What a game to show in USA prime time!
And then there were six.
Richmond now has an even bigger monkey on it’s back, the Bulldogs fought it out to give fans hope for next year, and Hawthorn should consider torching their dreadful clash guernsey.
The first week of finals have whet the appetite and Week 2 looks tantalising.
Hawthorn versus Adelaide at the MCG
The Hawks are in big trouble. Injuries at the wrong time of the year and other teams have worked them out.
Adelaide on the other hand are playing exciting footy and have nothing to lose. Alastair Clarkson should be very worried indeed. Scott Camporeale and John Worsfold have this team believing.
Against West Coast, Hawthorn looked out of sorts. Only Sam Mitchell had any real impact in the first half. Cyril Rioli had a good first quarter but, yet again, went missing for most of the match.
Luke Hodge, booed by the crowd every time he went near the ball, had a good second half, but was largely ineffective. He had multiple possessions from the back line but the ball was constantly being turned over through the midfield.
They were yet again denied possession of the ball and any chance of getting their running game going by a committed Eagles team. They also had no solution to Nic Nat. Can we mark him down for the Norm Smith medal right now?
Also, the Isaac Smith experiment failed. You can’t play a man injured, especially in finals.
Adding to their troubles is leading goal kicker Jack Gunston going down with an ankle injury – he’ll be in doubt for the rest of the year, should they advance against the Crows.
Adelaide’s ‘match of the year’ win against the Bulldogs has people asking if they can go all the way. The elation after the match was something special. The players sang the team song with so much gusto and emotion it almost felt therapeutic.
Smiles all round and the genuine happiness on the face of Patrick Dangerfield would have fans growing hopeful he’ll stay. This is what he wants and he knows the Crows are on the up. Please, someone get the man a pen!
Taylor Walker stood up as captain. His decision in the last quarter to pull his kick to Charlie Cameron in the forward line to win the match was sensational. Riley Knight played the best game of his young career. Hearing his mother describe his pain at losing his mentor was such a rare insight.
Eddie ‘everywhere’ Betts loves the big stage and he delivered. He is far and away a better all round player than Rioli. 63 goals from a small forward and more to come.
Ricky Henderson on the wing had a break-out match. The usual suspects in Rory Sloane, Dangerfield and Scott Thompson provided great run and carry. Recalling Kyle Cheney to the side was also a great decision.
Simply, Hawthorn are vulnerable and their forward line has to be restructured.
The experts will have you believe the club can cover the losses but in reality they will struggle. Ryan Schoenmakers is the obvious replacement for Gunston – hardly a like for like. James Frawley will have to be sent back to defence to play against Josh Jenkins. Roughead will have to move closer to goal. Isaac Smith is surely a 50/50 decision.
Adelaide may replace Rory Atkins, who found the pace of the game too much, with the experienced Matt Wright. They could also spring a surprise and name James Podsiadly in the side to add even more experience and flexibility. The team though has an air of stability about it.
The Crows can go one step further in this finals campaign.
Adelaide by 26 points.
Sydney versus North Melbourne at ANZ Stadium
Sydney have limped into the finals. They were brave against a Dockers side that ran out of puff, but injuries are cursing them.
Sam Reid is out for the rest of the year with a hamstring strain. Gary Rohan is not match fit and seems to be carrying some kind of leg injury. Isaac Heeney was out of his depth against the Dockers, and he too appears to have some kind of knee or shin problem.
Josh Kennedy was superb with his record breaking 39 possessions. It’s the 11th time in a row he has had 30-plus disposals in a match. No one has ever done that in the history of AFL football.
Dean Towers was the only effective forward once he was subbed on, while Kurt Tippett made the most of his limited opportunities.
Simply, North are primed to avenge last year’s humiliating 71-point finals loss to Sydney. They have a full list to pick from and are threatening to force their way into a preliminary final. Resting half the team in Round 23 has worked.
The pick up of Waite, who had a superb match, and Higgins last year is also paying off big time. Boomer Harvey was instrumental, as was Ben Jacobs, who tagged Trent Cotchin out of the game, allowing him just nine possessions.
Lindsay Thomas should think himself lucky his boot didn’t connect with Dylan Grimes’ face. A suspension would start at six weeks and probably end at 10.
Buddy Franklin won’t be risked in this match or any match this year. Expect to hear more of this when Sydney approach the AFL for help with salary cap issues.
The Swans could make two changes for this match. Nick Smith is a chance to return after his hamstring injury. James Rose is another who may come into calculations. North should remain unchanged.
Sydney’s dour, ugly brand of football where they strive to wear the opposition down both physically and mentally almost worked against the Dockers. Whether they can do it again after having to travel across the country and back is another thing.
North by 13 points.
So we could have the last four teams all being non-Victorian, but only four times in the last 30 matches has a team from outside the top four made it to a preliminary final.
What am I looking forward to? The debate over whether Freo will bring back Ryan Crowley for their prelim final.