Grand Final Review – Pepsi or Coke?

Welcome to the off season,

As far as Grand Finals go that one won’t make too many Grand Final Marathons!  But more on that later – first of all it is time to assess the bigger story than a Hawk flag.  Buddy heading to Sydney is wrong at so many levels, but taking out the emotion Sydney have once again landed the big one and achieved it without the entire footy world knowing.  But a couple of other things first, Buddy saying he only decided in the last couple of days – what a bunch of crap.  Leave the bollocks to the politicians – footy fans deserve more than that, better to say nothing than bulldust.

The big losers out of this are GWS and the AFL – Vlad would have been counting on Buddy to provide the desired boost to the Giants and their profile.  His rejection of them make matters even worse – yes they are cashed up but they clearly are going to have issues attracting talent.  Sydney on the surface appear to have won, but there are a number of concerns.  This was always going to get the other clubs vocal again in unison over the COLA.  It appears doomed, but that is exactly what GWS, Brisbane and Gold Coast can ill afford.  Removal of the COLA would be an inappropriate kneejerk reaction to a situation where a club has simply made the most of both the rules and their own environment.  A simpler solution is that all clubs fit their players into an equal salary cap and the league pays the extra 9.8% to each player instead of one or two reaping the major benefit.

But COLA does not help every club as followers of Brisbane would be all too aware in its battle to keep players from heading home.  That probably explains the biggest issue with the COLA – it is actually supposed to be a mechanism for equalisation, but in the case of the Swans it is a weapon they are using against the competition.  Eddie started his moaning after Brisbane won the 2002 Premiership and at the time they had no problem retaining players, but they do now!

Why not simply have a “competitive funding provision” available to those clubs that are struggling?  As a further novelty why not make it available to battling clubs in Victoria also?  Finding objective measures of how teams qualify for funding and for how long it is in place presents some challenges – but this would allow the AFL to tip the scales as they please to “level” the playing field.

But we now look forward to trade period where usually nothing actually happens till five minutes to midnight, but it would appear that the first domino has fallen and plenty of movement happening with the free agents!

The Grand? Final

The question lingers if Freo executed effectively in the first quarter would Hawthorn still have won?  I suspect so – to me they always seemed to have the opposition covered.  It is probably one of the reasons it was a dull game – Hawthorn never really exploded they just ensured they did enough to win.  I have heard much bleating of the umpiring and Cyril’s free kicks and Buddy’s 50 metre penalty.  There are not degrees to going over the mark – if you go over it is a penalty.  I would prefer to see this adjudicated correctly ALL over the ground as it was in this case.  As for Rioli, those frees have been paid all year – unfortunately there have been plenty that haven’t also.  What really counted against Freo was that they neither had the ball in their front half enough and were not as effective at landing those tackles when it was in there.

Much discussion on Get Stuffed Lyon’s game plan and whether it can win Grand Finals.  The MCG factor could be an influence with its extra width – three of those games have been close and one could easily argue Sydney in 2005 executed that plan.  There were just a few pistons that did not fire for Freo on the weekend, whereas the Hawks got a much more even contribution across the board.  I hope the GSL game plan is pulled apart and destroyed, but while the game is officiated in the manner it currently is and players don’t get fatigued enough – Freo could come back to reign in 2014.

Assessing the Season

 Hawthorn – A perfectly executed season on the back of the 2012 disappointment.  It was the flag they had to win given they have started as favourite in every season since their 2008 victory.  Can they go back to back?  The loss of Franklin will hurt, but structurally they will adapt and have played well several times without him.  Their seconds at Box Hill winning the flag shows a certain amount of depth, it can be assumed they will not fall from their perch too quickly.  They will need to address the ruck situation with Bailey unable to complete games and probably find extra pace with their inside brigade – but this is pretty picky.  They are capable of going again – but motivation and injuries will ultimately tell the tale.

Fremantle – They have a taste for it and for the most part a very talented list.  But they need to get a better aerial contest up forward, whether they are looking to persist with Pavlich (as it would appear) or not they need to have another big bodied forward available to be a target.  Their manic pressure works well against the also rans and did a great job in two finals, but there needs to be another way to kick goals if it is not working.  GSL will know the shortcomings of his list and if he can fill those gaps I see no reason why they won’t challenge strongly again.  I just hope it gets better to watch than this year!

And so ends the footy season and it is on to the flannelled fools and coloured silks for our attention:

The Carnival Awaits…

This is Super Saturday for those that follow the sport of kings – the Turnbull Stakes card at Flemington is full of quality over a marathon 10 events and Royal Randwick is host to three Group 1 races and plenty of other interest.  Both schedules are littered with races that will shape the classics over the next few weeks.

The main event on Saturday is the Turnbull Stakes (G1, 2000m, SWP) an ideal event for horses safely qualified for the cups as it cannot attract a penalty and makes it ideal for the Puissance de Lune to return to the winners enclosure.  Run down in the final stride here in the Makybe Diva Stakes and the best closer in the Underwood Stakes where the pattern of racing was against his style.  G Boss has the inside alley and should be able to place him in the field where ever he wants and further his grip on Melbourne Cup betting.  There will be stiff opposition in a strong field although a couple of the fancies are drawn poorly such as Hawkspur (19) and Quintessential (17) – they both have chances but are outside my top four.  Super Cool carries some weight but his form warrants it, noting he is 2 for 2 over the journey and one of these at Flemington in the Australian Cup.  The Hayes import Jetaway is undefeated in Australia and has a fantastic first up record and finally finding it hard to split the Melbourne Cup Runner Up Fiorente and the Lloyd Williams owned Fawkner.  Fiorente has come back in great form and I thought Fawkner would have been a great chance in the Epsom, instead the weird one has sent him to the Turnbull.  Weird he may be, but Lloyd does place his horses well.

Flemington Race 8 – 7-4-13-11-7

The Edward Manifold Stakes (G2, 1610m, 3yo Fillies Set Weights) is one of two events on the day that will guide toward the Thousand Guineas.  Politeness was fantastic at Caulfield running on but not quite getting to Gregers, great lead up for this and the one to beat for mine.  G Boss rode Solicit to its win at Moonee Valley but rides the AJ Cummings trained Wordplay who was 2nd in the Spring Stakes at Newcastle, Solicit loses nothing with B Prebble on board.  PGM brings in Metaphorical, undefeated in two country starts – up in grade but the big fella knows where to run them!

Flemington Race 7 – 6-4-5-8

The dash down the straight six is the Gilgai Stakes (G2, 1200m, SWP) – always a tough race.  Sessions, Aeronautical and Spirit of Boom fought out The Shorts at Randwick recently and I could see them doing the same again here.  But there a few others with claims – Platelet 5 from 8 over 1200m – That’s the One has great Flemington form – Albrecht was close in the Bobbie Lewis.  I reckon Aeronautical with the weight advantage might have the drop on them.

Flemington Race 9 – 9-4-1-8

The Blazer Stakes (G2, 1410m, SWP Mares) closes the day and the Quaddie with a bit of a form collision with contestants coming from a range of races.  Peron for Big Nathan has an imposing record winning 6 from 9, however not sure of the quality of all the wins.  I am happy to stick with the in form Catkins.  At longer odds Lake Sententia is high quality and may want further but is good second up and Zurella is on the way to longer trips but has won over this trip and has placed in every first up run.

Flemington Race 10 – 6-9-7-3

Quaddie – very tough

Leg 1 – 4,5,6

Leg 2 – 4,5,6,7,11,13,15,16

Leg 3 – 1,4,9

Leg 4 – 6,9

Could easily go much wider!  But $30 this gives 144 combinations and a win would return 20.8% of the dividend.

Off to Randwick for a slightly less enticing card than in previous years with the move of the Spring Champion Stakes to a later date.  The big ones kick off with the other race that shapes the Thousand Guineas in the Flight Stakes (G1, 1600m, 3yo Fillies Set Weights), no need to dissect this too much Guelph is a star and has scared off most opposition.

Randwick Race 4 – 1-3-2-4

The next big one is over the famous Randwick Mile with the Epsom Handicap (G1, 1600m, HCP), much tougher for me without Fawkner. Boban was outstanding two weeks ago, however Belltone chased him home and has 1.5kg weight advantage so must also be a great chance.  But the best weighted contender is Simon O’Donnell’s import Lidari who has been lumping around much bigger weights, can win if repeats the effort two starts back.  Streama is always a huge chance in anything at Randwick.

Randwick Race 7 – 11-10-5-12

Not sure how The Metropolitan (G1, 2400m, HCP) keeps its status with once again the second string stayers taking it on.  There is more intrigue here though with so many imported gallopers enlisted.  The top weights are the reigning Sydney and Brisbane Cup winners, Moriarty (Brisbane) has come back in great form while Mourayan (Sydney) is back at his favourite track.  Prince Cheri is on the limit weight, in fine form and is a huge chance as must be Lucrepitous also on the limit who produced a barnstorming finish in the Newcastle Cup but just failed to get the chocolates.

Randwick Race 9 – 2-1-7-11

Good Luck to all for the week and may your trade winds be favourable,

Cheers, Sal

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