Finals Week 2 Preview
Updated: Oct 9
After going 3/4 last week, we head into Week 2 with a bit of confidence. But the missing leg was the Tigers game - was their ability and form a little overestimated? They're back this week, so it's another chance to see whether we can get it right this time against an impressive Saints side with a lot of momentum...
An interesting point, this will be the first finals week with two games at neutral venues. No fired-up crowds to influence the contest (you'd expect interstate supporters of each team to turn up in force, but it will be a vastly different vibe than last weekend's home crowds), so in theory we get a pretty even playing field.
And usually this week throws up the classic scenario of the first round losers being misrepresented, purely because they lost and their opponent is coming off a victory. Given all that we know about how this season has played out, it would be a brave person to dismiss Richmond or Geelong off the back of losing a close one to the top two sides...
Let's take a look at the two games and see what we can find.
Richmond v St Kilda
So the narrative from the Tigers first final: they were hurt by ill-discipline, along with a period of the game where they had momentum and plenty of time in their forward half yet failed to capitalise. In the regular season this usually presents a good opportunity to see them bounce back the following week, depending on their opponent.
This might be a similar opportunity.
The betting odds on this game are quite intriguing - usually we steer clear of any real betting insights, but even for non-punters it can be handy to check the market's opinion of a match. The line is set at -20.5 for Richmond at the moment, so the general consensus is a 20/21 point win to the Tigers.
At first glance that seems like a fairly large head start. But their last four wins have all been above that margin, and two of them against teams arguably superior to the Saints (Geelong & West Coast). They've got a habit of keeping things under control and then out-grinding opponents until they come out on top, and can score quickly when they are.
Could the Tigers hit the scoreboard early and cause the Saints to drop their heads?
The Saints victory in Round 4 is certainly evidence they can cause the upset. Of course in footy terms that was light years ago. Way back then St Kilda beat them with speed, and they basically have to do the exact same thing again.
The personnel hasn't changed much since that time - Ryder didn't play in Round 4, and only a few differences between the teams this weekend, mainly to the fringe players. Finals footy is a whole different ball game, and the experience of the Tigers matters a fair bit here.
The loss of Ryder, while not catastrophic when playing a team like Richmond, turns one of their real strengths in the matchup into a weakness - it leaves them unable to really hammer home any centre bounce advantage with the Ryder/Marshall combination, and the inability to test the Richmond talls down back. The second ruckman's ability to draw the ball like they've done so many times before, and leave Max King with potentially a better matchup, has been a real weapon for them this season.
Marshall has been crying out to be the lone ruckman since Ryder returned to the side. Usually in that situation the extra responsibility makes them flourish, so a finals breakout game from Marshall that terrorises the Tigers isn't totally out of the question.
Against the Bulldogs, the Saints won last weekend with some slick ball movement from the back half. They are unlikely to get it as easily here. The other thing they might encounter is a hell of a lot more pressure through the middle than they've been used to lately. Expect the Tigers to dial it right up in this one with everything at stake.
In comes Tom Lynch, a fair upgrade from Mabior Chol (who has been very good but below his best last week). Remembering that St Kilda sat bottom four in conceding forward 50 marks this season - with the likes of Lynch, Riewoldt and Martin up forward, St Kilda would need to match their 9 intercept marks down back to be any chance of containing them. Fair to say Richmond's forward line has a little more potency than the Bulldogs, especially with their talls.
Richmond to get the job done. Margin up for debate, for sure.
Pick: Richmond by 23
Geelong v Collingwood
Seriously gutsy win by the Pies last weekend, helped perhaps by those two goals in the final quarter that would probably be a 30% chance (at best) of finding their way through the big sticks.
Two days earlier, Geelong just fell short in an arm wrestle and have been either written off or a little forgotten since.
No teams just yet (will update when they come through). Does Selwood play? How? Do the Cats need another tall up forward? Will the Pies bring Phillips back? Interesting to see what happens at the selection table.
One big deciding factor will be whoever can capitalise through the middle when they win the ball back. Collingwood were the second best team at the midfield turnover differential, but clearly had their issues hitting the scoreboard afterwards. Geelong were the other way around - 7th in the turnover differential but jump to 3rd at making the most of it by actually scoring. Fascinating to see how this pans out.
We've been positive about Collingwood all season, and they are the exact team Geelong would least like to face in a semi final. Unpredictable forward line, ultra-competitive midfield, and a defence that are seriously well-equipped to get the job done. Hawkins may have to shoulder the load again, so unless he gets off the chain then they are set to keep them to a low score (in theory).
How gassed will Collingwood be after that game in Perth? Shorter break than the Cats, a pretty slick game on a fast surface, trying to play fast again a week later. That's the only query.
For Geelong, they desperately need a more even performance this time around. Otherwise it's Hawkins, Dangerfield or bust. Can the other mids lift? Or more importantly, the other forwards? Who is going to emerge and kick two or three if it's not their Coleman Medalist?
Super close call, here. The Cats could have won on a hostile deck against the minor Premier last week with a bit of luck, so we can't forget they have performed better than Collingwood all year. The Pies are peaking at the right time - can they find another level again? They definitely have the weapons to do it.
Pick: Geelong by 4
Finals Week 2 Burning Question:
Why are we still talking about the bounce?
Just so bloody strange that footy issues aren't broken down to remove "tradition" or "my opinion" and simplified to the exact issue. The centre bounce is the perfect example.
What's the aim of the bounce? To restart (or start) the game by getting the ball to go up in the air and allow a fair contest between the two ruckmen. There was no tradition talk when the rule of allowing bounces to be recalled was introduced. So why is tradition getting in the way of the obvious?
Why add a ridiculous layer of complexity to what is simply a way to get the game going again? If the aim is to get the ball upwards, what's the bloody point of trying to bounce an oval ball on a grass surface in order to achieve it?
And let's not get started on the clock time that is wasted when a bounce is recalled. If it costs someone a final there will be HELL to pay. And an immediate rule/timekeeping change.
If you really want, start the game with the bounce for "tradition" sake. And then throw the bloody thing up.