MURPHY’S Law is defined as “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong”. It also is defined in 2015 as the Victorian Labor Government declaring Grand Final Eve a public holiday closely followed by two Western Australian teams possibly playing off the next day.
Preliminary Final weekend is about as good as it gets. Sure, no silverware is handed out but in terms of a pure football experience it is not one diluted by an inordinate amount of corporate fat cats, nor overwhelmed by excessive pomp and circumstance.
Four teams over two days, the cream of the crop play off knowing a win gives them that golden ticket to potentially collect all the chocolates the following Saturday.
This year we won’t, for a change, have Hawthorn hosting a preliminary; in fact the grand old girl in Yarra Park won’t see a Sherrin kicked in anger all weekend.
The AFL circus packs up for a rare two-night stay to the city on the Swan where remarkably Ross Lyon’s usual suspects and Adam Simpsons rapid-risers hold home ground advantage in back-to-back Subiaco blockbusters.
Friday night could end up being so many things yet no-one would be shocked if it inevitably goes down to the wire.
Fremantle deserve the upmost respect – a raging hot start to the season, they had the minor premiership sewn up almost mid-year and mathematically so with rounds to spare.
Quite publicly clear deficiencies exist, a lack of scoring, a potentially brittle backline, not enough experience winning big games in Victoria, yet over the course of the home and away season their numbers stack up.
Sure, they got over the line only just against Sydney in Week 1 however Freo on its day under the lights at Subi is almost as difficult a task that exists.
The week off is massive – crucially so many of the top four who win in the first week go on to salute in the preliminary final, that extra element of rest and preparation whilst their opponents have had to slug out an extra 120 minutes of finals pressure can make all the difference when the margins are never more intense come the Spring time.
Playing at home, the week off, a side that has stood up all year, yet your preferred corporate bookmaker will give you Hawthorn as the shorter price.
To win back-to-back flags is quite something, to threepeat is something yet again.
History and basic mathematics says the odds are stacked against the reigning premier yet the Hawks have earned back the lost love from their loss to the West Coast with their win over Adelaide last Friday, as emphatic a performance from the men in brown and gold as you’d want heading back over the Nullarbor.
Do the punters hold faith in the tried and true? West Coast has come from outside the eight to make the finals this year, North Melbourne hasn’t won a preliminary final this century and Fremantle have never won a flag full stop.
These Hawks are such a well-oiled machine John Laws definitely knows what Alastair Clarkson means. Their backline is supreme, the midfield is dripping with All-Australian quality and they possess a high-octane offense, something which separates the very-good from the ultimate successful come finals.
All these four sides can defend but being able to convert rare opportunities in big moments wins the boiled confection.
Freo will back themselves, and rightly so. Their fans will believe, and again so they should. You ask any travelling Hawthorn fan however and they’ll be in the same mindset so as aforementioned, whilst many results are on the cards Friday night if it indeed becomes a close one, a sense of musical chairs might just be the eventuality – who can be in front when the final siren bellows.
Can you sense a ball-tearer?
Saturday night though looks destined to be anything but. West Coast, if the small yet impressive sample size of the opening night of the finals is anything to go by, are as rampant and as well-drilled as any September outfit we’ve seen for a while.
The Simpson-system that enables a side littered with injury, be it season-ending for key position backmen or premium midfielders missing the first final, goes to show this side has another win, possibly two in them this year quite easily.
It just works for the Eagles, the claustrophobic pressure, the scintillating execution going forward, the ability to finally make the very most of one of the more freakish athletes to play the game let alone play ruck, all the ingredients have come together very suddenly for the West Coast.
North, they’ve been gallant, they took the punt by putting out the Werribee VFL side in Round 23 and have followed up by dispatching a disappointing Richmond and a malaised Sydney, yet to win three big finals in a row looks to be a challenge too great for what they bring to the table.
The recruitment of experienced talent from elsewhere has served them well but nothing we’ve seen from the Kangaroos the last two weeks suggests they can match the Qualifying Final performance of their opponent, especially over at Domain Stadium.
West Coast fans would be somewhat confident pre-weekend in transferring their life savings into the nominated account of their preferred airline for the trip to Melbourne next week. Shannon Hurn can plan for the privilege of hoisting the premiership cup aloft in front of the Treasury Building Friday week.
But who will be holding the opposite handle, Matthew Pavlich or the TAC ambassador himself Luke Hodge?
The Hawks win and that is their fourth grand final in a row, nothing would be more remarkable. Ross Lyon has coached in four grand finals since 2009; his legacy would be ever so undeveloped without saluting the judges at least once.
Toss a coin for Friday; it’s destined to be a belter. Who will come out victorious? Probably a spectating Adam Simpson…