Finals Week 3 – Preview: Sal predicting that Victoria is irrelevant

Greetings all for the penultimate weekend of the season,


Fantastic that we will have one competitor on the ultimate day of the season that has not been there before or for a very long time!  After praising the Hawks last week for their intelligent use of the rules a look at their conquerors sees a club that has built itself in the manner that the draft, the salary cap and even free agency desired.  All in the backdrop of the creation of Frankenstein who they take on this week.


Not all was rosy at the kennel, they had a terrific footy teacher in Brendan McCartney but obviously there were personality challenges.  In those McCartney years though they brought in young talent and taught them the number one thing in the game – get the pill.  There are none better than these Dogs in the contest.  It did cost them, I suspect they would be odds-on for the flag if Callan Ward was still wearing the Red, White and Blue and Ryan Griffen wouldn’t hurt either.  The appointment of Luke Beveridge has been inspired, he changed the culture at St Bedes/Mentone taking them to three flags in succession in their rise to Premier Section in the Ammos.  His legacy remains as they remain entrenched in the upper divisions of the competition. Having run his own club is as important as the further grounding he received once in the league system.


Their recruiting has been based around selection of young talent but with a couple of targeted exceptions.  Stu Crameri provide the forward bite they needed, but have had to cope without him this year.  Tom Boyd has been much maligned – even by his own earlier in the year.  He may not be quite the million dollar player, but he is contributing strongly in his role for the club and they would consider it money well spent if it helps them win it all.  They needed another quarterback to distribute the ball, they targeted and got Matt Suckling he has been instrumental after the loss of Captain Bob.  They only have Big Tommy at their disposal this week.  Added to that their other offloads have not gone on to bigger and better things at the various clubs they went to especially Tutt and Jones.


What can they achieve?


On the other hand what of the Hawks and is the party over?  The pundits say no, but I think they have some real challenges to address to avoid falling back into the peloton.  They need to introduce young talent that are more than bit players, of the many that were introduced this year none of them played critical roles and rarely did they feature heavily in the possession count.  Some of that new talent will need to be pace into the midfield – perhaps Cyril needs to be injected in there.  The defence is pretty solid despite the drop off in form of Gibson, putting that down to coaching of the opposition in stopping him rather than age.  Suspect Clarko will have a strategy  to release him again in 2017.  Up forward though is where the challenges lie, whilst they kick plenty of goals they struggled against the best.  No doubt Roughy is key and hopefully his condition continues to improve to be able to play again.  It was the one piece of good news for the Hawks last week.  But even then he is close to 30 and they need to develop or get another competitive beast up forward – not quite sure Ty Vickery will be it, but do think it is worth the gamble.  Will the contracts offered to the fantastic four become a burden?  We will only know in September 2017.


As for the Crows, they have been lambasted for their performance last week.  The reality is they were ripe for the picking and their form against the top sides was only marginally better than North’s.  Their reticence to blood new players hurt them with Jenkins and Jacobs clearly constrained – and if Jenkins wasn’t constrained then there are some big questions about him.  Eddie failed again in a critical game – we love to watch him put on a show, but he needs something else when it is not going his way.  He is not the lone ranger there!  Would they have been better without the injuries to Lever and Talia – undoubtedly, but being blown away in that opening was eerily similar to what Hawthorn did to them in the corresponding fixture last year.


Enough of the vanquished, two competitive but incorrectly monickered preliminary finals await us.


Two in Twenty Seven ($1.68) vs Six and Back ($2.44)


The clash of the old hands – this territory is familiar for both of these clubs.  The Cats would have watched last week’s game with glee as the Swans and Crows engaged in a brutal stoush, by the same token they can expect a similar attack on them this week.  Both selection panels were challenged by interesting questions with respect to injured players.  Menzel’s injury answered the Henderson question – not sure he delivers the X-factor of Menzel but a solid citizen.  Sydney’s challenges were simpler –  a thirty-plus player with a dodgy calf is always too much of a risk.  Then there was the Jimmy Bartel furphy – lots of focus on Isaac Smith’s miss in the qualifying final, but it was Jimmy doing the right thing at the right time who won the contested ball and set up the goal that put the Cats in front.  That was after playing his role of negating Josh Gibson with aplomb.  Does he play the role standing in front of Buddy this week.


The midfield match ups are intriguing – both full of hard nuts with Geelong having Dangerfield and Motlop with that extra pace that can break away, Sydney relying on their outside players to provide the dash.  It makes Gary Rohan’s fitness pretty important.  Suspect Sydney might just have the edge on depth going through there.  Scott Selwood is likely to get the task on Josh Kennedy, who is almost unstoppable when fully fit.  The match ups at each end of the ground are critical.  Tomahawk has shown his value of late beyond the goals he kicks providing a strong contest and very rarely outmarked, if the Swans can control his influence they will go a long way to winning this.  At the other end though there is probably a greater dependence on Buddy Franklin who will have Tom Lonergan to contend with again, the Cats are pretty comfortable with that matchup.  A key factor is the venue, these two have not clashed here since 1934 which is a touch surprising given both club’s recent successes.  Buddy loves the space on the G and we have seen some amazing games from him here.


The sport scientists will licking their lips with the outcome.  How will the Sydney six day break compare with the fact that this will be Geelong’s second game in four weeks.  If last week’s game was a procession then it would be advantage Sydney for mine, but there must be some knocks and bruises lingering after that contest.  Geelong’s break could have them ripe for picking or ripped and ready.  This is a real flip of the coin game and Sydney’s odds present terrific value – with only history vindicating those odds.  The pre-finals bye has history being re-written.  Reckon the Sydney midfield depth might hold sway and selecting them to advance to the Grand Final by 9 points.


Mummified ($1.42) vs Beverage Time ($3.30)


An intriguing clash on a great many levels!  Teams representing the western suburbs of our two largest cities, they have horse traded between themselves as covered above and they have built their lists in contrasting fashions.  There are key players missing from both sides – the Dogs have had a number unavailable for a while but the loss of Suckling has an immediate impact.  StevieJ out of the Giants has the potential to create a bigger problem without his on ground leadership and direction.  The rest of his forward line still presents a handful with Cameron, Patton and Lobb to be looked after by an undersized but well drilled defence – how good has Joel Hamling been?  At the other end the Giants look better equipped to handle Footscray attack, by the same token West Coast and Hawthorn did too!


Ultimately the midfield riches of both teams will decide the fate of this game.  Last week we saw Bontempelli run riot, I doubt he will get the same leeway and he has struggled when on the chain.  Fortunately the Dogs have plenty to make up for him if he is down, Libba, Dahlhaus, Macrae, Daniels, Hunter……  The Giants though don’t lack for numbers through there either and led by Callan Ward they can match the Dogs in the hot contested ball stakes.  However above the contest is where there is a major difference with Mummy who should prove too strong for Roughead and Boyd.  The Bulldog ruckmen have been terrific in the two finals so far, but Shane Mumford is a different proposition and I suspect will provide his team the advantage to get over the line.


Cannot underestimate Beveridge’s team though and all the noises from the kennel are barking confidence – they are not without a chance and also provide reasonable value at the price on offer.  However going with the Giants to end the Bulldog dream for 2016 by 43 points.


Return to the Heath


Caulfield hosts two Group One events this Saturday along with a great support program including the preludes for the upcoming Guineas.  The first of them is the Sir Rupert Clarke Stakes (G1, 1400m, HCP) a race that has many names over the years and generally delivers a great contest.  Always look down in the weights for these big handicaps and Bon Aurum (11) fits the bill along with a win over this journey he provides better value than Counterattack (6) and Voodoo Lad (7) – they all appear in good form.  One whose form is intriguing is Xtravagant (2) unbeaten over the trip and 6 from 11 looks good, but failed miserably in both Australian starts – could he come up for this.  Further outside and destroyed by the barrier draw is Badawiya (10) could be much better second up and have discounted Under the Louvre (1) as RW Smerdon has indicated that he will be withdrawn after pulling the outside marble.


Selections Caulfield Race 7:   11-7-6-2


The Underwood Stakes (G1, 1800m, WFA) gives us a further look into the crystal ball for the blue riband events to come.  Black Heart Bart (2) comes up favourite again and certainly has the form to win it, however poor value at the current price.  In a race with The Cleaner (4) going around we can be assured of a genuine tempo, this sets it up for the backmarkers and Awesome Rock (6) is the one in form that can get over the top.  Need an improved performance from Tarzino (8) to see if he is on track for the classics and Lucia Valentina (11) rarely runs a bad race.  The oddly monickered He or She (7) (a bit like Bob Cunis) is also in good nick and the Derby winners Tavago (9) and Howard Be Thy Name (10) should be watched with the future in mind.


Selections Caulfield Race 8:   6-2-11-8


Quaddie Time


Those two legs make it tough so will try and stay alive coming home skinny in the final leg.


Leg 1 – 1,2,3,6,9

Leg 2 – 2,6,7,11

Leg 3 – 2,6,7,8,11

Leg 4 – 7,12


This provide 200 combinations and winning it off a $30 investment will return 15% of the dividend.


Go Dogs,


Cheers, Sal




  1. Earl O'Neill says:

    Love your work, Sal.

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