Round 23 AFL Preview

Last Week 6/9     Season Total 132/189

Like many people on Saturday, I sat down and watched the Matilda’s pulsating penalty shootout to reach the Semi Finals before I settled in to watch the Carlton v Melbourne match.  What a conundrum this put the AFL in.  Great as it was for them to put it on the big screen at the MCG, to then cut that coverage during a cut-throat and tense Extra Time with a penalty shootout looming left many sports fans in general a bit miffed.  The AFL was torn between showing an historic event that all of Australia were getting behind and showcasing a rival sport that they would happily stab in the kidneys and steal their wallet if they could.  For the World Cup Soccer, it was scintillating viewing.  I was literally on the edge of my seat and even slipped off the couch at one stage.  But, if there is a better way to resolve a stalemate than a penalty shootout, they should probably look into it.  It seems a bit tough to run around for 120 minutes and then basically flip a coin.  I write this earlier in the week and submit it on Wednesday so at the time of writing, I don’t know if Australia are through to the final but at the time of reading, you will know.  If Australia do get through, luckily the match will not clash with any AFL matches so any embarrassing transmission cuts can be avoided.

There’s even been some talk about declaring a public holiday if the Matilda’s win.  Albanese channeling a bit of Bob Hawke there in an attempt to win some status points.  Given we didn’t actually have one for the Americas Cup, I’m pretty sure we won’t have one for the Matilda’s.  Where would it end?  Having a public holiday for any team that achieves something they haven’t for a while.  Public Holiday when Saint Kilda wins a flag perhaps?  Apparently, it is a state decision though, which may be reserved for an exceptional circumstance only.  It’s my understanding that Western Australia intends to declare a public holiday should West Coast finish 17th.  But maybe a public holiday isn’t such a bad idea.  Maybe we’re not getting enough?  Australia are way down the list when it comes to the number of public holidays we have (10 – 13 depending on state).  Nepal has the most at 35 public holidays, so it seems they have fully embraced the 4-day work week.  Even Japan, often referred to for its workaholic culture, has more public holidays than Australia, although everyone chooses to work on those days.  More to the point is that one of Japan’s public holidays is “Sports Day.”  This is what I propose we do in Australia.  Take a day to think about and remember all the great sporting achievements past and present, from retaining the Ashes to little Sally’s first Auskick goal.  I propose that this be a personal holiday, in which you can take it any time during the year on a day when you’re feeling a little too hungover to be productive.  Keystrokes will not be logged on that day.  Geez, add this to the six stadiums in Alice Springs and my political platform is growing!

With all this talk of the World Cup though, lets spare a thought for the greatest game in the world, Australian Rules Football.  It’s the greatest sport because it’s the only sport (that I know of) that is played on an oval shaped field where teams scoring zones are at opposite ends.  What this means is that if you want to get the ball out of defence, you get to move it from the narrow to the widest part of the ground where there is plenty of space so going from defence to the neutral area is easy.  Then, when you want to go into attack, the ground narrows and there’s very little space to work in which makes this a very hard thing to do.  How deliciously dastardly!

What about this week’s matches?

Collingwood vs Brisbane              Marvel Stadium               Friday Night

The Pies finish the season with three Friday night blockbusters, and this is the second of those.  A return to form last week saw them overcome the Cats, overcome a lack of Moore, overcome only having half of the required number of Daicii, and overcoming umpires not understanding what a boundary line is.  In the meantime, Brisbane had their second “just snuck it in” by defeating Adelaide at the Gabba by a single goal.  Looking at the last 3 to 4 weeks of both of these teams and you would be unconvinced that any of these teams could win this.  A win here for Collingwood secures top spot and an obscure trophy for the cabinet (or is it a plaque on a wall?).  A win for Brisbane though and they might be able to etch their name instead.  But what is first worth compared to second?  Nothing, as we established last week.  So, while it seems like an important match, it is not, aside from finding/maintaining form.  If the game was at the MCG, you would use a pen to write Collingwood, but this is at Marvel which the two teams have only played three times at.  The last time was a 1-point thriller in favour of Brisbane.  But for Collingwood, Brisbane is one of only two teams they are on the wrong side of the Win Loss record in total (the other is West Coast).  Can they cover the loss of Moore and Daicos two weeks in a row?  I think so.  Collingwood by 10 points.

Richmond vs North Melbourne MCG      Saturday Afternoon

For some teams the season was still alive last week, albeit just.  Richmond was one of those and this week they are done.  This means that they go into this weekend with some freedom from mounting pressure, and they have two games to try and give Trent Cotchin and Jack Riewoldt a winning send off.  It can be sad when club champions retire but I think Jack may have been spending the last couple of years auditioning on various TV programs for a media gig.  North Melbourne themselves sent off Ben Cunnington last week so will understand the scenario ahead of the Tigers.  While North have been more competitive in recent weeks, you just can’t tip them.  Richmond by 27 points.

Gold Coast vs Carlton    Carrara Saturday Afternoon

The Suns looked like world beaters when they took down Brisbane a couple of weeks ago.  Now, after a couple of poor showings they look like a typical 15th spot on the ladder team.  What can I say about Carlton?  Last week I said that if they won this week then I would stop prattling on about how the fixture is making them look good.  They were outstanding against Melbourne.  This was a match that had a real finals vibe with immense pressure and herculean efforts required.  The finish was almost as exciting as the penalty shootout.  Had the goal umpire made the correct soft call then I’d be piling on Carlton, but they are certainties to be playing finals now so, “All Aboard the Finals Express, direct to the Grand Final.”  I’ve got my ticket and my seat and am waiting for the conductor to punch it.  Or punch me…I’d rather be unconscious!  To this game though and it won’t be a walk over victory for Carlton.  Gold Coast have shown that their best is pretty good and while Carlton have been full of contested stats, so too have Gold Coast.  A sunny day at Carrara will allow for nice twilight footy and perhaps a bit of greasy dew in the twilight of the last quarter and it’s a ground that they have a favourable record against the Blues on.  Time for Gold Coast to show Hardwick what he has to work with, but nothing can stop the Carlton Train now…not even a lawn-eating Batman and squirrel-gripping Robin.  Carlton by 15 points.

Greater Western Sydney vs Essendon   GIANTS Stadium              Saturday Twilight

Essendon are fast slipping out of contention for a finals spot, although they do sit just above GWS.  A classic purgatory match with the loser likely to finish 9th which is the worst of all spots.  Essendon have had two wins the last two weeks but shaky wins they were, just scraping past the bottom two sides.  GWS were beating all-comers until all-comers were suddenly pretty good.  At home for the Giants against an Essendon who look a bit underdone…GWS by 33 points.

Saint Kilda vs Geelong  Marvel Stadium               Saturday Night

This is going to be a tough match to pick.  Saint Kilda have performed better in recent weeks although this has been against lesser opponents.  Geelong has a bit of desperation about them as the season looks like its slipping away.  Jeremy Cameron returned to form, kicking 5 great goals from within the field of play, one goal from the Haydn Bunton Sports Bar and one goal from the 11th green at Albert Park Golf Course.  If Geelong lose this one, they can kiss finals goodbye but with their final game at Kardinia Park they would fancy a win here to see them safely into the lower part of the eight when last measurements are taken.  Saint Kilda also probably need to secure a win from their last two starts and with their last match being against Brisbane at the Gabba, this is one they need to win.  Have a punt each way perhaps?  Geelong by 22 points.

Adelaide vs Sydney        Adelaide Oval   Saturday Night

Hands down Adelaide is the best team not currently in the eight.  In fact, my statistical leviathan has them as the 4th best team overall.  If only they could win away from home.  Sydney have improved immensely as the season has worn on and can lock away a top 4 spot with a win here…maybe…I don’t know.  The ladder predictor has been working overtime.  As strange as it sounds, when you look at the ladder there’s 5 rungs between these teams but at home, you can’t go past Adelaide.  This match will only serve to heighten the tension that Round 24 will bring.  Adelaide by 28 points.

Footscray vs West Coast               Marvel Stadium               Sunday Afternoon

Statistically the Western Bulldogs are the 6th best side in the competition.  But alphabetically, they are the lowest ranked team so that’s a bit of a mystery.  It’s music to West Coast’s ears as at least they can say they are ranked higher than someone in something!  Last week was a bit of a disaster for both of these sides.  Footscray let slip a match that, for a while at least, they seemed to be in control of.  Was this West Coast’s lowest ebb?  Do they have any lower they can fall?  Nic Nat doesn’t have another pre-season in him, and he will bow out with the incredible distinction of being the only player ever suspended for being bigger and heavier than his opponent.  At least he keeps the one-retirement-per-week average up.  A 100-point drubbing at the hands of the mortal enemy will not sit well with supporters and powermongers alike.  Those heads not already rolling will roll as soon as the press conference is done after round 24.  Can West Coast take past momentum at Marvel into a match against the Mutts?  There will be some fight after last week’s insipid display, but maybe not enough to overcome a team clinging to the eight.  Footscray by 20 points.  Tim English to never take a kick-in again.

Melbourne vs Hawthorn              MCG      Sunday Afternoon

I listened with a bit of gob-smackedness to the post-match interviews when Caleb Marchbank may have indicated that he didn’t really touch it.  And so, with one soft call by a goal umpire, Melbourne may be travelling in the first week of finals.  One thing is for sure, you wouldn’t want Marchbank testifying in a court of law.  Hawthorn strung a second win on top of their last to get a Giant-Killer reputation in the latter stages of the season.  A real danger game for Melbourne, but if they are serious about this finals stuff, they’ll dispatch the Hawks.  Melbourne by 27 points.

Fremantle vs Port Adelaide        Perth Stadium   Sunday Twilight

When you beat your cross-town rivals twice in a year, you have a lot of reasons to smile.  Obviously, I’m not talking about Port Adelaide there.  Fremantle had a huge win which included a 14-consecutive-goal run while dodging some yellow and blue witches’ hats.  That impromptu training session has them in cherry ripe condition for Port Adelaide.  The Power found some of that previous form that seemed to desert them in recent weeks, but we can always be skeptical when it’s at home.  The big news at Alberton Oval is that Kochie has put the knives away and confirmed Hinkley for a few more years.  He’ll be steering the ship while first officer Josh Carr learns the ropes until Ken can take a back seat while Josh drives.  It’s not a succession though.  Another tricky one to pick but we’ll go with Port Adelaide by 18 points.


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