Finals. That’s all we need to say to grab your attention, and we have finally arrived at the first week of finals. Even though 2017 was one of best seasons ever, quite frankly, I couldn’t wait for this day to arrive, because it does not get any bigger than AFL finals football, and this series promises to be one of the best.
If you can’t be bothered reading further, feast your ears on The AFL Protected Zone Podcast. One of the best! Listen to it before the match or at half time. Or if you’re bored, or even if you are not. Read the podcast notes.
In the podcast, we discuss:
- Debunk the myth of ‘no football’ during the pre-finals bye. The entire world reeked of football!
- And while we’re at it, the bye should go. Bye-bye bye. Alastair Clarkson and Mick Malthouse agree. And so do the Bay City Rollers.
- Mixed football is the way of the future. Collingwood needs a new forward and they should sign up AFLW star Moanna Hope for the men’s team.
- There are many retirements this year, and we salute the big men that are saying goodbye to AFL.
- We preview the big first week of the 2017 finals series.
- And we go out with ‘No More Heroes’ by The Stranglers.
AFL Preview Game 1: Adelaide v Greater Western Sydney
This promises to either be the shellacking of the year, or the upset of the year. That’s it. We don’t think there’ll be any middle ground in this game. Although Greater Western Sydney were most people’s choice for the premier when the season commenced in March, Adelaide are currently the favourite and have been for most of the year.
The only times Adelaide hasn’t been favourite has been the times they’ve dished up absolute rubbish, as they did in Round 7 when they allowed North Melbourne to score 10.4 to 0.0 by the end of the first quarter. And don’t forget the time they were 50 points down against Collingwood towards the end of the first half. They managed to draw the game, but it’s a reminder Adelaide can perform as badly as anyone else.
Adelaide will be missing their big link – Rory Sloane – and some of their players haven’t been performing so well recently. They lost their final two games of the season – one close game to Sydney (that they should have won) and the other against West Coast when they had also sewn up top spot on the ladder before the game even commenced.
Greater Western Sydney are, potentially, a brute of a team. They’ve got some big guns up front in Jonathan Patton and Jeremy Cameron, supported by Rory Lobb and Shane Mumford. Fast running pace through Dylan Shiel, Josh Kelly and Tom Scully and a backline held up by Phil Davis and Heath Shaw. If these players click, the Giants will be difficult to defeat.
But it’s all in the clicking, and don’t think for a minute that Adelaide will just allow this to happen. They’ve got an equally strong forward line, led by Taylor Walker and Eddie Betts, and a big backline led by Daniel Talia.
The crowd. This could be a factor. There will be a crowd of around 51,000 at Adelaide Oval and the support for Greater Western Sydney will be counted on two hands – and that includes the players. If the Giants can get an early run and silence the crowd, they’re a chance. They’ve only defeated Adelaide once in their history, and never at Adelaide Oval.
Speaking of history, in 2003, Port Adelaide played Sydney in exactly the same fixture – the First Qualifying Final, first against fourth, played in Adelaide. Sydney weren’t expected to win, but ended up spanking Port in the first half, holding on to win by 12 points. These are different teams and that was 14 years ago, but there’s a small slither of history and synchronicity that may point to an unexpected victory.
These teams are evenly matched, but there’s a hunch that the Giants can pull off an upset. But it’s just a hunch. No other reason because most aspects of this game are stacked against Greater Western Sydney. That’s why I think they will win. It has been that type of season.
- Eddy Jay – Greater Western Sydney, 11 points
- Lintang Enam – Adelaide, 37 points
- Computer says – Adelaide, 21 points
AFL Preview Game 2: Geelong v Richmond
This is such a big match for both teams, and it’s difficult to work out the winner here. It’s a big match for Melbourne and the MCG – it’s the only final to be played in Melbourne in the first week of finals and the fans will be lining up to pack the stadium. There might a crowd of 99,000 in the ’G on Friday night and that means that it’s officially a ‘big match’.
Much has been made about Geelong’s superior finals record but a closer inspection reveals that since they won the 2011 premiership, things have not been so great. They’ve won three of 10 finals since then, while Richmond has lost three from three finals over 2013–2015.
Richmond have a great all-round team – a strong spine, seasoned forwards and backs, the great fast-running Dustin Martin and Trent Cotchin, who is the reigning Brownlow medalist, even though he officially won the title in 2012.
Geelong are led by Patrick Dangerfield and have big forward line set up, led by Tom Hawkins. The two teams are evenly matched – in skills, but also when they’re off, they’re off in equal amounts. Geelong looked like rubbish in a few games, as did Richmond. We probably remember more of Richmond’s rubbish because of all the talk of the ‘lid is off’ at Tigerland, only for it to be firmly shut after another disappointing let down. Fortunately for them, there haven’t been too many this year.
It will be another cracker of a game and will be probably the opposite of their last two finals results – Richmond defeated Geelong in the 1967 Grand Final, and in the 1980 Second Semi-final. Geelong to win, but only just.
- Eddy Jay – Geelong, 14 points
- Lintang Enam – Geelong, 21 points
- Computer says – Richmond, 1 point
AFL Preview Game 3: Sydney v Essendon
Sydney has won 14 from their last 16 games. Essendon have won a few during that time, but not as many. Their form has not been great recently, but they have a habit of producing upset results on both sides of the ledger – winning games they should lose, and losing games they should win. A great example was the final game of season, where they were almost defeated by Fremantle.
In their last match up during the season, Sydney won the game by one point, through a Gary Rohan goal after the siren. They should have iced the game earlier on, but kept on missing goal after goal and then allowing Essendon to play a fast running game, who kicked seven consecutive goals and lead by 19 points with less than four minutes to go in the game. Sydney managed a once-in-a-decade rescue mission and saved the game.
But this is a finals match. Essendon were the wooden spooners last year, albeit in the odd circumstances of fielding a reserves team because the ‘Essendon 34’ drugs ban. Sydney have been a form team by a mile over the past four months, Essendon have been so-so.
The Round 14 game where Essendon scored those consecutive goals is where this match will be won or lost. Essendon know what needs to be done to win the game, and they’ll try their best to replicate that 30 minutes of game time that almost won them the match.
But Sydney will have also learned their lessons, and will now know what not to do. It’s hard to pick against Sydney, but there might be upset on the cards. Kurt Tippett has been omitted, and Sam Naismith is back in. For Essendon, Cale Hooker is out, but Michael Hurley comes in. Essendon know they have to run run run to win the game. And they might just be able to do it.
- Eddy Jay – Essendon, 1 point
- Lintang Enam – Essendon, 2 point
- Computer says – Sydney, 42 points
AFL Preview Game 4: Port Adelaide v West Coast
The last time Port Adelaide and West Coast matched up in a finals game was all the way back in 2007. The result? A three-point victory to Port Adelaide at the end of the drugs scandals for West Coast, which precipitated a three-year decline that culminated in their first wooden spoon in 2010.
West Coast come into this match after the euphoria of sneaking into the eighth spot in the last five minutes of the home-and-away season, and Port Adelaide come into the match after thrashing Gold Coast by 115 points. It’s hard to say who had the better preparation: a hard-fought victory over the top team, Adelaide, or a smashing of Gold Coast that resembled a training run?
Port Adelaide have the title of ‘flat-track bullies’ this year. They only won two games against teams ranked 1–9, but won every game against teams ranked 10–18. They can thrash the teams below them, but really struggle against the top teams. In those two victories against top teams, one was against a struggling Sydney team in Round 1, the other against West Coast in Perth.
West Coast have a different problem – they generally perform well, but can fade badly in final quarters, including that loss against Port Adelaide in Perth, a game where Port kicked eight goals in the final quarter to win by 32 points. Do West Coast have an aging team? Do they rely too much on their key forwards, Josh J. Kennedy and Jack Darling?
Port Adelaide have an experienced line up, topped up with their solid forward, Charlie Dixon, and All-Australian ruckman, Paddy Ryder. Robbie Gray has the class to run around West Coast, and this class should see them win the game, but not by much.
- Eddy Jay – Port Adelaide, 11 points
- Lintang Enam – Port Adelaide, 37 points
- Computer says – Port Adelaide, 12 points