Almanac Punting: The Cooler’s 2023 Finals and Premiership Form Guide


Cooler (noun): a container for keeping food or bottles cool; colloquially, a prison or jail (“they threw him in the cooler”).

Cooler (noun): In gambling circles, a casino employee sent to tables to stop winning streaks. The theory is that the presence of the “cooler” in and of itself will, in turn, give bad luck to the rest of the table.


Your correspondent in no way encourages gambling. This is for many reasons, but none more so than because I’m going so bad on the punt that I could stop a freight train. Far from being a slump, this is a pattern stretching back over a number of years.

Addicts and/or their sponsors will tell you that you can only help someone once they’ve reached “bottom”, and that what constitutes this “bottom”  is different for everyone. Bottom for yours truly was reached one fateful Tuesday afternoon (yes, a Tuesday afternoon) at the time-honoured Horsham Greyhounds matinee program; your correspondent with a motza on the $1.50 favourite who missed the start miserably, only to be saved by a lure breakdown on the back straight, and stewards declaring a no race. The universe sent me a sign. And it was received (along, thankfully, with my refunded bet).

Despite this, I’m still an avid watcher of the three racing codes; gallops, dishlickers and thieves on wheels — or’ cheats in seats’ if you’re old enough to remember some classic plunges coming off at the Showgrounds and Harold Park back in the day (and more recently in Tasmanian harness racing).

But I digress…

As we enter yet another AFL finals series for the colts, geldings and entires, and as the Footy Almanac’s self-appointed Cooler, I present this handy form guide to both week one of the boys’ finals series and a brief, old school form comment on the acceptors’ premiership chances thrown in for free.


AFL FINALS WEEK ONE (Four Quarters, plus Time-On) GROUP 1

Collingwood v Melbourne

Rail: True
Track: Soft 6

Collingwood: Impressive last time out at this track despite meeting midweek 0-68 opposition in the Gliders. The ‘Pies adore the big occasion, and despite going 2W/3Ls from their last five starts, remain the ones to beat. Victory will also give footy’s most annoying commentator plenty of opportunity to drive the anti-Floreat Pica sect insane with his hyperbole, long distance medical diagnoses and Vulcan mind-meld-like insights into what players are thinking and saying at any given time during a game.
Premiership form comment: Punters, get in the queue.

Melbourne: Seasoned campaigners with recent Group 1 glory, looking to add yet more black type to their profile. Has had a relatively soft preparation this Spring, and lost to Carlton by a short 1/2 head when they last met. Has the ability, and beat the Fav by the same margin when last they met on King’s Burfday.
Premiership form comment: Definite claims.


Brisbane Lions v Port Adelaide

Rail: True
Track: Good 4

Brisbane: Difficult to draw a form line here. Beat Collingwood at their last meeting, but smashed by the Gold Coast Trust Fund Kids at Southport, snuck in against Freo, had the benefit of a questionable photo finish vs Adelaide (which stewards later admitted they got wrong) and ended the season with an uninspiring jumpout win against the Saints. Wily trainer Chris Fagan continues to impress, and will leap from a favourable barrier, but we’ve seen this show before.
Premiership form comment: Prefer others.

Port Adelaide: Questionable under pressure away from home track, but have developed a habit of storming home when the whips are truly cracking. Will need everything to go their way despite their rating, but trainer Ken Hinkley’s belief in this horse’s ability is unwavering. Good 4 track will definitely suit.
Premiership form comment: Keep safe.


Carlton v Sydney Swans

Rail: True
Track: Soft 6

Carlton: After numerous trainer changes, syndicate managers may finally have found the right mix after partnering with the Voss stables, despite strong calls from connections and media commentator types to part ways during the winter carnival. Has strong recent form against other finalists including knocking off the top-weight by 1¼ lengths five starts back, as well as wins against St Kilda, Melbourne and after missing the kick by 3 lengths demonstrated their class to eventually overcome the Trust Fund Kids by a head at Southport. Comprehensive loss to GWS as last start has long-suffering connections squeaky in the bum once again.
Premiership form comment: Respect.

Sydney Swans: Inconsistent form leading into this spring, but comfortably rolled GWS four starts back. Will relish the anticipated downgrade of the track and heavy conditions come Friday night against the Blues, and have also shown an ability to surprise when written off by punters in the past.
Premiership form comment: No.


St Kilda v GWS

Rail: True
Track: Soft 7

St Kilda: Arguably the sentimental choice for punters without a dog in this year’s fight. Connections reunited with master trainer Ross Lyon and have embraced his no-frills, hi-viz worker style of racing. Concerns remain over losses to other runners in two of their last five starts, but come into this comfortable at the weights. Wide draw is a concern, will need everything to go right.
Premiership form comment: Watch the market.

GWS: Despite getting properly tuned by Port Adelaide three starts ago, have been eye catching in rolling the Gliders by the length of the Flemington straight, and then dismantling Carlton to win by 2.5L in successive weeks. Barrier draw, and handicap weighting working against them, but newly licensed trainer Adam Kingsley looks to have them in tip-top condition approaching the Group 1 events, and will be using this race to frank recent performances. Wildcard.


Caveat emptor,

The Cooler


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About Steve Baker

"Colourful central Victorian racing identity". Recovering Essendon supporter, and sometime weekend night racing presenter on RSN Racing and Sport.


  1. Hard to argue with this summation.

    Hard Luck Harry

  2. Peter Fuller says

    Very helpful analysis, Cooler.
    I don’t recall that there was controversy about Brisbane’s narrow win over Adelaide, so I wonder if you have mistaken the highly controversial (euphemism/understatement) Swans steal in the 2nd last round.

  3. Loved this. Cutting and confident analysis but disappointed to not read the time-honoured comment: prefer others. Just unsure to whom it should apply.

    Thanks fella.

  4. Sorry. Don’t know what happened but should have written that I wished to see ‘prefer others’ against Port Adelaide!

  5. “Pies are overrated. Running on fumes. Demons are the best value in the field.”
    Regards, The Fridge.

  6. Carringbush are back in town.
    The form fillers/Accountants at the AFL will be happy.

  7. Wonderful Bakes, and I only understood half the bloody lingo! Squeaky in the bum did make me lol.

    Yes, the finals are ‘roll the dice’ territory and following last night’s magnificent start to the finals I’m really gee’d up for what’s to come. Did Pies win it or Dees fluff it? Doesn’t matter now. What we did get was the best of the best at full flight.

    Calling Saints a sentimental fav unintentionally reflects Victoria’s ongoing delusion that the AFL is theirs. As a non-Saints fan I have as much interest in them winning the Cup as I do GWS. Actually, I’d prefer GWS and here’s why. 1) Lyon, 2) I love how GWS play the game (refer to reason 1).

    Anyways, may the best (and hungriest) team win. As the Pies were last night.


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