We’ve got just three more weekends of football in 2019, with the end of the season approaching faster than any of us would like.
Two intriguing semi-finals await us, with this year’s crop of second-week finals matches probably the hardest tip in recent memory.
Has there ever been a less favoured first and second-placed duo than Geelong and Brisbane heading into this week? Not off the top of my head.
2019 tipping champ Marnie Cohen kicked off the finals on the wrong foot, nabbing two points while the rest of the panel – including the Crowd – managed three.
There are only five matches to go in the season, but they’re all on a knife-edge. Let’s see how we go!
Did I watch Geelong or West Coast play last weekend? Yes. Have I seen the Eagles’ record at the MCG? You bet.
Am I aware of Chris Scott’s horror record in finals since 2011? Absolutely.
So, why on earth am I tipping the Cats? I’m so glad you asked.
There’s no denying Geelong have underperformed woefully in September since collecting the 2011 premiership. Their qualifying final loss to Collingwood on Friday was their 11th defeat in 14 finals since that decider.
With West Coast looking clinical against the Bombers, it’s made the Cats a popular pick to slide out of the finals race altogether in straight sets.
However, two of those three finals wins over the last eight years have been in semi-finals, with the Chris Scott’s record in that particular fixture 2-1.
For me, this semi has 2017 written all over it. That year, with the white-hot Sydney Swans coming fresh off a demolition of – that’s right – Essendon in the elimination final, the Cats came into the semi as massive underdogs following their thumping loss to Richmond.
They ended up winning by 59 points.
Geelong put their post-bye wobbles to bed in the final three weeks of the home-and-away season and, having not lost to the Eagles in Victoria since 2006, will get semi-final weekend off to a surprising start.
Brisbane are in a similarly vulnerable position heading into the second semi-final, with finals inexperience making them a popular pick to crash out in straight sets too.
For me, the 47-point margin in that loss to the Tigers was incredibly misleading. The Lions were ahead in several key statistical areas (contested possessions, disposal efficiency, inside 50s, marks inside 50s and clearances) but, as we all know, were outrageously inaccurate.
Richmond, on the other hand, were so scarily accurate that even a discarded scrap of paper Damien Hardwick intended for coaches box bin reportedly curled away and sailed through the big sticks.
Brisbane didn’t deserve to win, but the gap between them and the best is nowhere near as large as people think it is.
Greater Western Sydney looked frightening at times against the Bulldogs but, as impressive as the win was, Leon Cameron more or less played his entire hand to pull it off.
They’re no chance of successfully ‘ambushing’ the Lions physically after last week and haven’t been that impressive on the road this season, although they have won their past four trips to the Gabba.
I’m relying on Brisbane’s forwards having a much better game than Saturday, but I think they can get the job done and move on. Just.
West Coast, GWS Giants
Despite a very even and entertaining home-and-away season, the first week of the finals failed to live up to the hype.
It was four relatively one-sided games, while Collingwood-Geelong flattered by a 10-point margin – the game was ordinary at best.
The standout last weekend was the first half of Richmond and Brisbane at the Gabba.
The contest was tight, the ball was hot and it was a genuinely entertaining contest. It’s a shame the young Lions couldn’t keep up with the Tigers.
They will have another crack at it on Saturday night when they host the Giants but, with the way GWS played on the weekend, it will be hard to stop them.
The Giants, who are apparently the most ‘physically imposing, rough, bullying’ team in the competition after one game, will look to back their newfound hard edge up the Brisbane. I’m tipping the Giants to win on the basis they’ll repeat their performance against the Dogs. But can they do it? That’s another story in itself.
They certainly have the personnel and will line up with Toby Greene in the side, who escaped suspension. But inconsistency has been the story of the Giants season and just as they start looking dangerous, they fall away.
They’ve got my tip, but I’m looking forward to the Lions hopefully bouncing back and bringing a fierce contest to the finals.
In keeping with the theme of elimination final winners and away teams (although, I’m sure Chris Scott will argue otherwise), I’m tipping West Coast.
They enjoy playing at the MCG and appear to have re-found some of their best form. The Eagles have also been boosted by the return of star ruckman Nic Naitanui, who was in fine form on Thursday night and will line up again on against a Geelong side that clearly lacks confidence in any of their ruck stocks.
No matter the weather, I can’t imagine the Cats will go into a second consecutive game without a ruckman.
But it wasn’t just Rhys Stanley absent against the Pies; it was just about the entire side. A few of Patrick Dangerfield’s teammates will need to step up to the plate if Geelong are any chance of winning on Friday night.
I don’t think they will.
If both results go my (tipping) way, this will be the first season since 2014 where both top four sides have gone out in straight sets.
Geelong was one of those sides. I don’t think they’ll want that title again.
West Coast, Brisbane
The Eagles have so much going for them in this semi-final. There’s the venue, their form from last week, and an extra day’s break. Geelong have a poor recent finals record, having lost nine of their last 12 post-season games, and haven’t looked like proper premiership contenders since before the bye.
Then there are the two contrasting gameplans. West Coast’s is a similar, better version of the footy Collingwood play; control the ball by foot, wait for opportunities to break out, disrupt the opposition’s ball movement with strong intercept marking. It was too much for the Cats last week, and I think it will be once again.
Brisbane and GWS are terribly hard to split. Mitch Robinson’s injury is a big blow for the Lions, as is Toby Greene’s non-suspension, but losing Brett Deledio hurts the Giants more than his possession count suggests.
If both sides play to their potential, the Giants will win. But their form fluctuated so badly this year, particularly during the second half of the season, that I don’t trust them to win two finals on the trot.
The Brisbane-Richmond scoreline also hides how good the Lions were at the start of that match. Some straighter kicking would have had them right in the contest against the best team in the comp, and that’s enough for me to tip them at home.
West Coast, Brisbane
Friday night’s clash is an MCG match-up between Geelong and West Coast. Geelong fell at the first hurdle last week, with a thoroughly disappointing start seeing them unable to catch the Magpies, while the Eagles were perfectly adequate against a listless Essendon.
You’d expect this clash to be a significantly more challenging endeavour for both sides. The Cats simply need to avoid another poor start and, with the Eagles having a decent MCG record of late, it’s no surprise the West Australians are narrow favourites.
I’ll go the Eagles here, with Geelong’s horrid finals record to continue with a straight-sets exit.
Saturday night’s game is no easier to tip. Brisbane, like Geelong, fell to a frustrating week one loss, and, like the Cats, they’re up against tough opposition.
Unlike Geelong, though, they’re back at their home ground.
GWS were superb in their win over the Dogs last Saturday, and they’re not to be underestimated here – the Giants’ winning percentage at the Gabba is higher than anywhere else they’ve played, if anyone was looking for a nifty fact.
Brisbane fell away badly after quarter time, something which, to state the obvious, they’d want to avoid again.
They’ll have a raucous home ground behind them, but the Giants are going to be tough. I’m going to back the Lions – reluctantly.
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