Mick Malthouse: Finals Overview
Mick Malthouse has joined the William Hill team in 2017 and Mick’s Picks will be a weekly article throughout the season.
The season came down to the last five minutes before we knew who would be in the Final 8. The only thing predictable about this season was its unpredictability, and Melbourne will be rueing letting the finals slip away from them. In the end the Eagles ‘did a Bradbury’ to come in and make the finals.
Adelaide has been the best side all year but is going into the finals series off the back of two losses. The prospect of back to back home finals at the Adelaide Oval has seen them installed as flag favourites, but it is important to note they have lose three games at home, to Melbourne, Hawthorn and Sydney so they are far from unbeatable. They have injury clouds over Rory Sloane, coming back from appendicitis as well as Taylor Walker and Daniel Talia who will not have played for two weeks before their first final.
Geelong would have loved to play GWS at home again – instead they have a much tougher ask against Richmond at the MCG. They have managed to win that last game without Joel Selwood but bringing him back for the first round of the finals would be some kind of risk. It’s impossible to overstate just how important it is for the Cats to win this first final. If they lose, they in all likelihood face Sydney in the second week of the finals, and they got bounced out of the finals by the Swans last year.
The Tigers are in ripping form and will fancy themselves to beat Geelong on Friday night at the MCG in a game that will attract a huge crowd. The Tigers have a sense of timing about them this year. They have brought Jacob Townsend in the side after playing all season in the VFL and he has kicked 11 goals in two games. Even if he doesn’t kick a bag of goals he changes the dynamic of their forward line for the better and the opposition have to account for him. They will also be supremely confident about playing at the MCG; the Tigers have lost just two of twelve games played at the home of football all season, by a total margin of 11 points.
GWS will be delighted that they don’t have to travel to Geelong for the first week of the finals. Their record against the Cats – just the one win from eight attempts – is poor and they came up well short against them just last week. However, they get to play an Adelaide side with questions marks of its own and they are a much better match up for the Crows. They can get into a shoot-out with them and have the scoring power to be competitive. Even if they lose in the first week they would go in very confident against the winner of Port Adelaide v West Coast in the Semis.
Port have struggled all year against top 8 teams with just the two victories all year, those coming against West Coast away (they lost to them at home) and against Sydney in round one. If they get through the first week they will come up against the loser of Adelaide and GWS. They would probably feel more confident against the Crows on a neutral deck but having been thumped by them just four weeks ago it is hard to make a case for them in that potential match up. GWS accounted for them comfortably with a depleted side so it is difficult to see them making it beyond the second week no matter what happens.
The Swans have been ticking over beautifully of late. Their midfield is superb with youngsters like Callum Mills and Isaac Heeney really stepping up, Lance Franklin is his usual unstoppable self and their defence has been rock solid, even though it doesn’t have any big names down there. They have a big task ahead of them though to win four straight matches which is what they will have to do to win the flag. That task is made somewhat easier by the week off which will help freshen up some of the older bodies there. They have beaten all of the top four teams away from home this season so they will not fear anyone.
The Bombers are unpredictable. Their best football is very, very good and Joe Daniher can be nigh on unstoppable on his day. They are a young side and it has been a great season for them but it is a massive mountain to climb for them to beat Sydney away before you even start to think about winning another three games to win a premiership.
The Eagles were fortunate to make the finals as we all know, but to their credit they put in one of their best performances of the season when it mattered most. They have been dreadful in Melbourne this year but they seem to have an affinity with Adelaide Oval where they have won five out of six matches. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them be very competitive with or even beat Port Adelaide but realistically that is as far as they will go.