Finals Week 2 Review
Three of the top four sides have made the penultimate week of the season. Unfortunately the Lions are out in straight sets for the second time in three years. It does set up for a cracking Preliminary Final week, but first we have to look back on the two games this weekend.
Fair amount of talk about umpiring on the weekend. Is there room for a bit of "feel" in the decision-making? While it probably opens up a massive can of worms and you'd never get everyone on the same page, there is an argument to suggest the game needs a bit more nuance.
The "letter of the law" brigade should be careful what they wish for - if you umpired to the letter of the law there would be a hell of a lot more free kicks paid, which isn't good for the game. Regardless, the game is incredibly hard to umpire as it stands.
Have to feel for guys like Cody Weightman who will miss a game due to concussion protocol. The gap between the prelim final and grand final will help with anyone facing the same issue this weekend, but it does open the door for some hard luck team selection stories when the concussed player returns. If the Dogs make it, there will be an unlucky player making way for Cody unfortunately
Another expected score "win" for Brisbane. They are 1-5 in their last six finals, but 3-3 on expected score. Things just haven't fallen their way lately.
More and more, finals sides are being exposed by their bottom six to eight players. Melbourne has the most even spread of contributors of any team left, so rightfully they are in the box seat. Port not far behind.
Geelong 103 def GWS 68
Expected score: 103 v 67
We predicted a comfortable Geelong victory, and that's basically what we got. Did Geelong really play that well, though?
Even below their best, they still managed a 35-point victory. The Cats only broke even in the inside 50 count to a team averaging over 60 against them in previous weeks. No surprise to see them lose the clearance count narrowly given it's a specific strength of GWS, but they will need to lift to another level against Melbourne next Friday night.
Importantly, all of their forwards managed to hit the scoreboard or make a solid contribution. 10 goals from their four main forwards, wth Menegola and Isaac Smith chipping in as well. Are they still a quality small forward short this year? Perhaps.
The Giants have been super brave and weren't disgraced by any stretch. The loss of Greene and Hogan pre-game made things incredibly tough given their already blue-collar forward line, and the strength of the defence they were up against. Five marks inside 50 was the same figure they hit in their Round 21 upset. This time they didn't have nearly enough ground level wins up forward to post a competitive total.
Looking at the pressure numbers, it does make you wonder whether the Cats are capable of hitting the kind of consistent 190+ numbers needed to challenge in a Preliminary Final. The Dees' ball movement is so strong that you have to find ways to stop their unbroken chains. Geelong managed only a single quarter above 190 last weekend (196 in Q4). If they don't do it in the first half on Friday night they will need to be super efficient themselves up forward. More in the preview for this weekend.
Demons v Cats the kind of contest we need while still stuck at home in Victoria. Just a shame it's not at the MCG in front of 90,000...
Western Bulldogs 79 def Brisbane 78
Expected score: 71 v 85
This was one for the ages. The Lions threatened to blow the game open a couple of times but the Dogs just hung in there. Ultimately it took one of the best final quarter performances from Bailey Smith to get them over the line.
Considering the Dogs were dominant league-leaders in F50 marks across the home and away season, it was a little surprising they were able to pinch this one with only six marks across four quarters on Saturday night.
Maybe they have just had to adapt a little in the absence of Josh Bruce, as well as Aaron Naughton and Tim English not in the same sort of form as earlier in the year up forward. It's the third week in a row they've posted six F50 marks in a game, one of them being the Round 23 loss to Port Adelaide. The same figure is unlikely to beat Port on Saturday night.
What do we make of Brisbane? Charlie Cameron carried their hopes until Taylor Duryea put the clamps on in the second half. 8 disposals, 1 mark and only a single behind in the final two quarters says it all. With a search party out for Joe Daniher over the same period (3 disposals, 1 mark, no scores) it made things incredibly tough for the best offence of the season to challenge the Bulldogs enough.
They had enough supply - 68 inside 50s to 54. They just didn't look nearly as dangerous as they had in the lead up matches before the finals series, albeit against weaker opponents. Did their favourable run home soften them up a little for a straight sets exit? Potentially missed an angle there.
Clearly the ladder showed these two were so evenly matched. In effect, it was 4th against 4th and an absolute coin flip. Just didn't expect Brisbane to as inefficient as they were going forward. They had the best score & goal per inside 50 percentage in the league this season, then posted two of their lowest totals in the finals series. Not ideal.
Injury issues for the Dogs and a incredible quarantine restriction setup means they will be up against it on Saturday night against a fresh Port Adelaide. But anything can happen...
A full Preliminary Final Preview to drop Thursday night with all the usual features. Can't wait to take a look at both matchups.