Round 23 Review
What a weekend of football. Is it the best two-day finish to the regular season in recent history? (Let's forget Sunday didn't happen). Some incredible results, miracle comebacks and the most entertaining 38-point win you've ever seen. It was the best we could hope for in a terribly compromised season. Hopefully the last time we have to play in front of empty stands with teams displaced from their home states. Bring on 2022.
A bit of controversy around the timekeeping "error" in the Lions v Eagles game. Annual reminder that a wayward centre bounce could cost a team a final, because there is currently no rule to reset the clock in those instances. Even a stuffed up bounce at the start of the quarter doesn't result in the clock going back to 20minutes.
Looks like the week off is going to be moved between the preliminary final and grand final this year. Wonder if this is the preferred format moving forward. Makes a hell of a lot of sense - all the functions in the period in between, extra time for any injuries to heal, no hard luck stories due to mandatory concussion protocols. All for it.
Two finals in Adelaide, two finals in Tassie. Madness! Glad there will be a crowd to see them, at least. But how many will be allowed at Adelaide Oval...?
Grand Final in Perth? If the Dreamtime game is anything to go by, it's the right decision for this year until we can get back to Headquarters.
Who Won The Round?
Melbourne - does that win confirm they've got that intangible spirit and belief, much like the Richmond Premiership sides over the past four years? In a lot of ways they are similar to the Tigers. A core group of A-grade talent, mixed in with a large number of genuine soldiers. Defensively they are rock solid (although the first half against the Cats was concerning), and offensively they at least keep you guessing. Rightful flag favourites in a year where anything could happen.
Who Lost The Round?
Western Bulldogs - Two weeks in a row in this spot. Had Port on the canvas early but failed to capitalise. After kicking the first four goals of the game, they had only 10 scoring shots for the rest of the contest. Very unlike the Bulldogs. Where has their offence gone?
Port Adelaide 66 def Western Bulldogs 64
Expected score: 74 v 54
As we have seen many times before, Port were able to reel in an early lead because the Dogs just couldn't apply enough scoreboard pressure. It's not often you go into the half time break still in with a chance despite kicking only a single goal in two quarters. Port would've felt like they dodged a bullet and confident they could reel in the Dogs in the second half.
As we said in the Preview, it all came down to Port's pressure. A 200+ pressure factor in the final two quarters got the job done. It's clear that the Dogs' ability to deal with serious heat on the ball has dropped off significantly. When forced into the backwards handball, they are super vulnerable.
Port pinched a home final, while the Dogs remarkably missed the double chance after being on top of the ladder in Round 20. Extraordinary.
Richmond 83 drew with Hawthorn 83
Expected score: 90 v 79
We did everything but tip the draw in our preview of this one. It all pointed to an easy Hawthorn victory given the teams and recent form. The Hawks were cruising, and then...
One of the most extraordinary last ten minutes of a game you will ever see. There is always weird stuff that happens in the final round of a season, but this took it to another level. How you could give up a 31-point lead at the 20-minute mark of the final term is just mind-blowing.
The Tigers drop to 12th - anyone have them that low at the start of the season? Probably not. The glass-half full perspective is that's an amazing result for them. If you're going to miss finals, you might as well completely blow it so you've got a good draft spot and a long off-season to regroup and make some changes.
The Hawks are intriguing. Wonder where people will project their finish next season? Could be a side with the biggest range in the competition.
Sydney 136 def Gold Coast 49
Expected score: 115 v 56
The Swans couldn't miss. The Suns made an art form out of it.
Good to see our Player To Watch (Lance Franklin) from the Preview do exactly what we thought he would do. Those sorts of games are absolutely made for Buddy - not a hell of a lot of pressure (166 from the Suns is appalling), and an open contest where the ball is pinging around everywhere. Six goals was probably predictable in the end.
What do we make of the Suns? One of the biggest disappointments of the year? The fact they are still spoken about as a dumping ground for ageing stars basically says it all.
The Swans get the confidence boost ahead of a completely different type of final against the Giants this weekend. Intrigued to see which way it goes.
Brisbane 125 def West Coast 87
Expected score: 117 v 100
This game was WILD. Somehow the Eagles decided to actually try in this one, after turning it up for many weeks prior. They still managed a ~150 pressure rating in the 1st and 3rd quarters, so in some ways they dodged a bullet before it all came crashing down last in the final term.
Did find it funny with the Live Ladder running the whole game, where the broadcaster quickly threw in the Eagles' ladder position when it looked like they were half a chance to pinch the game. No one had considered that option at the start of the day!
Eagles in for a long off-season and perhaps a few more years of pain if something doesn't change quickly.
The Lions have a huge task ahead of them facing the Demons in Adelaide next Saturday. Usually the better defensive sides have troubled Melbourne, rather than the potent offences like Brisbane. Huge matchup.
Melbourne 81 def Geelong 77
Expected score: 69 v 69
What. Just. Happened.
The absolute elation from the Demons faithful is a window into the scenes we might see if they get over the line on September 25. Three games stand in the way of them and their first flag since 1964. Absolutely on the bandwagon to hopefully see it happen.
Melbourne will study their first half heavily this week. They gave up 62 points, the highest scoring first half against them this entire season. Maybe the Cats just played to their top level in that period, and dropped off significantly after that. But it does give you confidence the Dees coaching group has solutions when things aren't going their way, and the players listen.
Big week of finals footy for these two coming up. Probably our top two contenders for the flag at this time.
GWS 89 def Carlton 75
Expected score: 122 v 84
The Giants toyed with the Blues early and nearly paid the price. Strange game to watch, and it gave us a potential angle for this week's preview of the Sydney v GWS final. More on that later this week.
Defence certainly wasn't in high demand in this one, which played into the hands of the Giants. With McKay absent and Charlie Curnow still well underdone, it was left to Charlie's brother to hit the scoreboard. Only Round 23 could throw up Ed Curnow equalling a career-high goal tally at nearly 32 years old.
Probably not the type of performance the Giants fans wanted to see heading into a final, but they got the job done. Massive step up next week against their cross-town rival.
St Kilda 107 def Fremantle 49
Expected score: 84 v 65
The Dockers should have been three goals up early in the contest, yet posted the worst Goal Per Inside 50% of the round. That's probably Fremantle in a nutshell at the moment.
They still did a lot right - managed 15 inside 50s with the wind in the first quarter, won the clearance and contested possession count, defended gamely in their back 50. They just couldn't convert their chances or hit targets consistently enough.
Disappointing year for both teams. Are they nearly level on expectation going into next year? Tough ask trying to pick who might finish higher out of these two in 2022. The Saints blew so many opportunities and should really have made the finals ahead of Essendon, while Fremantle played above themselves at times given their list profile and injury worries throughout the year.
Essendon 102 def Collingwood 64
Expected score: 100 v 71
The Bombers did what they had to do. Ultimately it didn't matter given they knew the result of the Fremantle game before kick-off, so they can be forgiven for playing like they were in self-preservation mode. A 169-167 pressure rating basically confirms that this was pretty bruise-free footy.
The Pies finish 17th, the worst ladder position in their entire history. Thankfully they get pick 2 out of the mess...oh, hang on. No they don't. The Giants would have been doing cartwheels watching Collingwood fail and the Crows winning against North shortly after. To add insult to injury, watch GWS bid on Nick Daicos with a pick traded to them by the Pies. Couldn't have scripted it.
The Bombers get their best chance of knocking off the flat Bulldogs next Sunday. Their mids can compete with an out-of-form Dogs brigade, and they at least have Peter Wright in good enough form to stretch their defence. Interesting matchup. Can't wait for the preview.
Adelaide 98 def North Melbourne 54
Expected score: 127 v 65
Check out that expected score. This became a terrible showcase of our game, with the skill level from these two at a pre-season sort of level. But it was great to see some retiring club favourites hit the scoreboard (the celebrations from McKay and Lynch were worth watching) and a couple of youngsters get a taste of senior footy.
Both of these two are clearly in list transition mode. Wonder who will emerge from the bottom four first...
A huge Finals Week 1 Preview, landing on Thursday night. Some unbelievable matchups in some interesting venues, in front of hopefully a pretty full crowd. Cannot wait.