Mick’s Picks: Preliminary Finals

Mick Malthouse: Preliminary Finals

The first semi-final last week was a surprise to everyone – even though the Cats have shown the ability to rebound throughout the year, I doubt even in their wildest dreams they would have thought they would win by ten goals.

Sydney came off a game where they systematically destroyed Essendon in a manner that suggested they were going to be hard to beat right through September, but from the first bounce of the ball last week the Cats were all over them.

The decision to play Patrick Dangerfield forward paid big dividends, but it was Geelong’s ability to neutralise Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker through the middle of the ground that allowed them to keep him forward.

The other semi came down to the question of whether West Coast could maintain their intensity two weeks in a row away from home. As a former coach of the Eagles I have had teams that have been able to front up, two, three or four weeks in a row on the road but the game was effectively over after ten minutes once the Giants got their run going and the Eagles couldn’t go with them.

Jeremy Cameron is obviously a big loss for the Giants from a talent point of view, but tactically his absence may benefit the Giants as they moved the ball much better with a smaller side.

Looking ahead to this week, the big question is just how impressive were the semi-final winners, given both of their opponents were extremely poor on the day.

Preliminary Finals Tips

(Time AEST)
Mick’s Pick
Adelaide v Geelong (Fri 19:50) Geelong +18.5 ($1.91)
Richmond v GWS (Sat 16:45) Richmond -9.5 ($1.91)

Adelaide v Geelong

This game promises to be a fascinating tactical affair. Both teams match up reasonably well against each other in the forward line and back line so the game will likely be decided in the middle.

Geelong successfully tagged both Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker last week – the big question is whether Chris Scott opts for these tactics once again. It was the nullification of Parker and Kennedy by Mark Blicavs and Scott Selwood that allowed Dangerfield to stay forward where he caused panic for the Swans. Rory Sloane is almost certain to get tagged after he struggled against those tactics at times earlier this season, while either of the Crouch brothers is a candidate as well.

Adelaide, too have a decision to make as to whether they tag Patrick Dangerfield. Danger will spend time deep forward as well – Chris Scott will likely move him wherever he feels he needs to get on top as the match progresses. Sydney was thrown last week by the decision to start him deep forward but Don Pyke will have a plan devised both for when Dangerfield is forward and when he is playing on the ball.

Geelong has reason to feel encouraged about some of the match ups around the ground. Zach Tuohy has a great record against his old teammate Eddie Betts, and the Cats have good depth in key defenders to match up against the Adelaide tall forwards – Tom Lonergan will come back in to play on Taylor Walker, Lachie Henderson has been in good form and Harry Taylor provides an X-factor as he can go either forward or back.  For mine, Adelaide’s Tom Lynch is one of the most underrated players in the competition and the Cats will need to be careful not to let him get under their guard.

This game could be won or lost in the coaches’ box. What Don Pyke does about Dangerfield, which players the Cats elect to tag and when, as well as whether Harry Taylor goes back or forward will play an enormous role in the outcome. Pyke has options of his own – it wouldn’t shock to see Eddie Betts go through the midfield at time where his pace and nous could trouble Geelong, particularly if Tuohy is getting the better of that match up.

I can see this game going down to the wire so for that reason, the Cats with the three goal start have plenty of appeal.

Mick’s Pick: Geelong +18.5 ($1.91)

Richmond v GWS

This game is going to come down to who can handle the pressure of the big stage – and each side has unique challenges. The hype around Richmond is enormous, and the Tigers have been on the front page of every newspaper for the last fortnight. On the other hand, the Giants have to play against a crowd of eighty or ninety thousand rabid Tigers fans, which is something many of their young players will never have experienced.

GWS have been forced by necessity – injuries to Jeremy Cameron and Shane Mumford – to go with a smaller team but last week against the Eagles it worked well for them. They will likely have to go even smaller against the Tigers as Jack Riewoldt plays a lone hand as a tall forward for the Tigers.

The Giants face a very different opponent compared to last week. The game against the Eagles was over after ten minutes, as the Giants were able to run all over them. Richmond is a much tougher test. They suffocated the life out of Geelong in the qualifying final with their manic pressure, and they will be looking to do the same to the Giants.

The Tigers are exceptionally good at keeping the ball inside 50 once it gets down there. However, the Giants will like the fact that dry weather is forecast as their running game, highlighted by players like Tom Scully and Devon Smith, will give them a chance to break through the Tiger wall.

Unlike the other preliminary final, I don’t expect hard tagging to play a role in this game. Both teams will back themselves to go head to head through the middle and there is no shortage of talent on either side.

The Giants forward line might be where the game is decided. I expect David Astbury to play on Jonathon Patton, which will free up Alex Rance to possibly play on Toby Greene. If Rance can have a dominant night it will go a long way towards winning the game for the Tigers, as the Giants will find it very difficult to score. Steve Johnson’s lack of defensive pressure will be a major advantage for the Tigers and whoever plays on him, likely Nick Vlastuin or Dylan Grimes, will be given instructions to run off him and set up as much play as possible coming out of defence.

If Richmond brings the same pressure as they did against Geelong, and their backline plays to their capacity, I don’t see how the Giants can score enough to win.

Mick’s Pick: Richmond -9.5 ($1.91)

The Wolf’s AFL Tips: Preliminary Finals

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