Grand Final Preview: Sal’s predictions, and thoughts about other sports as well.

Happy Grand Final to all,

 

There is a sadness to the week with the death of Maxwell Henry Norman Walker.  Playing for Victoria he was my favourite as a youngster, the first Tasmanian for many years to play for Australia.  There were terrific moments in his career that I was there for, the most memorable being day two of the Centenary Test.  After Australia were bundled out on the first day for 138, DK Lillee got one back before stumps and then Mike Brearley early the next morning.  Tangles got to work after that ripping out the English middle order with four of the next five wickets in an inspired spell before Lillee cleaned up the tail bundling the Poms out for 95.  The Test is remembered for many great feats; Derek Randall’s 174, Dennis Lillee’s 11 wickets, the spooky margin of 45 runs, Rick McCosker’s bravery and David Hookes’ 5 boundaries in succession; Walker’s spell that morning is somewhat forgotten but it had a significant impact on both the match and myself.

 

Another magic moment was a Gillette Cup final at the G between Victoria and WA where MHNW and DKL were foes rather than friends.  The Vics had put up a paltry 164 in front of 32,000 parochial Vics – WA had fallen to 5-62 – 12 runs later Walker ripped out two more, Marsh and Yardley.  What made this unforgettable was the caught and bowled he took to dismiss Bruce Yardley who smashed it back at him full bore and Max just plucked it.  Mick Malone and Wayne Clark went on to win the game for WA with four balls to spare.  It was one the great one day games that help propel the format on the Australian cricket calendar.

 

He played VFL/AFL footy and Test Cricket – we will never see that happen again.  I had a signed copy of his first book “Tangles”, an autobiography, was somewhere around the family home for many years but whereabouts now unknown – would be a treasured possession now.  Vale Max, you were a ripper.

 

Onto some footy, have read with interest and intrigue the take from a couple of Giants supporters on the Footy Almanac site along with a well-considered piece from former AFL Umpire Murray Bird on the plight of footy in Queensland.  Well-considered except that he uses the term Mexicans for Victorians liberally through his piece – I have been waiting for Donald Trump to refer to building a wall to keep the Victorians out!

 

Here are the links to the said pieces

 

https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/finals-week-3-gws-v-western-bulldogs-gutted/

https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/finals-week-3-gws-giants-v-western-bulldogs-the-halted-march-of-the-orange-army/

https://www.footyalmanac.com.au/can-we-now-stop-the-whingeing/

 

Much talk of bias within the pieces and to a certain degree I concur particularly with the decimation of the local competition in Queensland, one wonders what it would be like if Brisbane and Gold Coast were performing like their counterparts in NSW.  What I loved though was the genuine supporters from GWS who contributed and described the pang of the loss  – putting paid to the notion of part-time supporters.  They will build a loyal following – it may be competing with a myriad of teams and codes in the region, Melbourne Storm seem to do it OK in the bastion of Aussie Rules with a band of loyal support and plenty of we Victorians will be tuning in Sunday evening to see if they can win the NRL.  Along with all that a massive effort by the Doggies to get that many fans to the game.

 

The accusation of bias though appear pretty spot on with the coverage for the Bulldogs reaching Beatles proportions here in Melbourne.  However this is more to do with their story than the bias – I suspect they would have every non-aligned supporter on their side no matter who they were playing.  They have not won a flag for 63 years, come back from near extinction, Captain Bob is universally loved and admired and we all wish our footy team played with the effort and flair they play with.  We were all pretty pleased when Sydney won that flag in 2005 and Leo Barry became a star!

 

Of the vanquished, GWS would appear to be the ones in the best placed for 2017.  But it won’t just happen for them, they do need to adjust a few things.  Their brashness, cockiness and aggression is fine when in balance – but they a bit more of it focussed on the pill rather than the man.  Jeremy Cameron handing out sledges when not getting close to the pill was a bit rich.  They play at one pace – full throttle – we love to watch it but there maybe circumstances when they might want to hold back a bit.  The one thing they have no issue with compared to every other eliminated side is the cattle.  Suspect they will have learned a lot from this year, they will be expected to do better in 2017.  The challenge they will face is they will be the hunted and that will be a different proposition for many of them.

 

Then there is Geelong who quite simply did not come up to finals footy fervour.  Plenty of conjecture about the long break, but that was not a problem for Dangerfield and Selwood who were the only Cats to play at the required tempo in that frenetic first quarter.  They just do not share the load, for all the talk of Enright and Bartel retiring they were the next best on the stats sheet for Geelong.  Have gone all in on Dangerfield, Henderson, Scott Selwood and Smith but that second tier of players are just not bringing their games up to the required level – Guthrie excepted (I think).  Steven Wells might need to weave a bit more magic.

 

Enough of them, we are onto the climax of the season!

 

Keep South at South ($1.61) vs Up Yours Oakley ($2.60)

 

These clubs are dripping in history, but who would have thought they would be playing off in the Grand Final on from all those years ago when South were shunted to Sydney and when the Bulldogs were rattling tins to save the club in spite of the AFL who were looking to reduce the number of Melbourne clubs.  They couldn’t keep South at South, but the South supporters I know are well on board the Swans (granted there may be plenty that aren’t), the Dogs fought through and their efforts this year are a testament to those who fought for them in the early 90s.  But what about the game?  Two sides that love the contest promises to make it a tough and physical affair plus they both have their share of flair to entertain us all.

 

A couple of changes for the Swans. Most unfortunate for Allir Allir as he looks an exciting prospect and little surprise in the swap for Harry Marsh.  But is bringing back two players from soft tissue injuries too much of a risk?  Especially when McVeigh is over thirty and returning from the old man’s calf injury.  The Dogs resisted the temptation to bring Lin Jong back in – probably wise – I doubt the taping the wrong shoulder would fool the Swans.

 

The Bulldog defence has appeared undersized all year and the presence of Franklin and Tippett has caused plenty of bother through the year.  The Dogs will try and have Buddy playing up the ground, but he remains a threat with his field kicking and he loves bombing them from beyond the arc at the G.  Of equal importance will be how they handle the other Swans who can get out the back and just go.  The Dogs have stopped a number of those slingshot attacks in the last three weeks, just with their sheer work rate.  They are capable of containing the Swans, but if Buddy or KT get off the chain it will give Sydney a massive advantage.  At the other end the Doggies forward line has been a revelation in the finals after being the lowest scoring finalist in the season proper, they present a different challenge with a generally undersized set of forwards who fight like crazy to keep the ball in their area.  Heath Grundy might be a little out of place apart from when either Roughead or Boyd lurk forward, but Reg has been in in fine fettle this season.  The Bulldog forwards will need to look after the dash of Rampe, while Johanissen presents a similar threat at the other end.

 

The midfields are both full of Bulls and Sydney’s Bulls took the game away from Adelaide and Geelong in the first 15 minutes.  Can they repeat the dose?  It certainly will not be an ambush – but maybe they are just that much better!  Libba, Macrae, the Bont and the other Footscray mids have shown they are up for anything that can be thrown at them.  The Bont was held pretty well last week, but continued to work through the challenge and had some critical involvements when the game was in the balance, if the Swans choose to shut him down the job must go for the whole game.  Both teams have outside runners that can cause havoc, but they also run hard to defend.  The Swans probably hold the advantage in the rucks with Tippett and Naismith, but take nothing away from Roughead and Boyd who have done everything required through the series.

 

This game is very tough to predict and if it were 2nd vs 3rd the odds would be close to flip of the coin, which makes the Bulldogs great value.  History is not on their side and no team has won four finals on the trot ever.  There are a couple of factors that make this a bit different.  The end of season bye has certainly given them a leg up with 5 players who probably would not have taken the field a week earlier, there has been much banter about that.  They only finished two games off top (effectively one as the round 23 Freo game was inconsequential), we have never seen a season where the top seven teams have been so close.  Beveridge has instilled such a positive outlook for them, their limits are unbounded.  They are a huge chance to win it.

 

The Swans though have publicly stated their humiliation on this stage to Hawthorn two years ago and the Giants in the first week of the finals, they are highly motivated and are playing serious, hard-nosed finals footy.  I haven’t tipped the Dogs for any of the finals and would love to here, but I just think that Sydney’s best is that bit better than Footscray and their midfielders are just that bit stronger.  So it is the Swans by 16 points for me, would be ecstatic and not surprised to be proved wrong.

 

Why I hate the Bye!

 

I don’t really really care when they have the second bye that the players desire I just don’t want it because it ruins one of the purest days of racing on the calendar.  Instead of the Epsom/Metropolitan meeting at Randwick being run with the Turnbull Stakes meeting at Flemington, they have to be run Saturday and Sunday respectively.  It also has the cricket comps being forced to start a week later.  AFL will just not give anyone any air!  But it is the racing whinge I am on about as we have Group 1 events right across the weekend, beginning with Moonee Valley on Grand Final Eve, Randwick on Saturday and back to Headquarters on Sunday for what is one of the highlight meetings of the year.

 

Friday

 

Moir Stakes (G1, 1000m, WFA) sees the return of Chatauqua (2), Buffering (1) along with Blue Diamond winner Extreme Choice (9).  The race should be well set up with the speedy Heatherly (9) and Buffering (1) to make it an honest contest. Can they hold out over the 5 furlongs? Not impossible but improbable.  Extreme Choice (9) has a big weight advantage on his rivals and we have seen 3yo olds sprint away with these types of races, however it is somewhat against his pattern.  He was great in the Autumn and might be the next great sprinter, but I am sticking with Chatauqua (2) until it is proven.  Ball of Muscle (4) also appears in good order and Lucky Hussler (3) has a great first up record but this might be a bit too short.

 

Selections Moonee Valley Race 7 – 2-9-1-4

 

Saturday

 

The big ones open with the Flight Stakes (G1, 1600m, Fillies Set Weights) however a couple of scratchings already will have only six  starters in the race.  Plenty of these were left in the wake of Foxplay in the Tea Rose Stakes of those Skylight Glow (3) finished 2nd so pretty good credentials here, however Yankee Rose (1) was not in that race and came through the Group 1 Golden Rose that might be better form and she was 2nd in the Slipper.  Of the others Sezanne (5) and Global Glamour (6) to fill the holes.

 

Selection Randwick Race 6 –  1-3-5-6

 

Epsom Handicap (G1, 1600m, HCP) the usual formula for these handicaps for me is to look down in the weights, but there are a couple of high class entries at the top here that require consideration.  Palentino (1) showed his class in the Makybe Diva and Hauraki (2) beat all but Winx at his last start.  Le Romain (3) is up there in the weights but meets Hauraki (2) on better terms for their last meeting where only 0.8 length separated them.  Down in the weights Torgensen (12) is a last start winner with a good record at Randwick.  Just think the top two have the class and putting Hauraki (2) on top with the greater experience on right handed tracks.

 

Selections Randwick Race 7 – 2-1-3-12

 

The Metropolitan (G1, 2400m, HCP) sees the second string of stayers get their chance of Group 1 success.  The most interesting runner here is Antonio Guiseppe (12) who has strung together four on the trot, his dad won the Melbourne Cup so distance should not be an issue, G Boss is a master of a trip, just is he up to it?  Could he be another Maluckyday?  Magic Hurricane (4) has JMac aboard and is building nicely – probably presents better value.  Who Shot Thebarman (1) is also on the improve and Sir John Hawkwood (5) looks well suited.  The chances do not end there!

 

Selections Randwick Race 8 – 12-4-1-5

 

Sunday

 

A super program greets us at Flemington with the headline act being the Turnbull Stakes (G1, 2000, SWP) with many of these sorting out which of the classics they will be chasing.  If Hartnell (4) can reproduce anything like he ran in his last two starts, it will take a mighty effort to beat him.  The one most likely for mine is Jameka (9) who also put in a stunning performance at her last start.  Preferment (1) won this race last year and has a love for Flemington, would be a big turn around on Hartnell (4) who trounced him in there last two encounters.  The United States (5) has a great record over the trip and an excellent second up record.  Others to watch keenly are Tarzino (2), Set Square (7) and Raw Impulse (13).

 

Selections Flemington Race 7 – 4-9-1-5

 

Quaddie Time

 

Got the chocolates last week, but they were Cadbury variety rather than the swiss!  Always a challenge at Flemington, although really think either Hartnell or Jameka will take out the Turnbull so that narrows down our second leg.  A tough opener though with the best hopes drawn out wide, could really go wide here – the same applies for the third so going wide and narrowing down the last hoping we are still alive!

 

Leg 1 – 1,2,3,4,5,8

Leg 2 – 4,9

Leg 3 – 1,5,7,9,11,14

Leg 4 – 9,11

 

This is 144 combinations so a winning $30 investment will return about 21% of the dividend.

 

Go Doggies and avagoodweegend!

 

Cheers, Sal

Comments

  1. Grand tribute to Max. I agree with your GF analysis. Like so many my heart says Bulldogs and my head says Sydney. My head has been wrong about the Bulldogs three times in a row. That’s why I leave the punting to you Sal. Hope today makes it four.
    You are right about the Melbourne media. As a visitor for the week I have felt a twinge of sympathy for the old rusted on Lakesiders who have followed their colours north. In 2005 and 2006 they were true believers fighting off us western invaders. This week they are being regarded as treasonous silver tails.
    You can choose your friends – not your family – or footy team.
    Good to put a face to a pen yesterday at the lunch. You bring a forensic Ockham’s Razor in your weekly previews.
    Go Friars.

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