Round 22 Review
It looked like a favourites week, outside of GWS somehow going into Friday night as underdogs. Two major upsets with huge ramifications on the finals - the Dogs put in a shocker, while the Eagles were finally bullied by their younger brother. Remind us again why we keep picking West Coast?
Some people love the idea of a team in Tasmania. Could the timing be any worse, though? Fancy talking about a new (or relocated) team at a time when the league is facing its biggest challenge financially in its history, through no fault of their own.
All the talk about the bottom two teams in the finals series being super weak might be premature - if the Giants and Bombers make it, they would be in good enough form to cause trouble. Particularly the Giants. Unlikely, but could they be the team that gets to a preliminary final from outside the top four?
Tom Stewart's injury is a huge blow to Geelong. Can they win it without him? Mark Blicavs becomes the trump card yet again...
The week off before the finals series looks like disappearing. Great decision, hopefully not just for this year. A gap between the prelim and Grand Finals makes a bit of sense on a number of fronts. Would that continue in 2022?
With no week off before the finals, get ready for a few players being "managed" this week. Although with the top four all playing each other and the Lions needing a win to give them a hope of a double chance, it might be tricky for the good sides to rest one or more of their stars...
Who Won The Round?
GWS - Clinical against Richmond, building a game style that will definitely stack up in the finals. With Sam Taylor in outstanding form and the midfield absolutely flying, the Giants could do anything in the finals series.
Who Lost The Round?
The Bulldogs - Maybe the loss they had to have. Not the ideal time to hit a flat spot though. More on that in the summary below. What happened?
GWS 106 def Richmond 67
Expected score: 94 v 70
Happy to pick this one. The Tigers looked vulnerable, with many still believing they were in good enough form just to win. The Giants were in far better form and obliterated Richmond in the first half. Some of the best footy they have played all year.
Last week they beat Geelong at ground level. This time they found 15 marks inside 50 and posted their second-highest total for the season. Winning different ways, a balance between stoppage scores and turnover scores, and a hard edge to their midfield. This is a dangerous side if they make the finals.
Hawthorn 64 def Western Bulldogs 37
Expected score: 70 v 52
What the f#$k just happened? We would defy anyone to have predicted the Dogs to post a season-low total of 37 against the Hawks. Hawthorn had conceded 8 consecutive scores of 70+ until this round, then magically held the Dogs to nearly half that figure. Incredible.
The 190+ pressure figure from the Hawks tells the story. Are the Dogs (like most sides, admittedly) really vulnerable in that type of pressured scrap? They might be used to having the game on their terms so much that anything resembling a bit more of a battle tends to shock them. A deeper look suggests they probably just weren't up for the fight in this one - classic case of a team waiting for the finals series to start.
Port Adelaide 140 def Carlton 45
Expected score: 134 v 79
We wrote our preview before Carlton lost even more soldiers on Friday and Saturday. Under that setup and the team they had on the field it was no wonder they were destroyed by a Port Adelaide side that loves beating up on weaker opposition.
The Blues actually started strongly - was it Port taking them lightly or Carlton just playing their usual one-quarter burst right from the opening bounce? Probably a bit of both. Not much else to say here. Port building OK but wary of a soft game before a difficult match this weekend. Blues cactus.
Geelong 85 def St Kilda 71
Expected score: 75 v 57
There used to be an alarming statistic going around a few years ago that went something like this: If a team goes down by 30+ points at ANY stage in a game, the historical win rate from that position is about 6%.
After conceding the first five goals, the Cats were staring down that barrel. But did anyone doubt they could peg it back? Not many...
Once again St Kilda lost a game after being in a commanding position. Convinced they are an absolute enigma - too good than their ladder position suggests, but so bad they deserve their spot. Strange side. Only 21 inside 50s after quarter time made things incredibly difficult for them, so perhaps their first quarter was just a bit of a fluke.
Brisbane 142 def Collingwood 57
Expected score: 115 v 71
Interesting expected score here. The Lions shot the lights out, so this game might end up a bit of a trap for those following the Brisbane's formline in Week 1 of the finals series.
The preview hinted that the Pies had probably run out of energy in the back end of the season. Their win over West Coast was the anomaly - easy to win when one sides basically doesn't try and you get to play with a fair amount of freedom.
Could make a case that Brisbane aren't playing as well as five other sides in the top eight. Are they vulnerable, or just another team who has been waiting for the real stuff to start. With a top four spot a slim chance still, they arguably start their finals campaign a week early.
Sydney 91 def North Melbourne 77
Expected score: 85 v 67
Another honourable loss for North Melbourne, another unconvincing win for Sydney. Not much else in this one, other than the interesting 9 goal to 5 second half from the Roos. Are the Swans super vulnerable in defence? Going into a finals series against a couple of teams with serious momentum (GWS in particular) could see them bow out in week 1. Would it be a wasted season? Or considering many had them missing the finals altogether, could it be considered a good stepping stone for 2022?
Melbourne 104 def Adelaide 63
Expected score: 97 v 63
Standard sort of win for Melbourne. Two scores of 100+ in the last three weeks against weak opposition. Can they post a similar total in a final? They might not need to, given their defence has held together so well over the entire year.
Confident they have the right form going into an interesting game against Geelong. Do they show all their cards knowing they are half a chance to face them a week later? With a top four spot locked up, what is the incentive? Might just be avoiding an Adelaide Oval contest against Port if they drop their Round 23 game.
Not much to say about the Crows. 17th place is no real surprise. Six wins probably about par on expectations.
Essendon 98 def Gold Coast 30
Expected score: 101 v 40
All too easy for Essendon. The Suns are still on the podium for most disappointing team of the season, surely. Essendon have probably overperformed given their injury list and holes at either end, so it will be fascinating to see them in a final if they manage to make it.
The Suns took a grand total of three marks inside 50 for the day. The second-lowest total of any side this season (somehow the Crows have taken 2 marks inside 50 in two seperate games). That's very hard to do. And even harder against a Bombers side not exactly flush with star defenders. 16 marks to Essendon up the other end. Game over.
Fremantle 79 def West Coast 64
Expected score: 64 v 70
For once, the Eagles ended up on the wrong side of the expected score ledger. After being saved by their accuracy for most of this season, they failed to do it when their season was on the line.
If the Eagles take stats on missed tackles it would make for painful reading. The Dockers just walked through their tackling pressure for most of the first half, creating a gap on the scoreboard that proved too great for the Eagles to reel in. They just can't win games when their choose when to defend - a 226 pressure factor in the final term when things got desperate was too little too late.
Fremantle will be super dangerous next season. Shades of the 2020 Swans (albeit with a different game style). The Eagles might go down further before they come back up.
The last round of the year, with a bumper Saturday of crucial games to shape the finals series. Can't wait to get stuck into the preview. Out Thursday night.