Negativity be damned, there was plenty to like about all four finals

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    People are hard to please. A common gripe about the first round of AFL finals was that we had three poor games.

    The weekend was saved, according to some, by the gripping Port Adelaide versus West Coast finale.

    Perhaps people have been spoiled by a season where close games have been the norm, with many a twist and turn along the way, but good football comes in many forms.

    There was a beauty in watching Adelaide dismantle GWS piece by piece in the second quarter of their clash. Their organisation was supreme, their work rate phenomenal, their ball movement clean and precise under strong pressure. They showed up the Giants who were poor in all of these areas.

    In the absence of Rory Sloane and after the loss of Brodie Smith, it was easy to admire the Crouch brothers doing the heavy lifting, Tom Lynch’s tireless efforts to provide a link, and the masterful Crows defence, keeping their opponents to just six goals despite conceding 52 inside 50s.

    The lowest scoring games are often the most intense, and if Geelong versus Richmond was anything, it was that.

    Football matches, just like players, come in all shapes and sizes. A free-flowing shoot-out with 20 goals a side is entertaining, with offence the order of the day. But when defence is on top, pressure is high, and the game is an arm-wrestle, there is tension in every possession. Every goal is vital, and each one kicked carries the weight of many more.

    The electricity of the atmosphere thanks to the success-starved Tiger army only heightened how much was stake. Their ability to turn a 100,000-seat colosseum into an intimate and intimidating cauldron was something to behold.

    And once that game broke open, how could we not marvel at the sight of Dustin Martin disposing of Geelong opponents, again and again, scything his way across the field before delivering the ball to a teammate with poise and precision.

    The Dusty versus Danger narrative has been a talking point for most of the year, and the Tiger champion took over as top seed in most eyes after Friday night. Composure was the difference between the two. Martin hit dangerous targets regularly. Dangerfield rushed himself too often, even when in space, and too many of his possessions ended in Richmond hands.

    Dustin Martin Richmond Tigers AFL

    The Sydney defeat of Essendon was the most predictable result of the weekend, but served the Swans’ historical comeback story well.

    The match was over at half-time, but that’s a fair price to pay in order to see an exhilarating 10-goal quarter such as Sydney turned on, which in a final is as rare as rocking horse shit.

    Buddy Franklin only played a cameo, but what a virtuoso little performance it was, three goals in five minutes to open the term, as if to remind everyone that Dusty doesn’t have a mortgage on the title of best player in the game.

    One of the great things about finals is seeing which lesser lights stand up to be counted. Callum Sinclair was superb in the first quarter when the heat was on, trouncing All-Australian Michael Hurley, and setting the tone for his team.

    The Swans now have to go to Melbourne to beat Geelong, which recent history says they’ll do, and what a mouth-watering preliminary final in Adelaide awaits.

    As for Port Adelaide against West Coast, well, what can be said?

    The Eagles played as well as they can in that opening 40 minutes, every movement sharp, efficient in attack, miserly in defence. The Power comprehensively thumped them from that point on, yet couldn’t kick straight.

    Any final that finishes with a kick after the siren of the second extra-time period can only go down as a classic, regardless of what preceded it. And in that sort of game, legendary moments are created.

    Charlie Dixon played one of the great individual finals games. He was brutal in his physicality, vice-like with his marking, and as dangerous on the ground as he was in the air. But, by only kicking 3.6 from his scoring opportunities, he cost his team the game.

    Charlie Dixon Port Adelaide Power AFL 2017

    Charlie Dixon (Photo by Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images)

    Eric Mackenzie had been in the football wilderness for 12 months from halfway through last year to mid-year this season. His match-saving effort to get the ball out of bounds without conceding a behind or deliberate free in the final minute of regular play will go down as one of the great finals moments in history.

    And what about Luke Shuey. Has there been a more casual after-the-siren goal to win a game, let alone a final? He walked in and popped it through from 40 metres as if he was just having one last shot before leaving the training track.

    He nailed that goal, his second, gun-barrel straight, after a tireless game that consisted of 32 touches and 11 tackles.

    As for the controversial tackle and free kick. To the letter of the law, it may not have been there, but in the same situation almost all umpires would have paid it. The fact it was Shuey, a renowned ducker and shrugger, appeared to give the controlling ump a moment of pause.

    Port should have been 4-5 goals to the good before extra-time was required. And then to be unable to ice the game from the position they were in, 13 points up in that extra-time period? They’ve only got themselves to blame. And now they’ve got six months to do so.

    There was plenty to like about the weekend’s football, and you didn’t even need to look that hard.

    Cameron Rose
    Cameron Rose

    Cameron Rose is a born and bred Melbournian, raised on a regime of AFL, cricket and horse racing. He likes people who agree with him but loves those that don't, for there's nothing better than a roaring debate. He tweets from @camtherose.

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