Mick’s Picks: Finals Week One

Mick Malthouse: Finals Week One Preview

Mick Malthouse has joined the William Hill team in 2017 and Mick’s Picks will be a weekly article throughout the season.

After a long season invariably there are injury clouds over players when September rolls around. Even despite the bye there is no shortage of questions around key players including Rory Sloane, Daniel Talia, Taylor Walker, Joel Selwood, Orazio Fantasia, Dan Hannebery and more.

My philosophy around injuries in finals was that I would never pick a player who had a muscle injury because the risk of re-injury is too great. If a player can get a jab to get through a game but won’t risk long term damage, that’s a different story.

My philosophy on picking players with injuries was that you need to firstly get the medical staff to clear them, second of all they have to be confident themselves that they can get through a game, and finally as a coach, you must take full responsibility for the decision. It is no excuse whatsoever for a player to play injured, if you have misread the situation. That is a lot of responsibility but that is what coaching about this level is about.

If you have one nagging doubt that a player can’t play 120 minutes of high pressure, finals football, you simply shouldn’t pick them.

Finals Week One Tips

(Time AEST)
Mick’s Pick
Adelaide v GWS (Thurs 19:50) GWS WIN ($2.65)
Geelong v Richmond (Fri 19:50) Richmond WIN ($2.10)
Sydney v Essendon (Sat 16:20) Sydney 1-39 ($2.10)
Port Adelaide v West Coast (Sat 19:50) Port Adelaide 1-39 ($2.05)

Adelaide v GWS Giants

Adelaide has genuine queries over Rory Sloane, Daniel Talia and Taylor Walker with the last two having missed two weeks of football given the bye. This combined with two losses in their last two games means that there are big question marks against the Crows.

I’ve been on the record this week saying that GWS need to drop Steve Johnson. He has been a great player but with such a tall forward line, the Giants need their small players to generate as much pressure as possible and Stevie simply doesn’t do that. This game will be won in large part by the Giants ability, or otherwise, to stop Adelaide running the ball out of the backline.

The Giants strength is their midfield, and this is where they can exploit Adelaide. While the Crows can win large numbers of possessions, they do not defend well through the middle of the ground.

The form of both teams going into this game is patchy, and both coaches will have been far from pleased with some of their recent performances. With the cloud over the Adelaide stars I am predicting the Giants to win in an upset.

Mick’s Pick: GWS WIN ($2.65)

Richmond v Geelong

This is a home game for Richmond, despite finishing third, and with a crowd of 98,000 expected the atmosphere will be electric and right behind the Tigers. However, the Cats will be confident going into this game having won 13 straight against the yellow and black, most recently in round 21.

Joel Selwood looks like returning for the Cats which is an important psychological boost as much as anything else, while the Tigers medical room is all but empty.

You have to be able to defend well to win finals and that is something Richmond do exceptionally well, having finished third in points conceded this season. They also have a fantastic record on the MCG this year, having won ten and lost only two games at the home of football.

Geelong has a questionable record in finals of late and the problems that saw them bounced from straight sets last year still exist. They are overly reliant on Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield to carry the team and I think the edge lies with Richmond because if Jacob Townsend can maintain his form they will have enough scoring power to get over the line.

Mick’s Pick: Richmond WIN ($2.10)

Sydney v Essendon

The last time these two sides met the result was a one point victory for the Swans when they came back from an almost impossible position with three minutes left to win after the siren. While Sydney is expected by most to win this easily, I think the Bombers will throw everything at them and can keep it competitive. I expect Michael Hurley, Orazio Fantasia and Cale Hooker to all line up for the Dons.

Much has been made of the challenge ahead of Sydney to win four games in a row, but they need to be careful to take each week as it comes and not get ahead of themselves. They have been remarkably consistent in the second half of the season, and while the bye is said to favour the teams from outside the top four I am sure in present form they would have been more than happy to play last weekend.

The Swans have a dilemma whether to pick Kurt Tippett or not. Essendon’s strength is their talls and they need to make sure they get that decision right. I’m expecting the Swans to win but I believe it will be closer than many think.

Mick’s Pick: Sydney 1-39 ($2.10)

Port Adelaide v West Coast

West Coast have won two of their last three against Port Adelaide and five of their six matches at Adelaide Oval so they will be confident going into this game, particularly off the back of a great win against Adelaide to seal their finals berth.

Port has spent this season as flat track bullies, as shown by their terrible record against Top 8 teams. They will be anxious to disprove this record by at very least taking a scalp in the finals.

The most recent clash between these two sides was in round 16 at Domain Stadium. Port led early in the first quarter by four goals before the Eagles got going late in the first quarter to find themselves in front by 23 points in the shade of half time. The Power dominated the second half though to win easily.

What that game tells me is that these teams are fairly even with mental application likely to make the difference. The Eagles have plenty of experienced finals players and although Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell are on the verge of retirement, they could have one last big effort in them yet. I think the Power will get home in a nail biter.

Mick’s Pick: Port Adelaide 1-39 ($2.05)

The Wolf’s AFL Tips: Finals Week 1