Grand Final – Sal’s preview: What’s on the Plate this year?



Greetings All,


After seven months the season reaches its finale with a contest between the two clubs that have been able to manage through the challenge presented by the COVID-19 restrictions.  A couple of minor hiccups for the Tigers but none that had any effect on the ground.  Geelong may have had aging bodies but they were well equipped physically and mentally for the challenges presented.  Along the way also being able to look after a couple of their stars.


Overall the AFL should be pleased with the season they have delivered – a few misses along the way but adequate.  The worry I have is that some of the changes made could work into what becomes “Footy Normal”.


  • Short quarters – need to go back to 20 minutes.  Scoring was just too hard in some games with very few scores over the 100 points.  The game needs to be a test of endurance as well as speed, strength and skill.
  • Footy Frenzy – lunatics like me might love it but it takes a toll on the family members that don’t.  Thursday to Sunday is more than sufficient.
  • Short season – some have argued about the fairness that 17 games provided, there were plenty of other factors that made it unfair.  Were Brisbane and Port false preliminary finalists given their significant home ground advantage for the season?  Importantly endurance across the entire season is part of the game.
  • Thursday/Friday Night double headers – they may have been handy for the fixture but not if we get back to “Footy Normal”.
  • Fixtures on the run – they worked for COVID but the idea to continue into 2021 would only further compromise the mess that the AFL fixturing is.
  • Night Grand Finals – play the biggest game in the best conditions.
  • Grand Finals not on the sacred turf! – play the biggest game in the biggest theatre.


The biggest risk after the year for the league (and probably the rest of Victoria) is what this period has done to lives of players, coaches and their families.  For most there was plenty of support and camaraderie in the hubs but that is not necessarily good for everyone.  Then how they adapt coming back to whatever normal society is these days.  The clubs and league will need to watch carefully.


Just as we all need to watch carefully this Saturday Night.




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Which force will prevail, the chaotic Tigers whose unpredictability is their predictability or the precision of Geelong as they try to pick apart the opposition defences.  Recent history says Richmond winning 5 of the last 6 over Geelong, it is worth noting that the one for the Cats was by a hefty 67 points.  At each end of the ground there are forwards that will test defenders with Lynch and Hawkins both capable of being matchwinners.  Just have the rest of the Tiger forwards ahead of Geelong who have a number of theirs prone to having low output games.  Where Dangerfield and Martin line up respectively will be critical.


Both teams have altered their MO during the year which culminated with each of them dominating from clearances last week.  The winner of the battle in the middle will determine the premiership.  With the shorter ground and big forwards the ability to win from the middle and feed to a six on six battle is vital.  Rucks for both teams are more about being competitive than dominating, Nankervis a big contributor in the battle while Stanley and Blicavs are handy in there but better with their athleticism.


Geelong were great in the middle last week, Richmond were sublime.  Dusty kept the game simple – get the ball and blast it forward, and if he can do that again his Tigers will have the upper hand.  Overall the selection in this game is going to be dependent on the conditions with storm and pestilence predicted for the Gabba on Saturday Night and even the chance of a delay due to lightning. It will be the team that can adapt best to reign in 2020.  Both teams are adept in wet conditions with the Tigers’ chaotic, territory game coming to the fore.  Geelong on the other hand have the bulk and strength to win ground level contests in poor conditions.  That is good for them against most teams.  Richmond is not most teams, they have plenty of size to match and don’t need the precision in their play.  With that, I reckon this will be one for Siegfried with the Tigers to get home by 20 points.  Dusty to treble up!



Track Time


Before the ball bounces we will have already been through 18 other contests around Moonee Valley on Friday and Saturday with the highlight being the 100th running of the WS Cox Plate.  The Victorian government quickly rescinded their faux pas and we will still have no spectators on course.  The supporting card is just as important with so many horses having their last hit out before attacking the riches of Flemington next week.  A real challenge is to judge the track with the rail in true for both meetings (at least as planned), the probability of rain throughout adding to the puzzle.  As per last week, expecting the surface to favour runners with form in the wet and that the outside barriers will not be a disadvantage toward the end of Saturday.


Friday Night


Not going into too much on Friday Night.  All Too Royal (R3, #4) has very good first up stats.  If the rain has not arrived by the fifth then Sartorial Splendour (R5, #7) could run them ragged.  Same applies in the penultimate where Beehunter (R7, #7) could make it a double for JD Sadler.


Race 8 – The Manikato Stakes (G1, 1200m, WFA)


It’s an early close at 8:45 and they have kept the best till last!  Pippie (8) is not as effective 2ndup but there is little doubt she will lead and set a blistering pace.  Reckon Diamond Effort (10) can get on the back of that speed, roll off and take plenty of catching, happy to say they won’t. Dirty Work (6) got her last start and could do the same again, failed both starts here but does have a better draw.  Trekking (1) would probably be top pick, needs to recover after running a mighty race in The Everest, must be doing well for GSOB to back him up.  Brooklyn Hustle (11) is very effective here and could get over the top of them all.  Doesn’t end there in a great lead up to the half-time break.


Selections – 10-6-1-11




Hope you enjoyed intermission and are ready to go early with the first scheduled before noon.  Handy if you like backing $1.50 pops which is where Ancestry (R1, #2) is likely to be after destroying his rivals last start.  Not sure what can beat him, there have been plenty of odds-on favourites going under lately.  We follow up with a restricted 2YO event full of first starters – watch for the market moves from the big stables.


Race 3 – Red Anchor Stakes (G3, 1200m, 3yo SWP)


The outside barrier is of some concern but happy to be with Valequenta (1) coming in third up with the services of M Zahra.  Zahra got the three votes last week, Ben Melham got the two and he rides Portland Sky (5) who has been very consistent and gets his chance here.  Free to Move (2) takes a step up but is very consistent while Bella Nipotina (7) wasn’t up to them in the Moir, this is suitable.


Selections – 1-5-2-7


Race 4 – MV Fillies Classic (G2, 1600m, Fillies SW)


A few form lines crash in here – going with the G1 form.  Thermoshere (1) and Ecumenical (2) were both honourable in the 1000 Guineas and this is not as strong a field, reckon one of them can win after a week off.  Miss Inbetween (3) garners consideration, she beat home Confrontational last start who went on to win the Geelong Classic.  Can’t leave out Incredulous Dream (4) after saluting for us last week.


Selections – 1-2-3-4


Race 5 – Tesio Stakes (G3, 1600m, Mares HCP)


Can’t find one to put ahead of Sovereign Award (3) racing in great form, handles the Valley and copes with the wet.  Looking for some wet form and putting in My Pendant (7).  As does Benetoite (9) probably would rate her higher but for backing up from the Seymour Cup on Sunday and putting in Paradee (10) who is well weighted relative to Sovereign Award (3) from last start.


Selections – 3-7-9-10


Race 6 – The Vase (G2, 2040m, 3yo SW)


The young lads take on the Cox Plate journey with most of them looking to Derby next week. Cherry Tortoni (3) has been a derby prospect for a while but ran a shocker in Sydney last start.  Was is a blip or have the wheels fallen off?  This week will tell – I am going with it being a blip.  Hard to split the next two in Khoekhoe (1) and Young Werther (6), the latter appears to have more upside but the value certainly with Khoekoe (1) who has a win on soft ground.  Then putting in Lunar Fox (2) who did not get us the result in the Guineas but did run well, don’t think the extra 400m will hurt.


Selections – 3-1-6-2


Race 7 – The Chrystal Mile (G2, 1600m, WFA)


A process of elimination to find the pick.  Likes the Valley, handles the wet and can run the distance – Homesman (1) ticks all the boxes plus has a very good fresh record puts him on top here.  Dr Drill (5) has placed both runs here and Olmedo (4) having its first start in Australia is highly rated by Chris Waller.  Kings Will Dream (2) is dropping back from Group 1 level, his two runs at this track were in Cox Plates and he broke down in one of those.


Selections – 1-5-2-4


Race 8 – Moonee Valley Gold Cup (G2, 2500m, SWP)


The race should be well set up for pace with Hush Writer (2) and Trap for Fools (5) likely to contest the lead.  Sets up nicely for JMac who rejoins Shared Ambition (4) has been running well but needs a win, looks well suited here.  If he is well suited then so is Sound (7) who beat him home in the Bart and gets M Zahra to steer.  Polly Grey (12) gets her preferred conditions and Gallic Chieftain (1) is running into good form.


Selections – 4-7-12-1


Race 9 – WS Cox Plate (G1, 2040m, WFA)


Till the Caulfield Stakes this race was all about Russian Camelot (11) and to a certain extent it still is but many more in the conversation.  Just being a Cox Plate there will be more pace on than the Caulfield Stakes which will suit him.  The outside barrier is not ideal but come race 17 it might be the place to be, he does like some galloping room also.  Happy to have him as top pick in a very interesting field where the visitors add to the intrigue and complexity.  Can’t ignore his conqueror Arcadia Queen (9) who found the form that rated her among the very best, has to be the main danger of the known.  Of the unknown my leaning is toward Aspetar (6) to be ridden by last year’s winning pilot and coming off an impressive win at York.  The other intrigue of the race is the 3yo Grandslam (14). Youngsters have a great record in the race though not too many winners.  Can’t say he has a winning habit either but runs on the speed and the lightweight will make him hard to catch.  Armory (12) the next best of the raiders, nothing would surprise with Humidor (2) back at the scene of his best race.  Kolding (1), Probabeel (13) not without hope.  Good renewal and lead up to the Grannie!


Selections – 11-9-6-14-2-12-13-1


Written Beauty (5) might be one in the last, reckon La Mexicana (8) could be as well with both wins in wet conditions.




Leg 1 – 1, 2, 4, 5

Leg 2 – 1, 2, 4, 7, 12

Leg 3 – 2, 6, 9, 11, 12, 14

Leg 4 – 5, 8


Here’s to Camelot, a ripping Grannie and a full footy season in 2020!


Cheers, Sal


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