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History suggests that those sides which have had a week off to rest before a preliminary final should be strong favourites for the matches themselves, and at a quick glance 2018 looks no different.
Richmond have been the best team of the year, minor premiers by a comfortable margin, and get to play a Collingwood side coming into this match off a six-day break.
West Coast meanwhile have been a quality side throughout the year and especially strong at home, where they’ll get to face Melbourne with an extra week’s break.
However if you go looking for them it’s not too hard to find reasons to believe that either match could easily be an upset.
Collingwood’s last game against the Tigers was one where they thrashed them in the midfield but ultimately fell short, with mid-game injuries having a serious impact.
They are bringing just about their fittest side of 2018 into this match and if they have some better luck, there’s an arguement to be made that their midfield might could simply overwhelm Richmond.
As for Melbourne, they’ve got the momentum after two finals wins in two weeks and can make the roadtrip with confidence knowing they beat West Coast here only a few weeks ago.
In fact I’d say both preliminary finals feel a bit like a clear case of a challenger who possesses more raw talent going up against an opponent with a more proven ability to make good on their talent.
If anything the finals series so far would suggest that September has favoured more those teams with potential than experience… still, I find it hard not to tip the favourites.
I’ll back in Richmond and West Coast for the 2018 grand final, but I feel almost certain to be wrong about at least one of them – but which?
Richmond, West Coast
Melbourne have done all that’s been asked of them so far this finals series, even beating the Hawks while playing below their best.
The Eagles, though, in large part due to their gun key forwards, present a different challenge.
Melbourne should be able to get first hands on the footy; West Coast should be more potent going forward. I’m tipping the Eagles in a close one.
In Richmond and Collingwood the two teams that play most like each other, and who share the largest supporter bases in Victoria, square off in the biggest preliminary final of our times in an overflowing MCG.
The Pies have mimicked Richmond’s pressure around the ball and go-forward strategy, opting for an inside 50 set up that relies more heavily on variety than a traditional setup.
The Tigers have forced Collingwood to play more of a handball heavy game when the sides have met twice earlier in the year, and have eventually worn down their opposition over four quarters.
The Pies were missing key personnel last time out, not least of which was Jordan De Goey, and lost the important Jeremy Howe early in the game.
Richmond has the record MCG winning streak still going due to how well they defend the ground, and have had a less torrid time through the finals than the Pies.
The last fact may catch up with Collingwood late in the game, but this one will be closer than the odds suggest. Richmond by 8 points.
As for West Coast and Melbourne – hands up who predicted this preliminary final at the start of the year?
These two sides have played some of the most scintillating football of the season on their way to this point of the season, heavy on penetrative kicking and marking the ball well in the front half of the ground.
Melbourne beat the Eagles in Perth a little over a month ago, and haven’t lost since. They were able to deconstruct the home side’s back six, getting the ball in the hands of their forwards repeatedly for shots at goal.
West Coast will welcome Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling back, but that won’t help with contested ball and clearances, which is sure to be in the Dees favour, and is what they base their entire game on. Melbourne by 13 points.
Richmond, West Coast
It’s been a remarkable season for the Magpies and they often seem to overcome tough circumstances. With the game in the balance they produced an excellent burst of footy to blow away the Giants last week and I’m sure they’ll be full of confidence.
But Richmond for their part always seem to win the games they should win – provided they’re in Melbourne, that is – and with a clean bill of health and two weeks rest will surely play better for longer and get the win.
Melbourne and West Coast is almost a coinflip for me. The Demons are playing great footy but haven’t been effective all the time even as they won their first two finals. The Eagles probably haven’t looked as good but still managed to beat Collingwood.
There’s a chance Melbourne blow it open and hold the Eagles off. But if it’s close I’d probably back West Coast at home with the extra rest, and a bit more finals experience. And it’s been a low scoring finals series so far.
When in doubt I tend to go the home team, so I’ll do the same here.
|Preliminary finals||Josh E||Adrian P||Cam R||TomC||The Crowd|
|RIC vs COL||RIC||RIC||RIC||RIC||RIC|
|WCE vs MEL||WCE||WCE||MEL||WCE||WCE|