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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    The Crowd Says (75)

    • Roar Guru

      September 12th 2017 @ 7:28am
      Cat said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:28am | ! Report

      Terrible quality of games. Tigers won – not surprised everything looks just perfect to you.

      • Columnist

        September 12th 2017 @ 7:54am
        Cameron Rose said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:54am | ! Report

        Cats lost – not surprised everything looks just terrible to you.

        • Roar Guru

          September 12th 2017 @ 8:01am
          Cat said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:01am | ! Report

          What was the DE% in the first half of that game? Something like 53% to 50% IIRC was shown during the broadcast. The first half was dour and dreadful.

          Port vs. WCE may have been tight on the scoreboard was it was another scrappy low skilled game. Sure there were highlights, but those stood out even more because of how bad the general play was.

          I’ll admit I had to miss all of the Crows vs. GWS match while being loaded up into an an ambulance and being taken to hospital, but from all I’ve read it was no classic either.

          • September 12th 2017 @ 8:30am
            Fairsuckofthesav said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:30am | ! Report

            Again TV demanding night games means a dewy ground and slippery ball resulting in a compounding of handling errors.

            • Roar Guru

              September 12th 2017 @ 10:02am
              Cat said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:02am | ! Report

              Plenty of games throughout the year that were at night or ‘dewy’. Not a valid excuse. Of the 44 players that took part in the Cats v. Tigers game 20 (7 Cats, 13 Tigers) of them ended the night at 60% DE or lower. It was putrid skills on both sides.

              • September 12th 2017 @ 10:18am
                Mattyb said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:18am | ! Report

                You can’t compare games during the season to a final. Anyway,I was more excited by how ferocious the Tigers were and how they eventually caused a softer opposition to wilt. Anyway,if people want to ignore that and negatively focus on aesthetics,what can you do?

              • September 12th 2017 @ 2:21pm
                andyl12 said | September 12th 2017 @ 2:21pm | ! Report

                Cat, are we all in agreement that Geelong need to add some more established players to their list if they’re going to win a flag, given the amount that Selwood and Dangerfield are being asked to shoulder?

                We all know of one established player who you’re likely to add next year. The question is whether he will be enough given his age, or whether you need to do some much bigger hunting?

          • September 12th 2017 @ 8:34am
            Don Freo said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:34am | ! Report

            The quality from the Cats was missing. The Tiges were compelling. The Cats did their best. Just a long way off the rest.

          • September 12th 2017 @ 8:41am
            Slane said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:41am | ! Report

            According to Champion Data, Patrick Dangerfield is the 2nd worse kick in the league. Yet he remains one of the most ‘watchable’ players the league has ever seen.

          • September 12th 2017 @ 3:11pm
            Philby said | September 12th 2017 @ 3:11pm | ! Report

            But Cat, in the 2nd half, halfway through the 3rd quarter, scores were locked at 26 apiece. From then on, Richmond kicked away to end up with 91 points.

            As I said to you last week, Tigers are just too strong, too powerful and too fast for Geelong.

            • September 12th 2017 @ 3:33pm
              Philby said | September 12th 2017 @ 3:33pm | ! Report

              What I missed out there was that the explosion of scoring after such an arm wrestle was both gripping and stunning.

              Not surprised you would be hurting after that.

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2017 @ 6:53pm
            hairy fat man said | September 12th 2017 @ 6:53pm | ! Report

            I admit I only watched five minutes of the first quarter myself. You didn’t miss much, it seems.

        • Roar Guru

          September 12th 2017 @ 9:45am
          Paul D said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:45am | ! Report

          I thought the Tigers/Cats game was gripping. Some people decry the low scoring games, but at least a low scoring game is close. Made Martin grabbing the game and blowing it open seem even more incredible in the second half, given what had gone before

        • September 12th 2017 @ 9:52am
          Brian said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:52am | ! Report

          I have to agree with Cat. The 2014 and 2015 GF looked great to me but in reality they weren’t.

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2017 @ 9:56am
            Paul D said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:56am | ! Report

            2014 was good if you liked clean footy, that was peak Hawthorn and they were unstoppable.

            2015 was a terrible game. Turned into a victory lap halfway through the 2nd quarter

            • September 12th 2017 @ 11:28am
              andyl12 said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:28am | ! Report

              Finally some due credit from Paul D to Hawthorn.

              • Roar Guru

                September 12th 2017 @ 12:10pm
                Paul D said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:10pm | ! Report

                I have never said you guys weren’t a great football side I just got sick of you winning all the damn time

    • September 12th 2017 @ 7:38am
      truetigerfan said | September 12th 2017 @ 7:38am | ! Report

      Absolutely nailed it, Cameron! Lots of lemon sucking going on as far as I’m concerned. As for you,Cat . . . good luck next week, you’ll be needing that and more. Carna Tiges!

      • September 12th 2017 @ 3:55pm
        TC123 said | September 12th 2017 @ 3:55pm | ! Report

        A lemon sucking cat. Nice

    • September 12th 2017 @ 8:25am
      Mattyb said | September 12th 2017 @ 8:25am | ! Report

      Timely article Cam,and glad to see someone’s done one. Your exactly right,all games come in different shapes and sizes,which is great,imagine how boring the game would be if it didn’t. It seems like some people think complaining is a sport of its own these days,and some will argue until their blue in the face that their negativity must be heard.

      For me the highlight of the weekend was Cotchins goal,great finals football. He sprinted with intent from the centre,reached the marking contest inside 50 at top speed,roved the crumb clean as a whistle on the half volley,while simultaneously blind turning through the pack. With little time to steady he’s slammed the ball onto his left foot and the end result one of the best goals I’ve seen,absolutely brilliant.

      • September 12th 2017 @ 9:10am
        Kane said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:10am | ! Report

        That goal was definitely one of the better one’s u will ever see. If the AFL ever want a play to showcase our game to the world then this one would be ideal. The highlight for me was just how well the Swans played, they just didn’t do a thing wrong. Some of their marks going back with the flight of the ball were fantastic, i don’t reckon they have one player on their list that would pull out of a contest. They demand it

      • Columnist

        September 12th 2017 @ 9:15am
        Cameron Rose said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:15am | ! Report

        Yeah, that was some goal, and was the real icing on the cake for a dominant 30 minutes of Tigers football.

        It’s really extremely rare that I don’t find a game enjoyable in some way. Even if it’s two lowly teams, you’re watching to see what the future might bring, and because wins don’t come around often for the low sides, you know how much it means to them.

        In the first half of all four finals this week, a combined 42 goals were kicked, which is the same as last year. With so much at stake, a lot of greasy conditions, and pressure high, we’re never going to see attacking goal-fests. Instead, it’s so easy to enjoy the tension created in these situations.

      • Roar Guru

        September 12th 2017 @ 9:27am
        AdelaideDocker said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:27am | ! Report

        Couldn’t agree more, Matty. That goal was something very, very special.

        It’s up there with my favourite moments of the weekend, which also include MacKenzie’s desperation when he ran into the post to not concede a score, and the last half hour of the Port v West Coast game.

        Well, basically the entire Port/Eagles game. That will be in my memory for a long time. Brilliant bloody game, despite not being as perfectly skilled nor high scoring as some other classics.

    • Roar Guru

      September 12th 2017 @ 9:11am
      Rick Disnick said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      It’s more fundamental than that, Cam.

      I’ve never been a fan of ‘tinkering’ with the rules for aesthetic reasons, precisely because of what happened on the weekend.

      The AFL wants higher scoring games. Unfortunately, this will lead to more blowouts, which can happen very quickly.

      This weekend we saw it with some supreme power play football, especially from the Tigers. I really didn’t think they had such capability, more so strangle an opponent for 120 minutes — winning by attrition.

      The last few GFs have been over very early by 20 minutes of damaging football.

      The best game of the weekend just happened to be one of the lowest scoring for the year. Coincidence?

      There’s a reason soccer is the most popular sport around the world, so perhaps the AFL might want to reconsider its future policies when it comes to ‘freeing’ up the game more to allow more scoring.

      As for the Tigers: I just don’t remember a goal scored before 3 quarter time (by either team) from a turnover? Extremely odd!

      There was no transition play to the fat side for the entire match either, another anomaly.

      I suspect should the Tigers bring that type of pressure again, the Cats (or any other team) should and will try to move the ball quicker (with risk) into the open and to the fat side. The Tigers defensive structure must have been compromised — always the balance with pressure football — which is why it was so disappointing seeing the Cats not put any offensive pressure on them.

      • Columnist

        September 12th 2017 @ 9:19am
        Cameron Rose said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

        It was quite something, how little lateral movement there was on Friday night. Both teams structured up well to cut that off, so there wasn’t any immediate “fat” on the ground reachable with one kick. Richmond didn’t really need to, given what they were doing was working so well, albeit without any scoreboard evidence.

      • September 12th 2017 @ 10:16am
        BigAl said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:16am | ! Report

        Totally agree about “freeing up” the game allowing higher scoring – and more blowouts !!

        Blowouts are the biggest scourge (and the biggest threat) to the game today !
        . . . now you’re getting me started (again) on that game – with the word “GRAND” bizarrely included in its title – the 2015 GF !!!

    • Roar Guru

      September 12th 2017 @ 9:19am
      Paul D said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:19am | ! Report

      The best part was when Port lost

      • September 12th 2017 @ 9:31am
        Mattyb said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Made even more delicious with Kochies subsequent carry on,with the cherry on top being their close town rivals had a great victory sending them one step closer to the flag,

      • September 12th 2017 @ 11:26am
        Reservoir Animal said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:26am | ! Report

        How come you hate Port? Is it just a 2002-2004 thing?

        • Roar Guru

          September 12th 2017 @ 11:58am
          AdelaideDocker said | September 12th 2017 @ 11:58am | ! Report

          I think Paul’s said before there’s no real reason behind his dislike of Port, he just has no attachment nor particular like of the team.

          Besides, he’s only celebrating because Brisbane has reaped the rewards from Port’s loss, draft-wise.

          • Roar Guru

            September 12th 2017 @ 12:13pm
            Paul D said | September 12th 2017 @ 12:13pm | ! Report

            It’s a combination of 2004, general arrogance and attitude, and Jared Polec

            • September 12th 2017 @ 1:02pm
              Mattician6x6 said | September 12th 2017 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

              Love that polec ended up at port Paul I’m very happy: D

              • September 12th 2017 @ 1:25pm
                truetigerfan said | September 12th 2017 @ 1:25pm | ! Report

                Glad he didn’t end up at the Tiges! Soft as butter! Brissy far better off without him!

    • September 12th 2017 @ 9:21am
      Mattician6x6 said | September 12th 2017 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      Excellent points cam as much as I’ve obviously been in a wce daze my favourite individual performance of the 1st round was Cotchin his tackling pressure and aggressive attack was a true pleasure to watch and set the tone.

      • Columnist

        September 12th 2017 @ 10:56am
        Cameron Rose said | September 12th 2017 @ 10:56am | ! Report

        I reckon the most enjoyable victories are when you win when you really shouldn’t. I’d have been delirious as an Eagles fan!

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