Last week it was just three more weekends of AFL football, this week it’s just three more matches!
As the stakes get higher, the number of matches (unfortunately) decreases accordingly and we’re left with just a quarter-dozen of matches left to tip in 2019.
Semi-final weekend didn’t go as expected, as evidenced by Daniel Jeffrey, AdelaideDocker and The Crowd all scoring zero points. Marnie was got her point courtesy of Brent Daniels and the Giants, while I correctly picked Geelong’s upset of the Eagles.
This week seems a bit more straightforward, but anything can happen at this time of year.
The unprecedented situation regarding Greater Western Sydney’s Toby Greene means I, The Roar’s AFL tipping overlord, have given the experts the opportunity to update their tip if his appeal is successful this evening, so stay tuned.
Richmond, GWS Giants
We all know how footy clubs are fond of taking things ‘one week at a time’, but Damien Hardwick and co. would’ve had this fixture circled on the calendar immediately following their shock loss to Collingwood last season.
When you really think about, preliminary final upsets have been incredibly rare over the journey. I’d classify last season’s result as the first genuine upset on that weekend since the Swans ran over St Kilda in 2005.
The Tigers look too good to let that happen twice in as many seasons.
For starters, their 67-point loss to the Cats in Round 12 came with several players either missing, or playing badly underdone off the back of their early-season injury woes.
The shoe will very much be on the other foot tomorrow night, with the absence of suspended Tom Hawkins throwing Geelong’s forward plans into disarray.
Mitch Duncan’s absence also makes throwing Patrick Dangerfield forward – which has worked wonders in the past – too risky. They’ll need Paddy in the middle to go toe-to-toe with Richmond’s mighty midfield.
Unless Esava Ratugolea or Gary Rohan can pull off a Mason Cox-like one-game wonder, it’ll be a fourth-straight preliminary final defeat for Chris Scott.
Saturday is where things get really interesting.
Horror record at the MCG notwithstanding, I’m backing the Giants to cause a huge boilover – sans Lachie Whitfield and Toby Greene – to reach the decider.
If we’re going to ignore scintillating finals form and put a line through GWS thanks to the injury list, it’s only fair we give some weight to Collingwood’s absences – and I think they’re more crucial.
As superb as the Magpies looked in the first half against Geelong, once Jordan de Goey exited the game they scored a grand total of 14 points – including zero in the final quarter.
As cleary crucial as he is to Collingwood’s forward line, I’m also worried about what Levi Greenwood’s absence does on the other side of the scoreboard.
Nathan Buckley’s side has done an incredible job to concede an average of just 54 points over their last five games – compared to 86 over the previous five – but that run started when Greenwood returned to the side.
Since July, two of the three highest scores Collingwood have conceded came in the two games he missed.
That includes the 47-point loss to GWS in Round 18 – the only time this season the Pies have given up 100 points or more.
If we’re going to talk Giant absences, let’s look at the list of players missing in that game; Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio, Phil Davis, Matt de Boer and Adam Kennedy. All but Coniglio are in the side for this clash and, for all the talk of Shane Mumford needing to be dropped against Brodie Grundy, the field day Grundy had last time amounted to very little.
Whitfield, Greene and the MCG will all conspire against the Giants, but I think they’ve got what it takes to surprise and progress.
Here we are. The final four teams of the 2019 season.
Honestly, the final series has a been slightly underwhelming in comparison to the even, topsy turvy home-and-away season we have come off.
Let’s not sugar-coat it – the first week of the finals was incredibly boring. The semi-finalists turned it around for us last week and we can only hope the preliminary finalists will build on that.
Richmond are the flag favourites at the moment and it’s not hard to see why. Since returning from the bye in round 15, they’ve barely skipped a beat. They should make their second grand final in three years but it won’t come without a fight. Geelong were back to their best in last week’s semi-final.
The pressure was high and that is where the game was won. The Cats were 14 ahead of the Eagles in tackles and seven ahead in tackles inside 50 – they were just hungrier. Can they back it up? You’d think so.
Will it still be enough to overcome a white-hot Richmond outfit? I’m not so sure.
Richmond, too, know all about complacency (think back to this time last year) so they won’t be taking any chances.
Hopefully, fans are treated to a great game and great contest between Dusty and Danger. The game could ultimately be won in either of their hands. Since the start of 2017, the two teams have played five times with the results swinging 3-2. You can’t tip against the Tiges at the moment, they should be able to make it 4-2 and another grand final appearance.
The Giants are in a world of pain and, while they have done a great job covering their losses this far, they’ll be without one too many star players on Saturday to get over the line.
A Stephen Coniglio return was ruled out on Tuesday, Toby Greene has, so far, failed to reverse his one-match suspension and Lachie Whitfield was ruled out on Wednesday morning. It doesn’t look good for GWS.
In the six times GWS have lined up without Whitfield and Greene, they’re 0-6. That won’t give them a lot of confidence.
On top of that, Collingwood will be desperate to turn around the Round 18 result, when they lost to the Giants in Sydney by 47 points.
The Pies, however, aren’t without their challenges. Jordan De Goey and Levi Greenwood will both miss with injury. What we do know is they know how to turn it on and take it up a notch when required in the final – just ask the Tigers of 2018.
In front of a home crowd at the MCG, they should be good enough to get the job done.
The Tigers are premiership favourites and deservedly so. Their forward line is in fine form, their defence is stingy even without their best backman, and their ability to break through the middle of the part is capable of tearing games – and oppositions – apart.
Geelong will need to control possession from start to finish and limit Richmond’s breakout opportunities, but even if they can do that, it’s hard to see where their points come from without Tom Hawkins. The Cats will make this a tight tussle, but it’s just too hard to overlook the Tigers.
The second preliminary final will be determined as much by the players off the ground as those on it. Jordan de Goey and Levi Greenwood are massive outs for the Pies, while Lachie Whitfield and Toby Greene’s (if he fails to have his suspension overturned on appeal) absences are an even bigger blow for GWS.
This is a 50-50 match if ever there was one, but the Giants’ woeful record at the ‘G puts it in favour of Collingwood. They’ll benefit from first use of the ball, and not having to contend with Whitfield and Greene will make things easier for their midfield and defence in the familiar confines of the MCG.
Two mammoth preliminary finals await us this weekend. Given I’m just one point behind Marnie for the tipping lead, they hold a strong personal resonance, too.
Friday night’s clash sees 2019 minor premiers Geelong travel (for the third week running) to the MCG, where they’ll take on Richmond in a repeat of 2017’s qualifying final. Richmond won, and went on to win a premiership, while the Cats fought through to a losing prelim.
Both teams have mixed records in prelims of late; the Tigers going 1-1 in the past two years, the Cats losing all three in the previous six.
If we’re looking at recent form, it’s Richmond who shine the brightest – their strong finish to the home-and-away season coupled with a big qualifying finals win sets them up nicely for Friday’s clash.
Geelong stumbled in week one, but looked superb against the Eagles last weekend. That win came at a cost, however, with Tom Hawkins suspended for a week.
What effect Hawkins’ absence will have on the Cats remains unknown, but it’s a frustrating omission for the club.
Richmond are easily backable as favourites here, even though I’d personally prefer to see the Cats prevail.
Collingwood host a perennially unlucky GWS outfit in Saturday evening’s preliminary final, and it’s the Victorian team who head in as comfortable favourites.
The Giants looked excellent in their first two finals, but have been dealt a series of blows with Brett Deledio and Stephen Coniglio still out, Lachie Whitfield having a Wednesday surgery and – at the time of writing – a banned Toby Greene awaiting the results of an appeal.
Collingwood are without Jordan de Goey, of course, but have an otherwise healthy list and have the added benefit of having a week off after their win over the Cats a fortnight ago.
The Magpies being favourites is far from the be-all and end-all – you never quite know what performance the Giants may surprise with – but they’re quite simply holding a home, injury-list and form advantage, and that’ll see them prevail.
|Preliminary finals||Stirling||Marnie||Daniel||ADocker||The Crowd|
|RCH vs GEE||RCH||RCH||RCH||RCH||RCH|
|COL vs GWS||GWS||COL||COL||COL||COL|