Sal’s Week 1 Finals Preview – And so it begins

Happy September to all,


The Tigers were happy but the rest of us were short changed with the season effectively over once Richmond secured their spot in the finals.  As covered last week all final round games should be played concurrently – or at least those that can affect the finals.  It destroys the sanctity of the competition as it did last week in the Premier section of the Ammos where the result of a game on Friday night sealed the four leaving all Saturday’s games as dead rubbers.  Depending on fixturing it could have had a significant impact on the relegation battles with a number of teams having nothing on the line.  The Friday Night Ammos might be great through the season but not for the last round!

Equalisation has been the flavour of the season and surely the clamour will only get louder looking at this year’s final eight.  First of all the top 4 has exactly the same sides in it from last year.  Carlton last year was an anomaly – if we discount that and look at the actual ladder the only change in the eight has been North Melbourne for Collingwood.  Teams will go through cycles and they don’t often just drop off the perch but surely the league would like more than one change in the finals make up from season to season.  Not sure how it will all work if all the free agents only go to clubs in the “premiership window”.

Which brings me to Jarrad Waite.  For the record I would prefer he stayed with the Blues and get to 200 games for club where his dad was a premiership player – but that is the nostalgic view.  As for whether he stays or goes I reckon the Blues should be somewhat ambivalent, he can be an outstanding player and very difficult to match up.  But his record (and Carlton’s) against the very best is pretty poor, for a team to get better their players need to perform well against the best opposition.  With the Blues finishing in the bottom six they can expect an easier draw – ideal for Jarrad but does not genuinely test him or the team.  However if he heads to the Kangaroos as has been widely speculated and they win this week and finish in the top 6, they can look forward to a pretty tough fixture – that might be a real challenge for Jarrad.  From the Blues perspective I’d put fair deal on the table for an important player, but would not be prepared to pay the overs.


But that is all for the Blues and they are done, we are on to deciding the best for 2014!


It Doesn’t Suckling ($1.52) vs How Many Lives ($2.82)

The Cats have had the worst 17-5 season ever as they scrambled their way through so many close games, nice problem to have and now only three more scrambles for a flag.  Beating the Hawks this week would be a great start but it won’t be easy.  The Hawks got the better of Geelong in their last encounter which was fobbed off as an inconsequential contest – that is folly.  The Hawks turned the game around by applying the screws to the Cats running brigade slowing there ball movement and supply to the forwards.  Was it a blueprint for victory or will Chris Scott have an effective plan to escape the clutches?  As great as the Hawk midfield is it does lack leg speed and while the likes of Kelly, Selwood and Caddy can match them for strength it will be speed of Christensen, Motlop and Stokes that they need to break the game open.  The Hawk speed is generally on the outside or through slick possession.  These will be the match defining contests.  Interest certainly lies up on the Geelong forward line where both sides have selected players under injury clouds.  The X-Factor for Geelong is StevieJ who is capable of anything – both good and bad!  For the Hawks Lake’s groin has come up and I note they do not have a key defender in the emergencies.  Not sure how they can handle Tomahawk if he isn’t quite right.  Hawkins is a great target but the Cats will need to spread the forward targets for some unpredictability.  At the other end the Hawks are loaded with Breust, Gunston and Roughead all featuring in the Top 10 sharpshooters.  The Cats do have the defence to handle them, but it is the bit players from Hawthorn that really hurt them last time.  The forward pressure lead by Puopolo and Langford kept the Cats hemmed in during the second half.  The Round 22 contest did mean something to me and I reckon Hawthorn found a pretty good system to take on Geelong, however with the record of close encounters between these two the odds are not quite right and the Cats are excellent value in a game where I rate the game as 60-40 for the Hawks and them to prevail by 15 points.


The Big Show ($1.48) vs Grounded ($3.00)

Not much has gone right from Freo this week with the plight of Michael Johnson, then to have their flight cancelled and put their schedule out of whack!  To me it exposes the amateurism of the AFL – surely for finals they can arrange charter flights for clubs during the finals to reduce the risk of such issues.  But that is Freo’s lot and in Get Stuffed Lyon’s vernacular of “any team, anywhere, anytime” will come to the fore.  Meanwhile the Swans bring back a few beauties after their vacation last week.  Mike Pyke will be happy to be refreshed up against “Herman” Sandilands who presents a huge challenge after his finals heroics last year.  The Swans though do have the midfield discipline and structure to be able to contain the opposition if they are given first use.  It will be an enthralling contest in that part of the ground, but most eyes will be focussed at either end.  The Dockers appear to be severely undermanned against the Dreamteam of Buddy, Tippet, Reid and Goodes; but GSL loves a challenge and will have a plan to counter them just not sure about the personnel.  But as great as the Sydney attack is there is the perennial question on the class of their defence.  Freo have gone on a goal scoring frenzy topping the ton in their last three matches and the likes of Pavlich, Ballantyne and Walters will require management.  Very strange that a Freo-Sydney game is being assessed via their forward lines.  The Sydney defence is complete, Freo’s is a patchwork, Freo’s forwards are good, Sydney’s though is loaded!  Whilst they might not like the venue Sydney do have the advantage as Fremantle has only been there once back in 2006.  With all that Sydney are the selection by 43 points I rate this game as 70-30.  A Freo win would not shock, but the $3 available would be the limit.


Waite-ing ($1.72) vs Paddy Whacked ($2.34)

The news of Paddy Ryder’s intentions could not have come at a worse time for the Bombers, but by the same token there is one Bomber who can shield the noise from the team.  So whilst it would appear to be a distraction, I am trusting the coach to have the team ready to go.  These are pretty evenly matched teams whose midfields are robust but lack speed, they have good ruckmen and they can be horribly inconsistent from quarter to quarter.  The contest in the middle will be brutal and if one team can find a dominant player it might give them the edge – at the moment there is no-one better than Dyson Heppell, if he gets off the chain the Bombers will be away.  The Roos though do bat deeper through there and will have more options.  They have found a cult figure and a fair forward in Ben Brown and we might be watching he and Hurley go at it for a few years, but in reality both defences are capable of holding the opposition.  It will be a question of quantity and quality of supply to the forwards and then who can find a bit of magic.  For North Thomas and Wells can pull rabbits from out of their hats, but the Bombers have a proven Mr September in Paul Chapman – he could be David Copperfield!  But both clubs have lost their last three finals with North not saluting since 2007 and a 10 year drought for Essendon since they defeated Melbourne in a 2004 Elimination Final.  I can’t split these teams and take nothing from last week’s meaningless encounters and rate this a genuine 50-50 game so Essendon are great value and I reckon they will win by 8 points.


SA Magpies ($1.46) vs The New Magpies ($3.10)

The last couple of weeks has confused me with supporters in costume all over the front pages of the papers – I thought the season was about to start and Collingwood were cranking up the paper sales.  But these are Yellow and Black and we cannot escape them!  But they will be contesting Port wearing their own Magpies outfit.  Ultimately they will contest this on the ground at the Portress, which might be a misnomer given they have lost 3 of the last 5 at the venue.  Their recent record against Richmond is not great either, not saluting in their last four meetings (one draw).  Many put the Round 17 result down to personnel – it certainly had an effect but again folly to dismiss the result.  Both teams are healthy with no key players unavailable.  The Tiger’s health plus the emergence of Anthony Miles in the midfield has allowed them to release some of their most talented players forward in particular Delidio and Martin.  Martin is an outstanding one-on-one player who often gets mismatched when left one out up forward, Hinkley will need to plan well for this.  Port will win if it can escape in the midfield and run, they move the ball quickly and cleanly.  It is critical that their forwards put enormous pressure on the Tiger defence – there is no better team than Port at taking advantage of turnovers.  If the Tigers can stay clean and own the footy the dream might continue and we have another week of Tigerfest to endure.  Great for Richmond to beat Sydney last week but nothing in it for the Swans, but for Port an eight point loss to Freo at Subi is good form especially after the party they had a Carlton’s expense the week before.  The bagmen are being pretty generous on the Tigers, but Port are my selection by 27 points and rate this a 65-35 game.



Friar Time

The lads came up against a hungry Uni Blues outfit and match them for the majority of the game, but an astonishing third quarter from the students put the game away.  But finishing on top does have its benefits and the boys front up against Old Trinity at Bill Lawry Oval in Northcote at 11:40 on Sunday.

Divvy One – Williamstown CYMS’ talent came to the fore and dished out Therry-Penola first defeat for the season, then on Sunday the OGS proved too good for NOBSP.  Do the annals get another victim this week with the OGS taking on Therry?  The OGS as a team work well and ran Therry to 4 points at Como Park mid-season, however I doubt they have talent level the CYs have to curb the key players for the opposition.  Therry Penola to get to C Grade.


The Search for Moonee Value


The McEwen and Dato Tan Chin Nam are the main events at the Valley this week, but also a pretty strong card at Randwick.

The McEwen Stakes (G2, 1000m, WFA) sees the return of sprinting star Lankan Rupee (1), undefeated since suffering the unkindest cut of all.  May see him grace the turf for a couple more seasons.  The intriguing runner in the field is Eloping (9) a 3yo filly with only a 50kg impost and a good strike rate.  Bussutin/Young don’t come from NZ for a holiday and their Cauthen (6) has fair form and Unpretentious (2) is a proven G2 performer but Lankan Rupee (1) is G1 grade.

Selections MV R5 – 1-3-9-6


The nominal Melbourne Cup favourite The Offer (2) will contest the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes (G2, 1600m, WFA) along with a few others with richer pickings in mind.  One of those is Foundry (11) who also has a good fresh record and might present some value in an open affair.  Star Rolling (9) continues to run well as the challenges grow, Foreteller (1) is consistent performer and Mourinho (5) gets around this circuit well but is nastily drawn.

Selections MV R7 – 11-9-1-5


Some great racing at Randwick with Earthquake returning in Race 3.  The Chelmsford Stakes (Race 5) has 6 runners of 9 from the Waller stable.  Will be keen to see the return of Kirramosa and Lucia Valentina in the Tramway (Race 7).


Go Friars!


Cheers, Sal

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