Round 22 AFL Preview

 Last Week 7/9     Season Total 126/180

One thing I like about history is being able to go back to a time when things were better.  If you’re a Collingwood supporter this is two weeks ago, or a Port supporter it is about a month ago.  But what I’m more talking about, since it’s fast approaching, is AFL Finals.  I was a big fan of the McIntyre Final 8 system which was used by the AFL from 1994 to 1999.  These were the glory days of footy when big scores were often kicked, and you’d hope you were on the right side of the ledger.  For those who are too young, or like me have fast-failing memories, the McIntyre Final 8 system had the first week of finals being 1 v 8, 2 v 7, 3 v 6 and 4 v 5 and then things got complicated.  Firstly, what I liked about it was that finishing higher on the ladder mattered.  In the current system, if you finish 1st or 2nd, you have the same probability of making the grand final.  Under the McIntyre Final 8 system, your chances at position one was slightly better than at position 2.  The McIntyre Final 8 system also rewarded teams with momentum coming into the finals.  Of course, the powers that be nixed the system, mostly because of its shortcomings which were this; it’s an absolute bugger to understand and scheduling finals is near impossible because you don’t know who the home team or away team or the eliminated teams are until all games are played.  Nottomention in rare circumstances 3rd and 4th on the ladder could be eliminated in the first week!  But by changing the system, the AFL introduced a way to manipulate it.  Have we considered that Collingwood would prefer to finish 2nd?  That may give them reason to lose some matches as they would be likely to play a lesser-ranked opponent.  However, if that lesser-ranked opponent also starts losing then that sure screws that up. No, Collingwood were not tanking, let’s not go there…West Coast have already been accused of that this week.  Conspiracies are a slippery slope.  First you think teams are tanking, then you think the Moon landings were faked, then the Earth becomes flat and before you know it, Trump was robbed of victory!  Worst of all is just by typing that, and now you reading it, your internet feeds algorithm will present a plethora of pseudo-science articles to bait you with and by next Wednesday you’ll be meeting Graham Hancock in a dark alley to discuss pyramid construction techniques.

Listening to some of the AFL Analysts and I’d say they are already there.  I sometimes think that every handball and every kick is a conspiracy as far as they are concerned.  At the start of the season, I was watching every analysis show for material for this weekly bit, but now I don’t even turn on the telly or watch that many matches as it’s all wrong.  I’m pretty sure we’re living in a computer simulation anyway.

With Foil hats on, it’s time to look at this week’s matches.

Collingwood vs Geelong              MCG      Friday Night

I’d like to point out just how good I am (anyone that asks, and I’ll tell them).  Last week I said Collingwood is in that space where they don’t necessarily have to win (they can finish as low as second and be just as well off) and a team like Hawthorn just need to body line the Pies players who will be wary of getting injured and not crack in as hard and, while it wasn’t enough for me to tip them, that’s exactly what Hawthorn did.  If you create a chart of stats that matter and look at Collingwood’s background rate, this game was a good 10% below that.  Those same stats for Hawthorn show this game was 30% higher than their background rate!  It’s true, I saw it on one of those AFL Analytics shows that I don’t watch.  The thing for Collingwood now is they have to start winning again.  They still have maybe one more loss up their sleeve, but they now risk finishing third and facing a trip to the Gabba for their first final.  And they were given a very important reminder by Hawthorn that being a bit soft at the contest doesn’t protect you from injury and they now must proceed without Murphy and Wunderkind Daicos who may have just emptied the pockets of many Brownlow betters.  Geelong, meanwhile, bounced back from the loss against Freo with a home victory against a ragged-looking Port Adelaide.  Sitting just outside the top eight will provide the hunger and drive required to push the physical contest at the Pies as a loss here may see them miss finals altogether.  A non-Kardinia Park match, but off to their second home, the MCG.  The Pies got ‘em in the season opener so revenge will be on their minds.  Unsure if Hawkins will be back but Rohan and Cameron will be a handful up forward.  A scintillating opening match to the Round and it’s one I cannot bear to watch and yet will not be able to look away.  Can I convince the wife to cook when it is my turn that night?  Only time will tell.  Geelong by 4 points. The Pies look cooked! Or is that a conspiracy?

North Melbourne vs Essendon  Marvel Stadium               Saturday Afternoon

Speaking of conspiracies, it has been suggested that West Coast tanked against Essendon in the dying minutes.  I’d prefer to give Essendon the benefit of the doubt for a well-earned victory which keeps them in the hunt.  As for North Melbourne, we would need a new definition of tanking to compare them to.  The return of Alastair Clarkson buoyed spirits for the first quarter but it was all downhill after that.  It’s clear that Alastair has much work ahead of him over the off-season.  Some focus on executing skills is probably a good place to start.  Ben Cunnington has decided to hang up the boots and it’s my last chance to have fun with his surname which I’ve wanted to do for a long time…but I’ll resist.  On the fast deck of Marvel Stadium, it will be hard for North Melbourne to overcome Essendon.  Unless The Bombers are tanking?  Essendon by 25 points.

Sydney vs Gold Coast    SCG        Saturday Afternoon

The Swans have been a little surprise packet in the last few weeks and are now sitting just outside the 8 with last year’s other grand finalist.  A win here could see them sneak into the 8 for the first time since round 5…talk about picking your moments!  Gold Coast were travelling pretty well but a halt was put to that when they came up against Adelaide last week.  Was it because Miller was missing?  Maybe it had a role to play.  But, when you play the game below the belt, I guess that’s gonna happen.  While Gold Coast is mathematically still a chance, the math is of a higher order than I’m capable of.  Sydney will have more to play for.  Sydney by 22 points.

Brisbane vs Adelaide     Gabba   Saturday Twilight

Adelaide had a solid win last week with a big group of fresh young talent.  Meanwhile Brisbane scraped home against The Dockers in the west to put in a bid for a first week home final.  The problem here is that Brisbane plays so well at The Gabba and Adelaide haven’t won a game on the road since Round 6.  For that reason, Brisbane by 32 points.

Carlton vs Melbourne   MCG      Saturday Night

For the last seven weeks, Carlton have been taking all before them.  The fixture has been helpful as well as some poor opposition form so if Melbourne’s form holds up then this is their first real test.  If they win this one, I’ll finally stop saying the fixturing is helping them and I’ll jump on board and try and ride this wagon all the way home.  Their pressure is up, they’ve come good at a good time of year but a loss here and all of a sudden, they are out of the 8 again and fighting for finals.  Melbourne have put together their own little run of wins and will want to knock Carlton down if they want to remain in the hunt for a top 2 finish.  This of course becomes a little more difficult now that Petty has sustained a Lisfranc injury.  Does anyone remember a time when people used to sprain their foot or ankle?  Why do we have to call them Lisfranc injuries and Syndesmosis injuries now?  A knee injury used to be just that, but now we know them as ACL’s or PCL’s and strained groins are now osteitis pubis.  As a casual footy observer, we get so filled with technical medical knowledge that we’ll soon be diagnosing our own injuries.  “Sorry boss, I can’t make it to work today I have Medial Epicondylitis.” FYI this is an injury from bending your elbow a lot, sometimes through golf and sometimes through excessive beer-to-mouth action.  Anyway, I think this one will be tougher for Carlton.  Melbourne by 16 points.

West Coast vs Fremantle             Perth Stadium   Saturday Night

A Western Derby, which is pronounced differently depending on geography.  Another West Coast great announced their retirement this week with Luke Shuey pulling up stumps on a career that goes back to 2010.  Will there be more to come out of West Coast by season end?  They’re going at a rate of one a week currently.  They nearly snatched victory against the Dons last week before they suddenly realised, they needed to lose to get Harley Reed.  Fremantle took it right up to Brisbane but just couldn’t push it that extra distance.  Pretty sure that West Coast REALLY want that pick but the sting of a Derby defeat might have them a little addled in their execution of another loss.  They’ve lost their last four Derbies to Fremantle; can they bear another?  I think they can.  Fremantle by 9 points.

Hawthorn vs Footscray UTAS Stadium   Sunday Afternoon

The Hawks had an over-performing win against Collingwood last week.  The tough thing for supporters is that they now know what the team is capable of and so anything less than that will not be tolerated.  Setting a new normal is a frightful thing for a young club.  Footscray took an excellent victory over a charging Richmond which, if they can win this one might see them secure a top 8 spot.  Travelling to Launceston to play is a little fly in the ointment.  Hawthorn like it down there, but with a forecast of one degree overnight, maybe Footscray will think they are playing at Mars, or is it on Mars?  I think Footscray can get the job done while Hawthorn come down from their epic high from last week.  Footscray by 19.

Saint Kilda vs Richmond               Marvel Stadium               Sunday Afternoon

The Saints were rolled by a red-hot Carlton last week while Richmond were rolled by a similarly hot Footscray.  If you’re in the crowd this week, the recommendation is to keep your hands to yourself, no matter how much you like Marlion Pickett.  Although I’m sure the man in question wasn’t asking politely for an autograph.  I thought Marlions action of spilling the guy’s beer was a horrible revenge.  With the cost-of-living increases and the price of a beer at the footy anyway, that was a costly mistake by that patron.  He’ll need to work an extra month before he retires now.  One thing we know now is that, unlike what McQualter said, Dimma is not the common factor in Richmond’s woes at Marvel.  Whereas, if you ignore last week, St Kilda kinda like Marvel.  This may come down to who comes back into the Richmond side.  If you’re chasing a couple of extra points in your tipping competition, this could be the match to take a risk.  Saint Kilda by 11 points.

Port Adelaide vs Greater Western Sydney           Adelaide Oval   Sunday Twilight

The Giants were travelling well before falling to a rising Sydney.  They have managed to cling onto a spot in the eight, but the three teams knocking behind them have vastly superior percentages so GWS can ill afford to drop a game.  Port Adelaide’s slide continued and is bad enough now that they’ll likely finish fourth, given Brisbane and Melbourne’s smooth run into finals.  I heard some chatter during the week that Port may have had a deal on the table for Ken at the height of their winning streak and it was Hinkley himself that said let’s save it until later.  After dropping four in a row, the Port board have hastily removed the contract and it leaves us wondering if Ken actually wants the job?  If current events are anything to go by, the smart move is to finish up and relax with a Pinot Grigio somewhere on the shores of Lake Geneva and wait for the offers to come knocking!  This is another match that could go either way.  GWS are hard enough at the man/ball that could trouble Port Adelaide, but I think the home ground advantage will be enough to break their fall.  Another match to look at if you need to make up a few points.  Port Adelaide by 18 points.


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