Round 17 – Sal’s Preview: Kreuzing home

Greetings All and welcome to the penultimate round of the season,

 

A tough day for Blues with the announcement of Matthew Kreuzer’s retirement.  What a great clubman he has been but never reaching full potential due to being ravaged by injury.  Carlton was always better when he was on the park.  On the same day, ex-teammate Bryce Gibbs made his announcement, a reliable Blue before his homecoming which has not delivered for either himself or the club.  He gets to take on his old club in a farewell game this week.  Whatever the Blues were cooking back then might be overripe now.

 

A season that has had more than a few challenges.  The challenge of the last few weeks though has been scoring, the data sort of supports this.  From a season high of 69 points per team in Round 1, the season average is now down to 60.6, the lowest ebb being Round 15 where less than 50 points was the average score per team.  In raw terms we are seeing 3 less goals per game.  So when Steve Hocking isn’t worried because TV ratings are up 20%, he should give consideration to the array of alternatives on offer in in Victoria.  Granted the low scoring does produce close finishes but, gee, watching it get there is pretty tough.

 

 

 

 

The other scoring issue is goal-kicking and our graph displays the issue with a continual decline in accuracy percentage over the season interspersed with a couple of outliers.

 

 

 

 

Too many set shots being missed.  Pressure can certainly make the goals narrower, but seeing so many poor misses due to technique.  Let’s see how much better they do this week.

 

Return of the King ($1.75) vs Spreadeagled ($2.30)

 

After the success of their homestay, the Eagles are in all sorts of bother.  Missing key midfielders in Shuey and Yeo and with another five forced changes this week.  They take on the Saints who earned the wrath of Clarko for having the temerity of using a game plan to beat Hawthorn.  They got a rest into Max King who will be important as West Coast still have Barrass and McGovern to rule the skies.  But it was on the ground where they were vulnerable last week and the Saints have plenty of ground ball talent up forward, so expect to see a similar strategy.  Too many out for the Eagles and the Bulldogs might have discovered the kryptonite.  Saints to prevail here.

 

Skipper Scuppered ($1.75) vs A Little Stack ($2.30)

 

In all likelihood, a preview of one of the upcoming finals and, that being the case, the coaches likely to try and keep an ace or two up their sleeves.  One being kept in cottonwool is Joel Selwood.  Grimes being available improves the coverage against Hawkins while, at the other end, Geelong need to look after Lynch and Reiwoldt.  What the Tigers have in their favour is the chaos ball going forward; Geelong are masterful in the air down back but not as sure with the ball on the deck.  This is the opportunity for the Tiger smalls to get to work and make a statement.  The challenge being their midfield needs to step up a gear from their last couple, up against Dangerfield, Duncan and Guthrie generally provides good motivation.  Much made of the Tiger ethos with a couple of young bucks defying protocols and being sent home.  Neither in the top 22 and barely a distraction from the main game and reckon they win this main game.

 

Culled ($2.68) vs Que Cerra Cerra ($1.58)

 

The Roos were a bit better against Port but are really just making up the TV schedule now.  So many injuries so not much too learn either.  Fremantle on the other hand crushed the Demons with nail driven into the coffin by Cerra’s magnificent banana from the boundary.  They have a few injuries but are playing well and will get something out of the season and importantly look forward to the next.  Expect them to win this one too.

 

Pacesetters ($1.14) vs Homesick ($7.20)

 

Conor McKenna has called time on his AFL journey to return home, suspect a few other Bombers are keen to return home too.  They face the leaders who are pretty happy with themselves and hub life.  They need to keep winning to lock in a final at home.  The Bombers will be stung by the criticism from a few of their greats but not sure that will be enough and expect Port to keep their grip.

 

Who’s got the Keys ($1.68) vs Northern Exposure ($2.26)

 

This year – as in most – writing team’s chances off is fraught with danger.  In particular if you are relying on two of the flakiest teams in the competition to win the games they should.  Melbourne’s journey to FNQ has exposed their inability to get the basics right.  While Goodwin may have been correct that they lack dare with their ball movement – the question is why could he not correct it?  Somehow players and coaches need to be on the same page.  The Demons are not.  Fortunately for them they take on the Giants whose players are not even reading the same book as the Maserati Driver.  Sheer guesswork to pick this – going with Melbourne but not sure why.

 

Cottrell ($1.43) vs On the Crouch ($3.10)

 

With all the discussion of poor kicking for goal, a rookie in Matthew Cottrell not only seized the moment with that mark but then slotted home a perfect drop punt to put the Blues in a winning position against Sydney.  Again they played an uneven game which will put them at significant risk against Adelaide.  They are on a roll, winning contested footy and no coincidence that Brad Crouch has played both of those games.  It has taken a long time but they are playing for each other and the coach now so present a huge challenge to the Blues.  Carlton were able to match Sydney in the middle but I suspect if they can do that with Adelaide it will go a long way to winning this game.

 

Fine Cotton ($3.60) vs Bird Hunters ($1.34)

 

The Hawks have called time on 2020 and put a few in cottonwool for next season.  Not something we always like but ultimately practical and especially in a season such as this.  They get to take on the Bulldogs who exploited the Eagles poor ground skills last week to record an important win.  They don’t always get things right but they do play with cohesion and trust in the coach’s plans.  Just need to lock these four points away.

 

Horse Tales ($3.15) vs Payne Gain ($1.38)

 

Brisbane reign as champs of their state but head north to face the Swans who are smarting from the loss to the Blues after coughing up a 39 point lead.  The coach suitably unimpressed should have them back up for this.  They will face a banged up Brisbane who are getting injuries at the wrong time of the year.  They covered the loss of Andrews well with Jack Payne but it will be job of their forwards to maintain the ball in the forward line and stop the Sydney slingshot.  If that is taken away expect a Lions win.

 

Buckley’s Chance ($1.30) vs Sun Down ($3.85)

 

A win for the Pies will entrench them in a finals spot.  They might not be playing their best but are doing enough to get over the Suns who looked like they were cooked against the Lions.  Too important for the Pies and should win after a week off.

 

Track Time

 

It’s back to Flemington and what a feast is being presented across the nine races.  As usual wide open affairs but some popular picks and reasonable odds.  We should get a good track on the day, but some concern with rain predicted during the day that might present some challenges.  The highlight of the day is the Makybe Diva Stakes with a capacity field and 12 of them already Group 1 winners.  Great support card with a number of group and listed races.

 

The opener is a staying test with a few cup hopefuls looking to climb the pecking order to get a run and plenty in form.  Schabau (R1, #4) was good first up being run down late, gets to his favoured track and has a great chance.  Reckon that Persan (R1, #7) might provide a better punting proposition, similar motivations and a solid winning habit.  A couple of undefeated young geldings clash in the Exford Plate.  Immortal Love (R2, #1) was terrific in winning the MacNeil while Cherry Tortoni (R2, #3) dominated a couple of races here in the early winter.  More chances than these in a good field, just with Cherry Tortoni (R2, #3).

 

Race 3 – Let’s Elope Stakes (G2, 1400m, Mares SWP)

 

Hard to go past the top two here in Arcadia Queen (1) and Savatiano (2) who have won open WFA races, back to mares grade makes them hard to beat.  Preference to the latter as there are some questions around Arcadia Queen’s (1) condition.  Looking for some value Bonvicini (7) is a first up specialist and a winner here.  My Gold Bracelet (5) will be better for her first run in Australia and could be a threat.

 

Selections – 2-7-1-5

 

Race 4 – Bobbie Lewis Quality (G2, 1200m, 4YO+ HCP)

 

Only a field of ten this year but a fascinating renewal.  Happy to stick with Great Again (6) who looks well in at the weights here.  Hard to miss the finish of Bold Star (7), Gordon Richards is deadly when he brings them over.  Last year’s winner Zoutori (3) has a bigger impost but has been mixing it with the best since then, Tofane (1) is a Group One winner, weight might be an issue but her best wins.

 

Selections – 6-7-3-1

 

Been waiting for Django Freeman (R5, #5) to get back to Flemington.  Never missed the Quinella on good ground.  Great respect for the favourite Aktau (R5, #3).  Happy to follow up on Bumper Blast (R6, 11) a three time winner over this course.

 

Race 7 – Makybe Diva Stakes (G1, 1600m, WFA)

 

Derby winners, Oaks winners and Cup winners all make up the field in a magnificent renewal of the race named after The Great Mare.  In fact the winners of the four main races at last year’s Flemington carnival are all competing.   One of them is the top pick in Fierce Impact (4) a specialist miler and good record second up, just ahead of the Russian Camelot (13).  Has won over the journey but that was a benchmark 64 at Pakenham – he has much bigger races on the radar plus drawn to the outside.  Dalasan (11) enjoys the space of Flemington and can run well here while Vow and Declare (1) will only be getting warm late, he wants to be closing hard to have a second cup on the radar.  Then again Gatting (5)  won this race at 100-1 last year so could easily have this all wrong!

 

Selections – 4-13-11-1

 

Race 8 – Danehill Stakes (G2, 1200m, 3yo SWP)

 

Difficult affair to dissect this one with a collision of Sydney, Melbourne and country form.  Going to stump up for the best maiden again in Ranting (7).  Was the best last 200 in the MacNeil and looks like Flemington will suit.  Prague (1) brings Sydney form has won some handy races and been in the best of company.  Wisdom of Water (2) gets the Price-Kent polish after transferring from Queensland.  Then putting in the unbeaten Tydeus (9) gets the outside rail and the Smith/Rodd combination going well.  Could have easily missed it.

 

Selections – 7-1-2-9

 

Closing the card on Swat’s That (9) won spectacularly on debut then took on a top field in Sydney on a heavy track.

 

Quaddie

 

Leg 1 – 3, 8, 11, 14

Leg 2 – 1, 4, 9, 11, 13, 14

Leg 3 – 1, 2, 4, 7, 9

Leg 4 – 4, 9

 

Go Blues, Go Bumper,

 

Cheers, Sal

 

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