AFL Review: What A Finish!

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The AFL 2017 home-and-away season has come to an end, and what an end it was. The make-up of the final eight came down to the final seconds at Subiaco Oval, after West Coast upset the ladder leaders, Adelaide. They had to win the game by 21 points to make finals, and they won the game by 29 points. That’s what you call ‘getting-into-the-finals-by-the-skin-of-your-teeth’.

Melbourne will have sad faces over the next six months, but their understanding of the game won’t be ‘it’s not over until the final siren’, but a new one: ‘it’s not over until the final game of the home-and-away season’. How many missed goals and silly free kicks will be played over and over in their minds during the off season? About a few thousand.

At the other end, the battle of the wooden spoon. How great was this round? Very great.

But, now for the bad news: no football next weekend, unless you consider some old retired has-been footballers something to watch. A least the Women’s State Of Origin match will be on, that will be something.

If you want to compare what we said in our preview with the reality of what happened in Round 23, listen in to our great podcast. It’s one of the best AFL podcasts going, we would like to modestly point out.

Round 23 Round-up – Feature Games

Hawthorn 15.9 (99) defeated Western Bulldogs 13.12 (90)

A big send off to a couple of big legends of the game: Hawthorn’s Luke Hodge, and Western’s Robert Murphy. A tough match but Hawthorn’s finals plight had already been decided and Western’s chances depended on winning this match, and the three teams above them on the ladder all losing. A mathematical chance wrapped up in algebra and fractions. Not a great formula.

Hawthorn were always just a little ahead all night long and big Jarryd Roughead kicked five goals, while their other big man, Shane McEvoy, was like a great brick wall, stopping everything that came his way. Although they had more to play for, the Bulldogs looked tired, and became the first premier to miss the finals since Hawthorn in 2009.

Collingwood 14.15 (99) defeated Melbourne 12.11 (83)

It looks like Melbourne counted their finals chickens before they hatched. While Melbourne was busy with chicken counting, Collingwood came to play, chalking up six goals in the first quarter, and leading by 41 points half way through the third quarter.

Melbourne had already worked out tactics and strategies for their first finals game since 2006 but forgot that they actually had to defeat Collingwood first. They put down their feet and started playing football but, it was too little, too late. They got to within 10 points in the final quarter, but that’s where it all ended. They were still in the eight up until 7.18pm on Sunday evening, but West Coast knocked them out with a win over in Perth. Jeremy Howe took his regulation pack mark and Collingwood managed to win a game without their talisman, Daniel Wells. For Melbourne, it will be a burning reminder that every kick, every point, every goal, every tackle, counts throughout the season. If Melbourne had managed just an extra one point every three games during the 2017 season, they’d be playing finals. Their 12-season finals drought continues.

North Melbourne 19.16 (130) defeated Brisbane 11.13 (79)

The battle of the wooden spoon, and it was disappointing that only 15,146 were in attendance. We feel that there should be a formal presentation of a wooden spoon after such a game, in keeping with the tradition from Cambridge University which started in the 19th century. That would definitely bring the crowds in – the coach and captain presented with a wooden spoon on a stage, with coloured confetti released as well. Perhaps Meatloaf could be enticed to perform the half-time entertainment.

Ben Brown, North’s up-and-coming full forward kicked seven goals, and it looked like North Melbourne would collect their first wooden spoon since 1972, trailing Brisbane by 16 points at quarter time. But Brisbane must have been reminded that their great era between 1999–2005 was propped up by their last wooden spoon in 1998, and they held back a bit to allow themselves to be overtaken by North. So, in this game, the winner was the loser, and the loser was the winner, or perhaps a win–win situation. Watch out for a Brisbane three-peat in the coming years.

Sydney 21.12 (138) defeated Carlton 8.9 (57)

The first half of this game, especially the second quarter, was the worst football played all year. Lacklustre, dropped marks, poor kicking. The crowd of 38,965 was very quiet because of this uneventful game, possibly looking at their iPhones for something more interesting, or joining the bar queues. Because there wasn’t anything happening on the football field.

Sydney started off well, but then seemed to lose interest, with Carlton coming back into the game and only training by 12 points at half-time. An upset was brewing, in a game that was reminiscent of their earlier clash this season at the MCG, a 19-point victory to Carlton.

But this was the calm before the storm, with Sydney scoring 15 goals after half-time, Lance Franklin scoring seven of those. When Buddy is on song, he is a sight to behold. Ten goals all up for Franklin, and the Coleman Medal for the fourth time. Sydney are looking like a brute of a team at the moment, and the planets seem to be lining up for them. Carlton? Better luck next year. They might actually make the finals in 2019.

Geelong 15.13 (103) defeated Greater Western Sydney 8.11 (59)

Greater Western Sydney were meant to come to Kardinia Park to show Geelong how to play but, in the battle of the ‘G’ teams, they were spanked and given a good football lesson.

Was it because the narrow shape of the ground doesn’t suit the Giants’ running game? Or are they just an overrated team? Something is not working for the Giants at the moment, but Geelong seem to be coming along nicely.

The game was played at a high-pressure, finals-like frenetic pace in the first half, but Greater Western Sydney wilted after half-time. Sam Menegola led the way, with his best game for Geelong so far, and he’ll be a handy player during the finals. The Giants’ Steve Johnson led the way with disappointment, possibly the emotion of playing at his former home ground was a bit too much for him.

The finals are a different game and the Giants will have a fortnight to regroup, but it all seems to be falling apart for them at the wrong end of the season.

Port Adelaide 20.15 (135) defeated Gold Coast 3.2 (20)

We mentioned the first half of the Sydney–Carlton game was the most lacklustre football of the year, but that was before the Port Adelaide–Gold Coast game commenced. Look at that score: 3.2!

Gold Coast didn’t score for two quarters. Zero. These are the types of results that can kill a club, and it was uncompetitive garbage. A sacked coach, a superstar player that doesn’t want to play for them, and an exodus of players that have left over the past few seasons, Gold Coast is a team on the brink.

Port Adelaide did as they pleased after quarter-time, with Sam Gray booting six goals, and Paddy Ryder putting on a master class in the ruck. The Power will be displeased about having this type of game in the lead up to finals – a soft easy game, where the Suns literally looked like witches hats (same colour!).

Gold Coast will need a super coach to turn the club around next year, a combination of Mick Malthouse, Kevin Sheedy, Norm Smith and Jock McHale. It’s hard to understand what has happened to this club, but it has been a player burner since it was formed in 2011 and not much to show for. So much for becoming the behemoth of the AFL. Maybe just a moth.

Essendon 16.11 (107) defeated Fremantle 14.8 (92)

This was meant to be an easy win for Essendon, but they were pushed all the way, only leading by eight points mid-way through the final quarter. At least the narrow win has sewn up a finals’ berth for Essendon. Our avid listeners will remember that we at The Protected Zone predicted both of these teams would be ‘smokies’ this season, but we were only half right.

A cracking pace and four goals to Essendon small man, Zach Merrett, and another four to James Stewart pushed the Dons over the line. Nat Fyfe was the best for Fremantle, but they’ll have to trade aggressively during the draft period to push for finals action next year. They’ve only won 12 of their past 45 games, and that’s not good enough. Essendon were the wooden spooners last year, but have done well to make the finals. We’ll see how good when they match up against Sydney in finals week one.

Richmond 19.8 (122) defeated St Kilda 12.9 (81)

Richmond sewed up their first top four finish since 2001, a long time between drinks. Dustin Martin surely must have racked up a few more Brownlow Medal votes and a few more thousand dollars on his contract value. He is Richmond’s real superstar and has a neat haircut too. Jacob Townsend scored five goals for Richmond, as did St Kilda’s Jade Gresham.

The game was over at half time and Richmond led by 50 points just afterwards. Although St Kilda fought back to get within 25 points, Richmond was never challenged and gave St Kilda’s Nick Riewoldt a loss to finish off his 336-game career. Richmond are looking good for the finals; St Kilda wondering whether they have the right coach to take them to their second premiership ever.

West Coast 15.10 (100) defeated Adelaide 10.11 (71)

This game meant nothing to Adelaide, safe in the knowledge that they’d already sewn up top spot and a home game in the first week of finals. Why risk a couple of broken legs when there’s nothing on the line?

But it meant everything to West Coast, who were still a mathematical chance to make the finals. The mathematics of their cause was simple, and didn’t involve any algebra or complex Pythagorean theorem: win the game by 21 points – make the finals. We’re certain we saw messages scrawled onto the hands of every West Coast player: W 21 = FINALS.

In the end, they won by 29 points, snatching eighth spot on the ladder, at the expense of Melbourne. It was a great game, but watching the live ladder was as fascinating as watching ‘The Worm’ during leaders’ election debates. Adelaide seemed a little bit out of sorts, perhaps putting their cue in the rack knowing that it was a dead rubber for them, and not wanting to show any of their tricks before finals.

Josh J. Kennedy only scored one goal, even though he had a chance of winning the Coleman Medal, but as we keep hearing, there is no “I” in team and we’re sure that he’d prefer to be playing finals. However, deep down, there must be some disappointment in not having another trophy on this mantelpiece to look at, post-retirement. The last game ever at Subiaco Oval, to be replaced with expensive apartments for the upper classes.

Week 1 AFL Finals Series

This super 2017 season now moves into the finals and each of these matches are mouthwatering. The only disappointment is that we have to wait another week before these matches commence, but all good things come to those that wait.

Thursday, September 7 – First qualifying final

Adelaide Crows v Greater Western Sydney at Adelaide Oval, 7.20pm ACST

Friday, September 8 – Second qualifying final

Geelong Cats v Richmond at the MCG, 7.50pm AEST

Saturday, September 9 – Second elimination final

Sydney Swans v Essendon at SCG, 4.20pm AEST

Saturday, September 9 – First elimination final

Port Adelaide v West Coast Eagles at Adelaide Oval, 7.20pm ACST


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