AFL Finals Week 2: Why the underdogs can win

After tipping Fremantle to defend Geelong and Sydney to defeat Adelaide last week (alright, I also tipped Collingwood), I firmly believe that both underdogs can win this week’s semi-finals. Such is the nature of finals football and in a testament to the competition’s evenness this year, both of the favourites (Collingwood and Adelaide) could be out in straight sets. It sounds bizarre, but it could certainly happen. Here’s how:

Fremantle to defeat Adelaide in Adelaide:
Home ground advantage? Forget it. A loss to Sydney last week and Collingwood earlier in the year at AAMI stadium indicates that even at home, the Crows struggle to match it with the best sides.

Last time? When these two sides met at AAMI in round 20, the scoresheet appears that it was a comfortable Crows victory. The lead never extended beyond five goals and Adelaide largely won due to Patrick Dangerfield dominance. He’ll have to repeat his heroics if they are to win. This was the match where it seemed that the Dockers were finally learning their press: since then the Dockers haven’t lost and have conceded only 68 points per game.

Trouble down back?

With Daniel Talia out, the Crows have brought in two young key players – Luke Thompson and Ricky Henderson to assist Ben Rutten in defence. But are these players really capable of stopping the super-hot Matthew Pavlich, Aaron Sandilands or highly talented Zac Clarke?

The bottom six? Fremantle’s depth and spread of players is very strong, and the unheralded players such as Matt de Boer, Michael Walters and Tendai Mzungu are finally getting some recognition for their importance.

The coaches? No one can question that Brenton Sanderson’s first year has been terrific and beyond all expectations. But the reality is that he is still a newbie, and he’s never coached in a finals series before. Ross Lyon on the other hand, despite Fremantle’s lack of finals footy, coached the Saints to two consecutive grand finals, meaning he knows September very, very well.

Adelaide: In – Ricky Henderson, Luke Thompson
Out – Daniel Talia (broken arm), Aiden Riley (dropped)
Fremantle: In – Zac Clarke
Out – Kepler Bradley

West Coast to defeat Collingwood in Melbourne:
The form? West Coast’s is very good, winning four matches from their previous five, whereas the Pies only have two from the same period, which is very bleak, considering they are a top four side.

Last time? The Eagles will have the mental edge, as they hammered Collingwood only two and a half weeks ago. The Eagles hammered the Magpies in the clearances, thanks largely to ruck dominance of Nic Naitanui and Dean Cox. Sure there was no Darren Jolly, but only teams with two solid ruckmen (Sydney with Mumford and Pyke and Hawthorn with Hale and Roughead) have managed to negate the Eagles’ ruckmen influence. The Pies really have no one else who could ruck for half the game.

Finals experience? It would be logical to believe that Collingwood have a major advantage here after their success in 2010, but amazingly West Coast still has seven players from their 2006 premiership winning side (it would be eight but Beau Waters is out this week). Not only that, but of course the coach is still the same for the Eagles, John Worsfold.

Who are the changes? As mentioned, Beau Waters is a big out for West Coast after being deputy sheriff of defence all year, only behind the captain, Darren Glass. Matthew Rosa comes in for them and will likely be sporting a helmet after numerous concussions in his last few matches. He is versatile and becoming a prolific midfielder, but he may be required off half back. For the Pies, their captain Maxwell is a huge loss, and even though supporters of the other 17 sides don’t rate him, he is very important for them. The Ben Sinclair omission was interesting as he played his role very well against Hawthorn, the more defensive Jamie Elliott may be thrown into a tagging role on a Kerr or Selwood.

Collingwood: In – Tyson Goldsack, Jamie Elliott
Out – Nick Maxwell (suspension), Ben Sinclair (dropped)
West Coast: In – Matthew Rosa
Out – Beau Waters (foot)

Since 2000 only two sides have gone out in straight sets (after finishing in the top four), Port Adelaide in 2001 and West Coast in 2007. Is it too much to think that it could happen to both sides in the same year? As they say, there is a first time for everything, and given how close 2012 has been, get ready for history to be made.

About Schonafinger

A self-confessed SuperCoach addict and blogger on Follow me at @supercoach_hq


  1. Fair points, but it’s hard to see WC winning in melb

  2. Skip of Skipton says

    Since 2000 when the Final 8 system went to the current (improved) format, the Top 4 side that lost its first game gets to host its semi-final. That’s why it is 22/2 in their favour.

    Having said that, Adelaide this year are only a Top 4 side courtesy of an incredibly soft AFL engineered fixture. In reality they are a 5-8 side playing another 5-8 side that is on a very sharp upward trajectory. If they thought the Swans were good at shutting them down, then cop this. Freo for mine.

    The Collingwood vs. West Coast game is a tougher one to predict I reckon. Sometimes when you are a team like West Coast who has just thrashed a 9-12 side who came 8th courtesy of a soft AFL engineered fixture you can get ahead of yourselves, then crash to earth suddenly when confronted with a genuine Top 4 outfit, which Collingwood is. The quandary for me lies with Collingwood’s ‘off-boil’ form of late, the Eagles running them close at the MCG earlier in the season, and also the untimely sad death of John McCarthy. Collingwood just.

  3. Neil Belford says

    Ah the fixture – I think it could better be described as an arrangement

  4. Peter Schumacher says

    Pretty close predictions but not quite.

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