After a diabolical last round in the AFL it’s time to turn to the first week of the finals and now for something completely different…
West Coast versus Hawthorn at Domain Stadium
The last time they met, Nic Nat didn’t play. He is going to be impossible to match up on.
Chris Masten is out with an injury. I hope it really is a leg injury and nothing to do with his teeth. Eagles fans are hoping Sam Mitchell keeps his knee down this week. Fans are still waiting for Mitchell to stick a tackle.
Isaac Smith will need to be replaced. It’s a straight swap with Cyril Rioli coming back in. Smith has had his best season and his run and drive will be sorely missed. He may miss the entire finals series.
Jack Gunston could be a shock omission. His knee may not recover quickly enough and Luke Breust will take his place as will captain Luke Hodge. Billy Hartung has to come into calculations.
Will Schofield returns to strengthen the Eagles’ defence. Their team is more settled than Hawthorn’s, whose three premierships under Alastair Clarkson have been won without ever having to leave Melbourne.
The Eagles’ defence is their weak spot. McGovern’s shoulder is worse than what West Coast will freely admit.
The match will be won or lost in the midfield. Finals experience will count for nothing and the Hawks have to travel to Perth twice if they want to win a third straight flag. A tough ask.
West Coast by 17 points
X-factors – Nic Naitanui (WC), Grant Birchall (Haw)
Ones to watch – Elliott Yeo (WC), Shaun Burgoyne (Haw)
Fremantle versus Sydney at Domain Stadium
Can Buddy make the plane trip across the country and be effective with a back injury that isn’t getting any better. His record at Subiaco is poor. Just 30 goals in 14 games. Or do the Swans put him in cotton wool and play him next week with a game that looks to be hosted at ANZ Stadium?
Sydney have lost the two midfielders they couldn’t afford to lose. Luke Parker and Kieran Jack look to be out for the year. Gary Rohan is lacking game time and is struggling to recover from injury. Nick Smith is a chance to return after hamstring tightness and Jarrad McVeigh will bring much needed experience to the line up.
Nat Fyfe may play but he’s only about 75% fit. Do you take the risk and hope he can play half a game of dominant football and set up a win? Or do you look long term to a prelim. By then he would have missed a lot of game time. It’s a tough decision to make.
Fremantle had the right to rest players given they have travelled more than any other team this year. It still didn’t sit well with fans, but unlike North, they earned it. At least 10 players will come back in fresh and ready to go.
The Swans are going into the finals with major concerns over key players. It’s hard to see them winning here.
Freo by 26 points
X-factors – Nick Suban (Freo), Sam Reid (Syd)
Ones to watch – Lachie Neale (Fre), Tom Mitchell (Syd)
Western Bulldogs versus Adelaide at the MCG
This is going to be fast and furious. Two teams with young defences and all out attack.
Patrick Dangerfield craves the big stage, and this week he is the headline act. He will put on a masterclass if the Dogs don’t shut him down early.
The Bulldogs have scored 11 of their 14 wins at Etihad this year and will need to make five or six changes. Captain Bob Murphy is sore but will play.
The biggest problem for the Dogs is they may have no ruckman. Roughead is sore after the Brisbane loss. Tom Campbell and Tom Boyd both are injured. Will Minson is out of favour and form and could have played his last game for the Bulldogs. Matthew Boyd and Dale Morris come back after a rest. Crameri is a 50/50 proposition and Johannisen is out with another hamstring strain.
Adelaide looks to be settled with just Brodie Smith under an injury cloud with an ankle injury. Reports are he is right to go. Adelaide could have an unchanged line up for the second straight week.
The midfield is a tantalising match up. The Dogs’ exciting on-ballers could struggle against Adelaide’s experienced midfielders. Jacobs will give his team the first look at the ball.
The Crows had the chance to host a home final but weren’t switched on against Geelong. They played one good quarter of football and only lost by six and a half goals. Outside influences have taken their toll on them.
This match will be won in the coach’s box. Both rookie coaches will be nervous and won’t want to make mistakes on match ups and will need to be on their guard.
Adelaide’s forward line will be far too strong, if the Dogs start leaking in defence like last week.
Adelaide by 31 points
X-factors – Marcus Bontempelli (WB), Charlie Cameron (Adel)
Ones to watch – Luke Dahlhaus (WB), Josh Jenkins (Adel)
Richmond versus North Melbourne at the MCG
Previously on the ‘Jeep Mazda Chronicles’…
Brad Scott demanded an apology for resting everyone associated with the club. He doesn’t know who said what but wanted one anyway.
Meanwhile, Damian Hardwick applied the last of the spit and polish on the Tiger Bandwagon and consults the new mechanic about the reasons why it’s stalled in the past two finals series.
Football fans will be hoping the Tigers tear the throat out of the ‘Tankaroos’. It didn’t sit well with the general public.
Brad Scott needs a win to justify his decision to ‘rest’ players last week. He will be under intense scrutiny if the Roos lose. Not just by the media, but by the club board and the fans.
He says his decision last week was justified. How wrong he is! He has to wait until after this match to see what the fallout will be. He has to win to prove he made the correct call.
The AFL made a monumental stuff up granting North’s request. Applying the question “If a team needed to win to make the finals would they play at full strength?” The answer to that is 100% yes. The AFL should have told them no.
North will get back seven or eight players from a ‘rest’. They should keep Majak Daw and hope Kayne Turner recovers from concussion. Richmond are settled and won’t be allowing North to try and shut them down early as they have done in most of their recent matches. Another battle of the midfield.
It will be a case of Deja Roo.
Richmond by 24 points
X-factors – Dustin Martin (Rich), Brent Harvey (NM)
Ones to watch – Shane Edwards (Rich), Ryan Bastinac (NM)
What am I looking forward to?
Brad Scott’s media conference after the game. He’ll either go on the attack if they win or storm out if he loses when the questions get too hard.
The Bruce/Cyril love affair on Friday Night Football.
Mad Monday news reports