WE didn’t need it

The bye, I know we’re only two days now from the first final, but can you remember the Richmond-Brisbane game over a week ago now?

Hardly.

So sure, there once was a hint of logic to putting a week off in after the last round, but ultimately we don’t need it.

I look forward then to Steve Hocking making a good decision and removing it from next… what am I kidding, he’ll probably extend the break out or tinker it to make things fractionally worse, as per his resume so far in the job.

Less negativity, lets just crack on.

1. Dead set no order to this ramble this week, so if you stick with this to the end and you’re not in a headspin you’re already unwell, seek help. Firstly, the Legends game last Friday, I don’t know if its all AFLX’s problem although that certainly didn’t help, I got that wrong last week. But is the Friday in the bye just the worst timeslot for it maybe? It works middle of the season when really well promoted? Or done its dash? It had a ripper line up of former stars but Saturday Night Rove got a bigger audience the next night. Shame.

2. All-Australian team last week, not only did this column utterly nail the shit out of it, but the small differences, this column had it better. No-one loves a Central Districts player like this writer but James Sicily for Shannon Hurn was a no brainer on 2019 form. Also, this column has a black and white persuasion but Scott Pendlebury out, Patrick Dangerfield can take his place and Gary Ablett, an actual half-forward-flanker, gets into the team. Charlie Cameron was no.1 for small forwards, Michael Walters was no.3. Little Gaz was no.2, so if you pick Walters you’re picking Ablett first. Otherwise stellar work by all the team at Get Serious really.

3. Sam Walsh, Rising Star, yep, no brainer. Yet like Luke Darcy, this column gave the five to Rozee first. Think it was lineball but prefer the South Aussie just. As for best player out of this draft pool anyway? Neither. Bailey Smith. Will. Be. A. Gun.

4. The Collingwood skipper plays his 300th this week, that’s some achievement. Sure, Bud played 300 two or so weeks back and we under-covered that a bit, although he spent an eternity on 299 so we almost forgot, to be frank. Pendles is a five-time All-Australian which in the modern day is elite, and will almost certainly retire the Collingwood Footy Club’s all-time games record holder which is as prestigious as it comes. With a Norm Smith too. Probably a Brownlow win short of one of the greatest CV’s we’ve seen.

5. Is he a top-five Magpie? His coach would be up there, as would Bob Rose, probably Nuts Coventry on goalkicking stats alone as well. But whilst you have to consider Daicos, McKenna, Len Thompson, even Darren Millaine, Albert Collier, Syd Coventry, Pendles probably makes it. Not sure exactly where, but his career won’t be far off his coach when its all said and done.

6. Alrighty, some finals, and we start in Perth. The Bombers are not without a show here. The Eagles are susceptible at home, big time. Really bad loss to Port, lost to Collingwood who were spluttering big time beforehand, and didn’t fire a shot in resistence the last term. And then, with a top four spot, possible top two finish even, on the line against a Hawks team outside the eight, looked really poor. Yes, Clarko is a genius and the Hawks had a bit to play for as well, but the Dogs winning made that redundant in a heartbeat. The Eagles are no sure things to anyone.

7. The Bombers in the first term against the Pies Round 23 showed their credentials. Run and gun footy, resembling a team who is five goals down at the start of the last, just going for it, it was working. If they can get that footy going and get scoreboard reward for it, they’ll go a long way to making the Eagles work really hard to protect home court. We think the Eagles win, and for all we know it’s a massacre and the reigning-premier stamps their case on the competition, but if the Dons push them a long way I wouldn’t be shocked one bit. McKenna, Saad, quick fling and sting footy, it can certainly do it.

8. Friday night it’s the Cats up against a team who might have to shout Hawthorn dinner the week after if it was to win. That Hawks victory in Perth didn’t do squat to their season, but it gave the Pies a home final, which despite finishing lower on the ladder than this time last year actually is a better result. Pretty simple for Collingwood, win, and they don’t leave the ‘G again with a home prelim final their next fixture. For Geelong, this might be their toughest game, a win here probably gets them West Coast the week after, followed by whoever loses Saturday night. Get into a prelim and their top spot finish gets some overdue validation.

9. Two main things to look for to determine the result – can the Pies forwardline work with all the returning talent, and can they kick straight. Firstly, Elliott has come good without Stephenson or De Goey, De Goey looked good when Stephenson didn’t last year and vice versa, all three at the same time either looks like Christmas, or two of them will lack any impact, which doesn’t work. For mine, and this won’t happen, inject De Goey in the midfield where he scares the BeJesus out of opppisition coaches, and see if Stephenson and Elliott can gel. If they do, and the team can be accurate when they get chances against a stingy Cats’ back six, they’ll win. If not, Geelong all day.

10. The game in Sydney Saturday arvo is intriguing. All the love is for the Dogs and rightfully so. Playing some of the best footy we’ve seen all year. But its not Hawthorn three-peat footy, or Brisbane three-peat. It’s possibly not as good as they were in 2016. So they won’t just roll on through four weeks of footy and win their third flag like that. But Saturday is definitely doable, and they probably deserve to be favourites.

11. But. The Giants aren’t chopped liver. And they won’t just let the Round 22 loss simply happen again. This is a team full of talent, sure, the loss in Canberra to Hawthorn stunk, but won’t be a pushover back at home. I actually expect them to get up.

12. Saturday night, watch Richmond find a new gear. Not sure whether the Lions get spooked, or whether they start really well but don’t sustain, but the Tigers look as good as 2017, if not as good as last year where they looked almighty until the Pies stunned them in that infamous prelim. They are tuned to perfection, barley got out of third gear against a red-lining Brisbane last game, and the fact its up there doesn’t hurt them one bit. Brisbane will impress, look nice, show glimpses of maybe being competitive if they make the prelim final on the other side of the draw, but I don’t think anyone in the comp, at any venue, beats Richmond this week.

13. So what does this all mean? Richmond probably gets to the Grand Final with a win this week. They’d face a prelim which is likely to contain the loser of Friday night or West Coast, which won’t be easy. That will be their toughest game of the finals but a repeat of last year seems unlikely. Making amends is written all over the Tigers’ campaign. The only catch stopping them winning a second in three years is down to whether the winner of Friday can show enough and then in the prelim to stand a chance.

14. West Coast ain’t doing it. Yes, making the Grand Final playing the second week happens a bit, happened last year with the Pies going the long way, but the Eagles having to win three finals in Melbourne, or two in Melbourne and one in Brisbane, ain’t happening. Just won’t. Nup.

15. The Dogs are a sneaky show should the prediction above go wrong. If they can win in Sydney, well, I think they’d be more than a sneaky show to take it up to the loser of Saturday. Say its Brisbane, and Richmond flexes their muscle in victory, the Dogs got within three goals of the Lions at the same venue only recently and certainly have three goals of improvement plus in them on that performance.

16. Most likely straight sets contender? Brisbane or Collingwood. The Lions get done by the Tigers then it was all very admirable but all too good to be true, so dropping the semi to Footscray is more than plausible. And, if the Pies were to be poor Friday, with more questions than answers, to then have to front up to a sudden death final the Friday after against that team who did it to them last September twice, its all there for the West Coast to twist the knife into the Pies once again.

17. So, early September, who wins the flag? Richmond look better than 2017, and as good as 2018. And last year they stuffed up. As for who they play? The winner of Friday, which looks too close to call. But either one probably doesn’t stack up to deny the Tigers the silverware anyway. Maybe Collingwood because “if” they make it that far they will be legit. Although if Geelong can win week one and week three in convincing fashion they’ll be more than a fun chance come the 28th.

18. Do we need constant trade talk so early? Probably not. Especially when it’s barely speculation, its just pundits’ ideas and theories. Keep this to October gents, September is the best month of the year.

19. Couple on cricket to finish – Mitch Starc needs to get a gig tomorrow night. Alongside Cummins and Hazlewood, he just has to. Critically too as well, as a left armer coming over the wicket, he’ll provide some rough for Nathan Lyon bowling to the English right-handers, something he hasn’t had all series, at the biggest-turning wicket of the five.

20. The last we’ve seen of Usman Khawaja? Stiff, has a very nice record although boosted by his home-test performances. But on the other hand only gets a cap because no-one else would bat three. So if Laburschagne can continue his excellent progress by batting between the openers and the returning Smith, then it probably is. Wrong side of 30 and next summer Will Pucovski is coming so the competition for spots will only ramp up.

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