Friday, September 22
Adelaide v Geelong
7:50PM AEST, Adelaide Oval
Well, the stage is set for ex-Crow Patrick Dangerfield to take on his old side at the Adelaide Oval in a massive preliminary final showdown. On the one hand, the Crows will be delighted they don’t have to take on the Swans this week, a team that had lost only twice in their previous 17 matches before last week’s semi-final, but on the other hand, they face a Geelong side with two of the best midfielders in the competition who are coming off an inspirational win. Geelong really were outstanding in their demolition job of the Swans on Friday night; from the first bounce they never gave the Swans a sniff. They were too good in all facets of the game, and while it helped that Lance Franklin was clearly hampered, a fully fit Franklin wouldn’t have changed the result.
The Cats have been handed some selection dilemmas, with the fitness of Tom Lonergan and Nakia Cockatoo giving them plenty to think about during the week. The unlucky two to make way are James Parsons and Zach Guthrie, but there’s no doubt Lonergan and Cockatoo make the Cats a better team. The Crows will unfortunately be without utility Mitch McGovern who is struggling with a hamstring strain, while Brodie Smith is out as well due to a heartbreaking ACL tear. Rory Sloane comes back into the side along with veteran Andy Otten as their replacements.
This will be a fascinating game of footy. Adelaide have been the stronger side all year and deserve to go in comfortable favourites at home. The Cats have been patchy, but as the Swans discovered last week, their best footy is good enough to beat anyone. Dangerfield will enforce himself on the game, but so will Rory Sloane and the Crouch brothers, not to mention Crows’ skipper Taylor Walker in the forward half.
If the Cats play as they did last week and get solid contributions from their bottom six, they’ll challenge the Crows. If not, the Crows will cut them up, as they did to GWS in the qualifying final. As much as I believe Adelaide are a better all-round team than Geelong, I get the feeling this game will go right down to the wire. The Cats have had to wait all year for a chance to atone for last year’s shocking preliminary final exit, and I don’t expect them to waste their opportunity. The Crows have the weight of expectation on their shoulders and could be a little shaky after not having played for a few weeks, and if this is the case and the Cats can get on top early, it should make for a classic game of footy. Still, the Crows have been the best team all year, and at home I expect them to get over the line, but only in the heart-stopping final minutes.
Betting tip: Adelaide By 1-24 @ $3.30 (Sportsbet)
Saturday, September 23
Richmond v GWS
4:45PM AEST, MCG
Richmond fans have had to endure a very long two weeks of waiting, but the day they’ve been waiting for has now nearly arrived—on Saturday afternoon the Tigers will host the Giants for a chance to take part in Grand Final day for the first time in 35 years. The Giants are in the their second consecutive preliminary final, aiming for their first ever Grand Final appearance. So just as in last year’s preliminary final, regardless of the result, history will be made.
The game is set to be attended by the most lop-sided crowd in the history of the AFL, with the massive Richmond supporter base ready to descend upon the ‘G to give the Giants—including ex-Tiger Brett Deledio—a most hostile welcome to finals footy on the biggest stage of all. You’ll know when Deledio gets the ball. Same goes for Toby Greene. But the noise will reach another level when Dustin Martin gets it within 60 metres of goal. Will the crowd be a factor in the outcome? Possibly. It’s something the Giants have never experienced, and while the Tigers are used to playing in front of big crowds, they aren’t used to playing in games where the stakes are this high. If the Giants get on top early, the silence will be absolutely deafening, and that could throw them off considering they head into this game full of beans feeding off the energy of their fans.
Steve Johnson bounced back in style with six goals against the Eagles, but don’t expect him to get the same time and space from the Tigers this weekend. Deledio hasn’t been all that impressive since coming into the team after a long injury lay-off, and without Shane Mumford and Jeremy Cameron I feel like the Giants’ depth is slightly lacking for them to be good enough to win a huge final at the MCG. I’m expecting there to be plenty of errors from both sides early as the butterflies settle, but once they relax into the flow of the game I reckon the Tigers will apply too much pressure for the Giants to withstand and should run out winners by three or four goals.
Betting tip: Richmond By 1-39 @ $2.15 (Ladbrokes)
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Richmond By 1-39 @ $2.15 (Ladbrokes)
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