AFL Preview: Staying Alive In The Preliminary Finals

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The second week of the finals was when rigor mortis officially set in, and following on from the most exciting home-and-away season ever, the 2017 finals series has become the most boring, the most one-sided, the most blow-outs, the most of the most-est.

It is the most one-sided finals series in the final eight era (introduced in 1994) and of the six matches, five have been blow-outs, and results known by the sound of the half-time siren. But, we are eternal optimists: we’re staying alive, just like the final four teams in the AFL finals. Listen in to some of our solutions. In our weekly podcast, we discuss:

  • The second week of finals the 2017 finals series.
  • Is a week a long time in football? People seem to have short memories – last week, Sydney were favourites, Geelong were gone. This week, it’s Sydney out of the finals, and Geelong up as one of the favourites. Why is this?
  • Finals boredom and how to avoid this. Should the AFL set up a parallel finals series for teams placed 9–16? We’d have two grand finals on the same day! We’d like to see that.
  • We preview the third week of the 2017 finals series.
  • And we go out with the song of the week: ‘You’ve Got To…’ by The Young Punx.

Listen in here! Or subscribe through iTunes. Or listen on SoundCloud. Or YouTube. There are many ways to listen to this great AFL podcast.

AFL Preview Game 1: Adelaide v Geelong

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Adelaide is into its eighth preliminary final, following appearances in 1993, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2012, for two wins and five losses so far. For most of 2017, we’ve been saying Adelaide is the team to beat for the premiership and, even though they’ve had a few recent injuries, they are still the favourites. Which means that they’re also the favourites to win this Preliminary Final.

Adelaide has been a consistent team this year, and when they have all pistons functioning, they’re a sight to behold. When they’re not on song, they can be as bad as anyone else though. Two pieces of evidence: consecutive matches against North Melbourne and Melbourne, where they were defeated by 59 and 41 points respectively. A third piece of evidence is available from their match with Sydney several weeks ago – poor at the start of the game, and then unable to buy a goal, going down by three points in a thriller.

The good thing for Adelaide is none of these teams are in the finals any more, so they no longer present a threat. A more recent pointer is the previous game between Adelaide and Geelong, played at Adelaide Oval. A game easily won by Adelaide, the final margin of 22 points was deceptive. For this Friday night match, we can talk about Patrick Dangerfield’s re-appearance at Adelaide Oval, or Rory Sloan’s re-appearance after a bout of appendicitis, or Mitch McGovern’s hamstring injury, but the real game will be played in the coaching boxes.

Chris Scott single-handedly won Geelong’s match against Sydney, even though he wasn’t on the field. Sydney was obviously a better team, but Scott’s brilliant match-day tactics turned around what would have been a 10-goal loss (according to the sages in the media and the bookmakers), into a 59-point victory. Adelaide coach, Don Pyke, would have been marvelling at Scott’s brilliance and most of his concerns will not be so much what the Geelong players get up to on the field, but what Scott is going to get up to with his whiteboard, laptop, iPad and the way he interprets Champion Data.

Before the Sydney game, much was made of Geelong’s poor finals record since their 2011 premiership – two wins from nine games which, following last Friday night’s game, is now three from 10. Still not great, but it’s getting there.

Adelaide had a week off last week, and actually went for a holiday to the Gold Coast. We think this might have been a mistake, and might upset their mindset and routine. They’ve only had one game in the past month and might not be match ready.

Geelong’s season has been a bit inconsistent, but as the cliche goes, “you’re only as good as you’re last match”. And their last game was very good. We think Adelaide’s best is better than Geelong’s and we think the home-ground advantage should push Adelaide over the line. Adelaide by a reasonable margin.

  • Eddy Jay – Adelaide, 31 points
  • Lintang Enam – Adelaide, 8 points
  • Computer says – Adelaide, 11 points

AFL Preview Game 2: Richmond v Greater Western Sydney

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It’s not often that a stadium has a crowd of 95,000 and it’s not often that around 93,000 of that crowd supports one team. It’s almost like a soccer game in Saudi Arabia or North Korea.

But that’s the likely outcome for Richmond, with their long-suffering supporters buying their ticket to witness a rare Preliminary Final. Since 1982, Richmond has only made the Preliminary Final twice – a 89-point mauling by Geelong in 1995, and a 68-point thrashing by Brisbane in 2001.

Greater Western Sydney are into their second Preliminary Final ever, following on from their first appearance last year (and a six-point loss to the eventual premiers, Western Bulldogs).

So, both teams are inexperienced in this part of the finals series and both could be regarded as an unknown quantity. The big “known-knowns” for the teams are Richmond’s high-pressure game, which works well in finals, and it certainly worked very well in their 51-point defeat of Geelong in the Qualifying Final two weeks ago.

For Greater Western Sydney, it’s their run and precision, which was on full display in their heavy defeat of West Coast last week. They went “small” for the first time in a long time, and got the result they needed.

It’s speed against pressure, which means that we should be in for an incredible game – but given this poor finals series so far, this might not happen. Richmond are on a roll, and it’s the same type of intangible roll shown by the Western Bulldogs last year. Sometimes the planets align, and they should align for Richmond in a way they haven’t aligned since their last premiership in 1980. All the talk about ‘real deal’ and ‘the lid is off’ are a bit passe now. Surely a team that reaches the Preliminary Final is the real deal.

Statistically, it’s not looking good for Greater Western Sydney. Only one victory ever at the MCG out of 10 games, and their first final ever at this location. Sure, it’s just about the big sticks at either end of the ground, but this is a history that can’t be ignored.

Greater Western Sydney has a good list of players: Jonathan Patton, Dylan Shiel, Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio, Callan Ward, Tom Scully, Rory Lobb. But Richmond has a strong list too: Jack Riewoldt, Dustin Martin, Murray Rance, and a supporting team of solid performers.

All things being equal (and we live in a world that is not equal, or even fair), Greater Western Sydney should win this game. But Richmond has many things in its favour – they are well rested, they will have a massive home-ground advantage, and the planets are preparing to be aligned for Saturday night.

It’s Tigertime, and it’s time for Richmond to march into the Grand Final.

  • Eddy Jay – Richmond, 29 points
  • Lintang Enam – Richmond, 62 points
  • Computer says – Richmond, 13 point
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