Friday, September 20
Richmond vs Geelong
7:50pm AEST, MCG
The Cats were seriously challenged by the Eagles in the second half of Friday’s semi-final, but they responded exactly how a team that finished in first place should. It’s put them into a preliminary final against the rampaging Tigers, and what a game it’s set to be. The only negative from Geelong’s point of view is the suspension handed to spearhead Tom Hawkins; he’s one of their most important players and will obviously be a massive loss, but all they can do now is hope that his absence will provide some unpredictability that Richmond might struggle adjusting to. They’ve brought in Lachie Henderson to replace him, so you’d expect either he or Harry Taylor will play forward.
The Tigers will be well-rested and ready to go following the week off they earned by beating the Lions in Brisbane. It was a fairly dominant display and one that will have Chris Scott nervous, despite his claims that the Tigers aren’t as good as they were last year. That may be true on the whole but all that matters is form during September, and Richmond clearly seem healthier and more spirited this time around. That doesn’t mean this game will be easy; the Cats have generally matched up well on Richmond and provided them with some headaches, so I’m expecting a tight contest here. Geelong won’t have the same trouble in the ruck as they’ve had the previous two weeks, with opposition ruckman Toby Nankervis not being on quite the same level as Brodie Grundy and Stefan Martin. That should help, but the midfield battle is generally not too much of a worry for the Cats; it’s more to do with efficiency going forward, and then not allowing the opposition to burn them going quickly back the other way.
If they can work out a way to lock the ball in their forward half and then set up behind the ball so Richmond aren’t able to run and carry, they’ll be every chance to win. That’s obviously easier said than done, but that’ll be the aim for Geelong. I’m not sure they’re going to be good enough to do it, not against this Richmond team who are in such good form. I think it’ll be quite similar to the qualifying final between Geelong and Collingwood, where Geelong were in the game all night but never actually looked like winning. The Tigers should be able to do the same and enter their second grand final in three years.
Betting tip: Richmond By 1-39 @ $2.02 (TopBetta)
Saturday, September 21
Collingwood vs GWS Giants
4:35pm AEST, MCG
Saturday’s preliminary final sees Collingwood hosting the Giants at the MCG, where a one-sided crowd will hope to watch their team make it through to a second consecutive grand final. In Collingwood’s way stand the Giants, a team bubbling with positive energy despite some incidents that have distracted from their seriously good finals form. Toby Greene has come under scrutiny again for making contact with another’s players face for the second time in as many weeks, while fellow star midfielder Lachie Whitfield will unfortunately miss due to appendicitis. Greene and the Giants did all they could to reverse the one week suspension handed to him by the MRP, but they couldn’t convince the tribunal or the appeals board. It’s no wonder they tried so hard: Greene, along with Whitfield, is one of the Giants’ best players. Without either of them out there, the Giants aren’t beating Collingwood at the ‘G. With one of them, they’re an outside chance. If they had both, who knows what might happen.
They’ll just have to make do with what they’ve got, and they’ll still go into this contest feeling very good about themselves and their recent run of form. They followed up their smashing of the Dogs by narrowly sneaking over the line against Brisbane in what was a thrilling, gripping game of footy. Both teams were admirable and deserved to win, but the Giants were the team that grasped the opportunity when it came their way late in the contest. They defended fiercely while under siege from the Lions in the dying stages; the rest of the team are in debt to the GWS back six, because those guys are the ones who got them over the line.
They’ll have their work cut out again this week against a dangerous Collingwood forward line — despite the Pies missing Jordan De Goey, they’ve still got a seriously potent forward line. But so do the Giants, and whichever team gets enough opportunity up forward should be good enough to kick a winning score. Which means the game comes down to winning the clearances and the contested ball, and this is where I suspect the Pies will have the edge. It’s been a gruelling few weeks for the Giants, and without Whitfield and Greene, two of their most important midfielders, I think they might struggle to match the vaunted, deep Collingwood midfield. I reckon the Pies will get up by three or four goals.
Betting tip: Collingwood (-20.5) @ $1.90 (BlueBet)
Best Bets of the Round
Collingwood (-20.5) @ $1.90 (BlueBet)