from my recollections the last Blue to depart and play in a VFL/AFL premiership was the legendary Brent “Tiger” Crosswell with North in 1977.  And let’s face it, he only went to North to play chess with Barassi!  Even followed him to Melbourne.  What a great player he was, my BOG in the 1970 Grand Final.  But that record could change in the next couple of weeks which is why I am right behind the Hawks and Freo who don’t have ex-Blues on their lists.

The Tigers’ plight has been the other topic of the week: do they have what it takes to get to the next level and finish in the top four.  The one thing they must do (as does every other club) is not kid themselves and honestly assess how close they are to the top.  2011 saw the Blues have a good year under Brett Ratten, so good the next years’ failure was put down to the coach and a saviour was anointed.  At least Richmond do not appear to be heading down that path, although Hardwick only has one more year on his contract.  They will need to be brutally honest in their assessment of their list and their capability.  The Blues record in 2011 was good and less than a kick out of a qualifying final, but throughout the season they could not defeat any of the top four teams.  There was more missing than just a master coach, they were not good enough and tough player decisions had to be made.

The Tigers look better than that with wins over Hawthorn, Sydney and Freo.  However some of the hiccups especially against Melbourne indicate some other issues.  The skipper has potted himself after Sunday, but he had plenty of mates.  Or maybe mates is not the right description as no-one gave him any help to unburden Ben Jacobs from his back.  Much has been made of the coaching and selection.  Not sure how they thought Batchelor could ever handle Waite, surely they needed to get a third genuinely tall defender ready in case they were to confront such a personnel issue.  The one forward who was dangerous was Jack, but he played up the ground for much of the time but beat Thompson often enough to bag four goals.  Would more time inside 50 have yielded a better result given his superiority?  But the on-field decision making hurt most with some poor choices made by Martin and Vickery in particular.


We saw an absolute ripper on Saturday night with two teams playing the game as it should be played.  Massive challenge for the Bullies to follow up but sure hope they do if that is what they deliver.  We can expect to see them on a few more Friday nights.


But it is onto this week’s matches where we once again need to be careful of overrating the elimination final winners.


Ratten ($1.28) vs Sam ’n Ed ($4.00)

The Blues influence for the Hawks is provided in the coaches box where for Adelaide Jacobs and Betts are representative.  This is Eddie’s big test, he was terrific against the Dogs last week who did not adapt their defence to the expanses of the G, a couple missing from their defence didn’t help.  He took full advantage until Dale Morris was dispatched onto him, but the damage was done.  His record against Hawthorn is poor and this is his chance to really make a statement.  He has some handy accomplices with Tex Walker and Josh Jenkins who could again stretch the Hawk defence as West Coast did.  I had a Hawk fanatic tell about their “teasing” distance to hang off their opponent, the sharp kicking skills of the Eagles turned the teasing into torment.  Lake and co will need to be prepared to play a much tighter game this week and show the opposition a bit more respect.

At the other end the Frawley folly was exposed and a concern for the Hawks with Gunston and Roughead not really providing the contest expected.  Losing Gunston will be a challenge given his capacity to cover both ends of the ground and stretch defensive resources.  There are not as many “Joe the Goose” goals in finals and there are a few Hawks in the midfield and up forward who just did not win enough contested footy.  Expecting a significantly sharper performance from Luke Breust and even Puopulo who usually lives to win contested ball, they will need to be better and create some havoc amongst the well organised Adelaide defence.

But it is in the middle where the game will be won and lost.  There are not too many times when the Hawthorn engine room is shut down twice in a row.  Adelaide certainly have the weapons to match Hawthorn inside, but not sure about the depth.  The overriding concern I have is the Hawk’s inability to catch their opponents, I anticipate a strategy to make them better in that area on Friday night.  Right across the ground Adelaide has the personnel to take this right up to the Hawks as they did a couple of years ago in Tippett’s last game as a Crow.  But this won’t be quite the frenzied affair they played in last week and sheer records suggest it is very tough for the Elimination Final winners to backup.  They are capable and the $3.50 or better is enticing, but the Hawks are my selection by 35 points with some massive decisions to be made at Arctic Park if I am wrong!


Laidler ($1.58) vs Waite ($2.50)

The elimination final winner would appear to have a much better hope in this one with Sydney continuing to lose players to injury.  As fantastic as they were last week, allowing Freo to get that jump was always going to make it tough despite the inspirational efforts of Kennedy and Goodes.  The loss of Reid could make Goodes even more critical in providing an extra tall target, his spare parts role gives Sydney some pretty good flexibility.  They will have challenges up forward.  Tippett should have the measure of any of the North defenders if they are isolated, but they will lose his work in the ruck.  The rugby player will have a huge job to curb Goldstein.  Sydney will need their smaller forwards and midfield to hit the scoreboard.

The Roos present big challenges at the other end with three genuine tall targets, Sydney look better equipped than Richmond to handle it with Richards, Grundy and Laidler.  But each of them look in trouble when isolated, Scott will try and find the best match up he has and exploit it.  With Smith coming back into the line-up Sydney will be better equipped to handle Boomer, but he is not just a threat up forward.

But his role at North does expose their weakness in that he is still their quickest player.  They have plenty of contested ball winners and clean finishers with Dal Santo and Higgins, but Boomer is the midfielder who breaks the lines.  Who does Ben Jacobs go to, suspect it will be Hannebery and I also suspect he will get a harder time of it that he had last week.  North will get first class service from the ruck, but Kennedy just gets to where the ball is going.

As much as Sydney have maligned the Olympic venue they have beaten North in both of their encounters there – both finals.  Whilst the overall win-loss ratio might not be what they like there, Sydney are 8-1 in finals losing only their very first one back in 2003.  Those stats plus the usual one has them as my selection by 26 points, but not completely writing off the Roos.


To the track.

Deep meeting at the Heath but no Group 1s, so we will just have a crack at the Quaddie there.  However the George Main Stakes (G1, 1600m, WFA) will be contested next to the SCG at Royal Randwick, so we’ll have a crack at that.  It sees the return of the Melbourne Cup winner in Protectionist (1) and he has registered a win over the mile – he might just be better than them all.  A pretty tough affair but I am going with the Oaks winner Kirramosa (10) who closed off nicely last start and is at a fair price, with that logic the other mare Lucia Valentina (9) must have a great hope.  Kermadec (5) is ultra-consistent and a worthy favourite and suspect Protectionist (1) might closing hard.  Other hopes right through field and certainly wary of the Godolphin pair Sweynesse (6) and Hauraki (7).


Selections Royal Randwick Race 6 – 10-9-5-1


Caulfield Quaddie

Another tough one this week as to be expected as the fields gain more depth.  The first leg could be made one out and lighten the investment with Fell Swoop (5), but I reckon there are a few others that have a chance.  The Mares clash in the second leg and it is a wide open affair, limiting my picks to 5 of them and like Tycoon Tara (7) but plenty could win.  The 3rd leg gives the winner a free ticket into the Caulfield Cup so it will be keenly contested, The United States (17) has a run with the sudden death of Banca Mo and will be hard to beat.  A few chances but I am only adding 1 and 2 (3 and 11 if you want to spread).  Skinny up in the last with Sailing By (14) and Kentucky Flyer (1) but does have a big weight to carry.


Leg 1 – 5,7,9,12,14

Leg 2 – 1,2,4,7,14

Leg 3 – 1,2,17

Leg 4 – 1,14


Amateur Hour


Congrats to Kew on winning the D1 Flag!


Cheers, Sal

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