We are well and truly at the business end of the season.
The finals have been more interesting than the regular season which is not unexpected. Highlights include Richmond achieving a hat-trick of bowing out of the finals in the first round, the Perth teams putting a good case for having the GF played outside of Melbourne and North Melbourne winning two finals matches after resting half their team the week before the finals.
Now that the season has ended for a few more teams, the pent up interest in players careers can now be released. It may be too early to see whether Sydney is on their way down with Goodsy and Rhyce Shaw calling it a day. We will also have to wait and see if Buddy will come good on his 10 million dollar contract and whether Sydney will keep overvaluing Tippett or trade him to another team.
It will be interesting to see if Adelaide continue their good performance next season without Dangerfield or if Geelong will move their way back up into the top 8 with that trade.
Now to this weeks games.
Fremantle v Hawthorn (Friday 8:20 Subiaco Oval)
Although Fremantle finished on top of the ladder, it would be a brave commentator to say they’ve got the grand final in bag. We don’t need a Pythagorean expectation formula to realise that Fremantle’s percentage would have landed them in 5th place on the ladder. They only won 1 of their last 4 games before the finals, supporting the ‘was good at the start of the season, now they are crap’ theory. Their win over a depleted Swans side at home by only nine points did little to sway us from that theory either.
The Hawks had a comfortable win over Adelaide, breaking the ‘return home and lose voodoo’.
Hodge played a great game which probably means that he is officially in finals mode and not at the pub somewhere. He scored the first goal of the game and lifted the team in first quarter. The Hawks scored 8 in that quarter and never looked back. With the absence of Gunston, Breust played excellently (#playyourrole actually works) up forward, bagging a career high of 6. Isaac Smith had a few good runs early and didn’t seemed to be troubled by his knee and Frawley was not hopeless. While we only got to see a minimal portion of Billy Hartung (not a reflection of his height), Hawks supporters were definitely happy with the result.
Statistic number 1. Cyril Rioli has never scored more than two goals in a AFL finals game.
Fremantle is currently the best defensive team in the comp and Hawthorn are currently the best attacking team. For the Hawks to go back to back to back they have to beat Fremantle first.
It’s no secret that Hawthorn has tried to share the goal kicking. Even with the big targets of Buddy and Roughead, the likes of Breust, Poppy, Rioli, Gunston etc have always chipped in. To beat Fremantle’s defence they will have to stretch them out as they did in their round 15, 72 point victory. On that day they had 10 different goal scorers.
Without their leading goal scorer (Gunston) and without relying on Breust and Hodge, Rioli will have to do what he is comfortable with in the regular season but which has been lacking in the finals – kick more than 2 goals. If Rioli can get rid of his finals ‘yips’ the Hawks will be a good chance to go to a fourth grand final in a row.
West Coast v North’s (Saturday 7:45 Subiaco Oval)
The West Coast Eagles are rightly favourite to win the flag. They are an all-round good side with an unbeatable mid field. With last years Brownlow medallist Matt Priddis returning to this week’s game he will help get the ball up forward to the likes of Hill and Josh Kennedy. In the defence, Sharrod Wellingham is playing an unbeatable season, giving the impression that he actually enjoys playing the game. Also, the ace in the hole – West Coast has Nic Nac.
In North’s games against Sydney they played like a team the had nothing to lose which is a narrative they will have to hold on to. They have proved that a well earned rest before the finals actually helps them in the following weeks and not just the first.
North won the clearances by 8, taking advantage of the Sydney’s injury gaps in the middle. They also won the marks inside 50’s by 8, which Sydney struggled to achieve without their sucker target Franklin up the other end.
Statistic number 2. The 8th placed team has never made it to a preliminary final.
For North to win the grand final they have to break several records along the way….
So far they have broken one. They are the first 8th placed team to make a preliminary final. They will need to be the first 8th placed team to win a preliminary final and the first 8th placed team to win a grand final if they want to make Boomer Harvey happy (he already has one premiership and 400 games – give someone else a go Boomer!)
With some unscientific maths –
you can see the 1% chance of this happening suggests that they will be returning to Melbourne this weekend for their Mad Monday celebrations.
* Dangerfield has now confirmed that he has sign with Geelong. 5mil for 6 years…. not bad. Guess he can give up that farm job.