Take the Tipp on the cost of living

100 dollar notes

A furore has erupted over Sydney’s salary cap concessions after the reigning premier announced the signing of key Crows forward Kurt Tippett.

Representatives of Hawthorn, Brisbane and Adelaide have all questioned the additional 9.8% increase afforded the Swans in their salary cap for the increased cost of living allowance.

While it seems that a major factor in Tippet leaving Adelaide was the desire to leave the pressured existence of an AFL player in a footy-centric city, Adelaide president Rob Chapman lamented the fact Tippett was leaving with ”Certainly from my discussions with Kurt, he really enjoyed himself at the Adelaide footy club, but the fact was he was looking to move away from that fishbowl existence”.

Tippet himself told that he came to his decision “This was a combined football/lifestyle decision and the balance between the two… I was born in Sydney, I have a lot of friends and family there, and this offers me a chance to play football in a lifestyle which I really enjoy.

“It’s obvious the Swans have a very special culture, in addition to a very good team. I look forward to being part of it.”

However the fact that Sydney have extra room in their salary cap due to the concessions has been looming large over the trade. Swans president Andrew Ireland defended the cost-of-living allowance afforded to the Swans, an additional $862,000 this season in the salary cap.

“We’ve got a cost of living allowance, it is clearly dearer in Sydney … there’s no slush fund from our allowance, every player on our list gets (an extra) 10 per cent.”

Hawthorn president Andrew Newbold said of the living allowance ”I think it is just an outdated policy and one that we as a league should have reviewed a long time ago,” he said.

”I don’t know that Melbourne and even Perth costs are that much lower than Sydney now. I think it is an archaic policy setting that needs to be reviewed.” Newbold’s predecessor at Hawthorn Jeff Kennet remarked that the concessions were “20 years out of date” and told how it was almost as expensive to live in Melbourne as it was in Sydney now. Kennett was also part of the group calling for a review of concessions in 2003 in the wake of the Brisbane Lions third consecutive premiership.

The Figures

The most recent House Price Report conducted by Australian Property Monitors showed that for the March 2012 quarter Sydney had the highest median house price of the AFL states at $641, 037, ahead of Perth ($531,065), Melbourne ($529,077), Adelaide ($437,085) and Brisbane ($433,244); with a national average house price of $535,080.

For apartments, it was a similar story, with Sydney’s $462,145 unit price 13.46% higher than the national average of $406,653, 18% higher than Melbourne ($389,491), 36% higher than Brisbane ($338,910), 62% higher than Adelaide ($285, 651) and 35% higher than Perth ($340,947).

Sydney recorded a record high for median weekly house rent with $500 per week – compared to the national average of $411 and, along with Darwin, also tops the median rents for units in Australian capital cities at $460 a week compared to Brisbane ($365), Melbourne ($350), Perth ($350) and Adelaide ($280).

Is the cost of living in Melbourne – as reflected in house prices – really almost as high as Sydney?

In a word: no.

Underrated Swans understated premiers – Sydney 2012 review

Won 16 Lost 5, 140.98%
Position: Premiers

The Sydney Swans were unexpected winners, and underrated by almost everyone in the AFL except themselves in claiming the 2012 premiership.

The club may not have bought about a revolution in tactics or style, but did more than anyone in proving the maxim ‘a champion team will beat a team of champions’. The Swans lie in a unique position in their fragile place within superficial Sydney’s sporting culture. Despite celebrating the 30th anniversary of their relocation from South Melbourne to the Harbour City this year, and participating in six of the last seven finals series, they are still a team largely reliant to on-field success for their financial viability and profile. Recruiting nous and recycling players into a strong culture and work ethic has circumvented the traditional dip and high-draft pick cycle to leave the Swans one of the most consistent and competitive clubs in the competition, who were a single point away from having three flags within seven years.

Season

The hard-at-it, work for your teammates, contested footy legacy left by Paul Roos – and more particularly the player-lead ‘Bloods Culture’ – still beats strong within the 2012 squad. The slight tweak of the contested ball and stoppages game plan by John Longmire that introduced rebounding attack – enabled by the recruitment and development of pace and strong and skilled outside mids -combined with the side being the most defensive team in the competition, made them a formidable opponent throughout the year, particularly in finals when the pressure lifted.

The foundation of the Swans successful season was their settled back-six, who conceded the least points of any team in the AFL – 1629 points at an average of only 74 points per game. Ted Richard’s stellar season – including taking the most intercept marks and second most intercept possessions – was recognised with him being named as All Australian centre half back, Rhyce Shaw had the most running bounces in the AFL, 20 year old Alex Johnson played 25 games and took huge steps into being a quality defender, and Marty Mattner and Heath Grundy unassumedly took some huge scalps while also mounting countless attacks from the half-back line.

The Swans were the fifth best attacking side in the regular season, kicking an average of 104 points per game. Sydney were the most accurate side in front of the big sticks and enjoyed a huge spread of goal-kickers, with 27 of the 31 players they used in 2012 having a six-pointer next to their name. Nine Swans players scored twenty-plus goals for the year, their leading goal kicker Lewis Jetta with 45 ahead of Adam Goodes with 37, but it was the contribution of goal-kicking midfielders which proved the difference in many clashes. There were 124 goals from centremen – lead by Josh Kenendy with 29 and Kieren Jack with 27 – and even ruckmen Shane Mumford and Mike Pyke kicked 20 between them.

Sydney’s attacking thrusts were often started from pressure-forced turnovers and rebounding from defensive spoils/intercepted marks. Players all over the ground worked to support their team mates around disputed balls, which when extracted by hard nuts, Bolton, Parker and McVeigh was usually fed out to clearance king Kennedy and the fast-developing Hannebury and delivered quickly and long to one on one contests (Goodes, Reid) or players running into space (Jetta, who was truly exciting with open space in front of him) created from playing a compacted forward set up.

Mumford and Pyke forged a formidable ruck combination throughout the season, as well as feeding Kennedy and co from the taps, both provided contested marking ability as the go-to targets for long-to the boundary kick-outs and chip-and-possess passages of play, as well as providing scoreboard damage as resting forwards with 12 and 8 goals respectively.

The Swans so-called blue collar midfielders again had prominent seasons, McVeigh, Jack, O’Keefe and Hannebery all averaging around 25 disposals per game, and each hitting the scoreboard. O’Keefe’s Norm Smith medal capping off a season where he was the heart and soul of the hard-working Swans, amassing 156 tackles, 20 goals and 600 disposals. Five players topped 100 tackles for the season as the Swans lead the tackle count with 1830 – 147 higher than next best Hawthorn.

Key Man

Josh Kennedy – with an average of 28.32 disposals (307 kicks and AFL leading 401 handballs) for 2012, Kennedy was the Swans most prominent ball-winner (408 contested possessions, 166 hard-ball gets, 97 loose-ball gets, clearance topper (185), damaging ball user (85 inside 50s, 35 rebound 50s) and also scored 187 points off his own boot with 29 goals 13 and contributed 125 tackles and 73 marks. His standout season noted by the umpires too, with Kennedy finishing in eight place in Brownlow voting with 19, including best on ground in five games, and arguably hottest WAG of the evening.

Most Improved

Ted Richards finally received recognition with an AA jumper for his improvement from bomber battler to astute and dangerous rebounding defender. His last quarter intercepts against Buddy Franklin in the grand final were the main reason the Swans held up the cup.

Biggest Letdown

In a season where the list all pulled together and claimed the flag, the few disappointments came in the form of injury – with Ben McGlynn desperately unlucky to miss the grand final against his own team after injuring his hamstring in the qualifying final, and ranga recruit Gary Rohan horribly breaking his leg in round four after a very promising start to the season.

Needs
Swans stalwart stars Bolton and Goodes both succumbed to injuries this season and will face reduced deep forward roles in the future as their bodies feel the brunt of many season of hard-contested footy. The further development of Luke Parker to step into Jude’s shoes, and getting some games into Tom Mitchell, Harry Cunningham and big Irishman Tommy Walsh may help fill the holes, yet with players the calibre of Mark Seaby, Tony Armstrong, Trent Dennis-Lane and Mitch Morton struggling to crack the top 22, the Swans have good depth and will only need luck with injuries to remain a force for 2013.

Expectations for 2013

The Swans have an ingrained culture and depth in the list and a game plan the players believe in and are capable and willing to execute. Their rebounding fast spread footy is a nightmare for opposition defenders and their stingy back six will lay the foundation for many more wins. An always competitive side, the Swans would expect to return to the top four if similarly blessed with a lack of major season-ending injuries to key players.

 

The Kennedy midfield crisis, Lance and the Big Dance – Grand Final Preview

AFL Grand Final

Sydney Vs Hawthorn

Saturday, September 29th, 2012
MCG, 2:30pm

One of the eagerly awaited and evenly matched grand finals of recent times sees season-long premiership favourites Hawthorn take on the perennially underrated Swans.
An irresistible battle of attack versus defence awaits on that ‘one day in September’.

Hawthorn finished minor premiers with 17 wins and one of the biggest percentages ever recorded – 154.59. The Hawks kicked 2,679 points (at an average of 121.7 per game) for the season – almost 42 goals more than the next most attacking team – Adelaide, who finished second.

Sydney finished third on the ladder, with 16 wins, with the best defence in the league – only conceding 1629 points – at an average of 74 per game. The Swans were also the fifth best attacking side in the comp, kicking an average of 104-points per game. Their percentage of 140.98 was the fifth highest in the history of the Swans/South Melbourne, only bettered by the 1909 (premiership year 168.9), 1919’s 158.71 (2nd on the ladder), 1912 – 156.97 and 1918’s 143.07 – when they also took out the flag.

In the two previous meetings between the sides this season, the Swans unexpectedly defeated the Hawks 106 to 69 in Tasmania in round five, while Hawthorn prevailed by 7 in a classic grudge match at the SCG in round 22 after trailing by a big margin in the first quarter.

Lance Franklin – who was subdued early but finished with 4.3 and Sean Burgoyne three goals, seven marks and 26 disposals starred for the Hawks in the round 22 victory, while Josh Kennedy racked up 36 disposals and Daniel Hannebery with 31 including 21 by hand were the best from the hand-ball heavy Swans.

In that game Hawthorn were able to use their advantage in the hitouts and their superior foot skills to generate more marks (69 HAW 62 SYD) and scoring shots (27 HAW 25 SYD) from less disposals (376 SYD to 336 HAW) and fewer kicks (203 SYD 199 HAW) than the Swans.

The last time these two teams met at the MCG was the semi-final last year where the Hawks came out harder and more determined and blew the Swans away early, and coasted to a 36-point win. The Swans last beat Hawthorn at the MCG in round 11 2007, and have lost the last four clashes between the sides at the ground. Overall the Hawks hold an 83 to 66 – with two drawn games – record over Sydney/South Melbourne.

The Swans not only boast the statistically best defence for the season, but also one of the most settled back sixes, and a potentially dangerous rebounding one. Defender Rhys Shaw, who leads the league in running bounces, said in the lead up:

“We pride ourselves on our defence and we’re hoping we can stand up this week… Because we know if it doesn’t, we’re going to get blown out of the water. We just have to do what we’ve been doing all year.”

Swans coach John Longmire believes the imperative attitude to win the grand final is:

”You have to make sure your pressure is absolutely elite and for four quarters. You can’t have any lapses in concentration, and you’ve got to take your chances when you get them.”

Josh Kennedy has been the talk of the week with his genealogical ties to his grand final opponents. He averages 29 disposals, seven clearances, five tackles and a goal a game for the season, and almost 28 disposals for his six finals matches. Against Collingwood in the Preliminary Final he had 30 possessions – 19 contested – four marks, five tackles and two crucial goals. Kennedy remarked on that match “On the weekend (against Collingwood) our pressure was right up there and if we can bring that intensity it will go a long way to winning the game.”

Expect Sam Mitchell or Brad Sewell on Kennedy in a crucial duel to go head to head in a battle for clearances.

The All Australian centre half forward in Lance Franklin will match up on the AA centre half back Ted Richards in a contest that will be crucial as to who lifts the cup. Lance Franklin can win the game off his own boot, and is an ominous and irresistible figure in the Hawks forward fifty.

Richards held Buddy goalless for the only time in 2012 in the Swans round five win. After a quiet first three-quarters Franklin let loose with three goals in ten minutes and finished with four for the day when the Hawks toppled Sydney at the SCG. Richards, who concedes four cm in height and 10kg to Franklin, is the No. 1 intercept marker in the competition and No. 2 for intercept possessions, so Buddy will have to be conscious of the offensive outlet provided by the Swans #25.

Cyril Rioli showed that he just needs the barest of opportunities to create goals, and Nick Smith will be given the task of curtailing the livewire forward. Jaryd Roughead will be primed for a big game after being accused of favouring preservation over taking possession against the Crows, while Luke Bruest offers poise and speed.

The clash of the midfield will be a titanic struggle, even more so in the predicted wet weather. Hawthorn have a top class crew of centremen with Sewell, Mitchell, Burgoyne all hitting hot form, and Lewis keen to atone for his game against the crows, where he has vowed to ‘go in harder’. They are capable of quick clearances and effective forward entries with their foot skills, and as their five goal second quarter in round 23 showed, capable of piling on quick points.

Sydney open training session. Credit: http://www.flickr.com/jeffers1984

Sydney have hard nuts in stalwart Jude Bolton and Luke Parker when subbed in late to get the hard ball, the hand-skills of Hannebery and the classy clearances of Kennendy to get the ball out and quick to their forward line.

Up forward Sydney have the large presence of Goodes, Sam Reid, who while taking some contested grabs, is not hitting the scoreboard, and Tigers discard Mitch Morton who can sneak behind defences for some opportune goals. Roberts-Thompson will most likely be used trying to negate spoiling-king Josh Gison and keep him from coming in third-man up. Isaac Smith will most likely be given the matchup on Lewis Jetta, who is capable of long, freakish goals and precision passes alike.

The Hawks seem to have it all in place, but that also comes with expectation, which almost bought them undone against the Crows. The Swans will need to pressure the Hawks for four quarters and will take great comfort from their round five win and the first quarter of their most recent encounter.

Prediction

A tough, hard contested battle awaits, with the rainy conditions expected to favour the Swans style of play. Swans by three.

Streak looms large over Swans, Pies Preliminary

Sydney v Collingwood

Preliminary Final
Friday, 21st September, 2012
ANZ Stadium, 7:50pm

Sydney last beat Collingwood, then placed bottom of the ladder, in round 13 2005 as they were on their way to their historic drought breaking premiership. The Pies have won the eleven clashes between the two sides since by an average of 24.7 points, including their last seven at this venue. The latest clash between the two saw Collingwood triumph by eight points in round 20, with the Swans kicking a woeful 9.16, while their round 14 game in 2011 – also at this venue – was decided by one goal, with the Pies wasteful with 13.21.

The round 20 clash was won by the Pies without Dane Swan – on club rule enforced absence for a sneaky drink – and they had to overcome an early knee injury to Daisy Thomas who was subbed out in the second quarter. Dayne Beams was dominant for the Pies with 34 possessions and three goals. Travis Cloke also kicked three goals from four contested marks, in a victory ground out with work-rate, pressure and tackling – Collingwood laid 90 tackles, with Sharrod Wellingham leading the way with 11. Despite losing the hitouts and contested possessions, Collingwood were able to use the ball better when they had it, taking 18 more marks, and kicking a winning score despite eight less inside 50s.

Not all stats against Sydney

Some statistical comfort for the Swans to counter-balance their rotten recent record against Collingwood is that in 21 of 24 preliminary finals since 2000, the team with a week’s break after a qualifying final have won. Also the past 10 preliminary finals over the past five years have all been won by the team more rested. A quirk of stadium booking, with the Bulldogs major qualifying final against the Rabbitohs in the NRL set for the Saturday night, means that Collingwood will be coming off a six-day break from their hard fought semi-final against West Coast.

On the selection table, Sydney will have Heath Grundy return from suspension to replace Ben McGlyn, who is still recovering from a hamgstring injury. Mitch Morton is likely to hold his spot as a small forward, with Tommy Walsh and Tony Armstrong around about for a bench spot.

Pies injury worries

Collingwood will come into the game with injury clouds over Alan Didak and Chris Dawes, with Ben Sinclair in to cover the loss of Didak, and Jackson Paine the probable option as back-up ruckman to cover Dawes, who is being given until the last minute to get over his medial ligament strain.

The battle will be won in the centre of the ground, with Collingwood boasting a cast of classy ball winners in Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury and Beams.

Josh Kennedy was the standout for the Swans against the Pies in round 20, with 40 disposals, yet will need support from McVeigh, Hannebery and Kieren Jack to quell their midfield opponents. The ruck battle between former Swan Darren Jolly and Shane Mumford should be monumental and vital to deciding the contest. Collingwood have been pressing and pressuring back to their 2010 best, and the Swans will have to continue their supporting and rebounding ground-level positioning around loose balls and be precise by foot for their fast-spreading style they’ve used so effectively this season.

Playing styles key

The Pies slow ball-moving stlye was found out against the Hawks, with josh Gibson served up balls to spoil on a platter, Ted Richards and Grundy will be looking to do similar and feed the run and carry of Reece Shaw, and the precise and penetrating field kicking of Nick Malceski and Marty Mattner who look to deliver to Lewis Jetta in space or Adam Goodes or Sam Reid one out on the rebound. Ryan O’Keefe may be used in the defensive forward role to try stop the dangerous rebounding run of Heath Shaw.

Collingwood players will also be dealing with attending the funeral of their fallen former teammate John McCarthy on Thursday before flying to Sydney that afternoon.

This should prove to be another hard-fought battle with two evenly matched teams. The Pies will hold no fear of the ground or their opponents, yet have an emotional and injury interrupted lead up that may neutralize the psychological advantage of their 11-game streak. The Swans come in fresh and rested and will be rueing their wasteful round 20 clash, where they controlled large patches of the match.

Prediction

Swans by 4

Teams

Sydney Swans

B: Nicholas Smith, Ted Richards, Martin Mattner
HB: Alex Johnson, Heath Grundy, Jarrad McVeigh
C: Rhyce Shaw, Kieren Jack, Daniel Hannebery
HF: Craig Bird, Sam Reid, Ryan O’Keefe
F: Mitch Morton, Adam Goodes, Lewis Roberts-Thomson
Foll: Shane Mumford, Josh P. Kennedy, Jude Bolton
I/C: Nick Malceski, Mike Pyke, Lewis Jetta, Luke Parker
Emg: Trent Dennis-Lane, Tony Armstrong, Tommy Walsh

In: Heath Grundy
Out: Ben McGlynn (Hamstring)

Collingwood

B: Chris Tarrant, Heritier O’Brien, Nathan Brown
HB: Ben Johnson, Ben Reid, Tyson Goldsack
C: Sharrod Wellingham, Dane Swan, Alan Toovey
HF: Scott Pendlebury, Chris Dawes, Heath Shaw
F: Dale Thomas, Travis Cloke, Jamie Elliott
Foll: Darren Jolly, Steele Sidebottom, Dayne Beams
I/C: Jarryd Blair, Ben Sinclair, Andrew Krakouer, Alex Fasolo
Emg: Martin Clarke, Paul Seedsman, Jackson Paine

In: Ben Sinclair
Out: Alan Didak (Calf)

Fremantle to continue their finals fairytale

adelaide logo fremantle logo finals 2012Semi Final

Adelaide vs Fremantle

AAMI Stadium
Friday, 14 September 6:40pm

Adelaide come into the game against the best defensive unit in the AFL after being held to 42 points by the Swans, who with their strangling, tight and contested footy rushed the Crows into wasting their opportunities.

Fremantle somewhat shocked the footy world, and provided great relief for Hawks fans, by outclassing September specialists Geelong. With Aaron Sandilands and Matthew Pavlich near unstoppable when on song, and a firing midfield, the Dockers have every chance of giving the flag a shake.

Historically since the adoption of the McIntyre top 8 system, most of the teams that have lost their Qualifying Final have bounced back in their Semi, though the Crows position in the top four has been surrounded by doubts regarding their ‘soft’ draw. Crows coach Brendan Sanderson said through the week ”I would be lying if I said it didn’t bother me that people, especially interstate, didn’t rate the Crows”.

Ross Lyon was the recruiting move of the season, and after initial teething troubles, where his side dropped to 11th place with 5 and 5, the Dockers have won nine of their past ten games, and importantly 7 out of 11 interstate.

Last time they met

The Crows have beaten Fremantle twice this season, by 29 and 28 points in rounds 10 and 20, both time the side kicking 17 goals. The round 20 defeat was the first time the Dockers had lost since June.

Where it will be decided

Fremantle’s disposal douser Ryan Crowley has been the only opponent to keep prolific Crow ball winner Scott Thompson under twenty possessions this season, a feat he managed twice in what were Thompson’s two lowest possession games (18 and 16) for the season. Adelaide midfielders have vowed to help shake the Crowley tag, with Rory Slone stating through the week “we will have a real team focus to help [Thompson] out, as we always do with whoever cops a tag”.

The upset win over the Cats was only Fremantle’s third finals win, yet significantly, was their first outside Perth. Their sheer dominance early in the game saw them kick the first seven goals of the match and take a 48 point lead in the second quarter. Their livewire midfield, given the luxury of first use with another typically dominating effort in the centre circle, meant the service to Pavlich was on a platter, and his five marks and three early goals could easily be repeated.

Ross Lyon has bought the intense forward pressure with him, and the players efforts resulted in a number of goals from wayward and rushed disposal from the Cats backline.

The Crows back six will need to be precise in their decision making and disposal, while their forward entries will have to counter a full-strength Dockers midfield willing to work back and fill gaps in their backline, yet are also devastatingly adept at bring it out quickly. The unavailability of Crows defender Daniel Talia due to injury could prove crucial, as it was he who kept Pavlich quiet in the previous game between the sides. Andy Otten or Luke Thompson may be recalled to the side to take on the Docker’s skipper. Hayden Ballantyne and Michael Walters have been equally as damaging as their skipper in the past month, the trio contributing 32 goals between them.

The Crows have come out on top of the clearances in the two team’s previous two encounters, by 17 in round 10 and 21 in round 20, when Sandilands – who has averaged 38 hit outs a game since his return – and young gun Dockers midfielder Nat Fyfe were out injured.

Patrick Dangerfield has averaged 33 disposals in the two games against Fremantle, and chimed in with three goals. Taylor Walker kicked four against Fremantle in the round 20 win and will need to reverse his poor form against the Swans where he managed 11 disposals and 1 goal 3.

Fremantle come into the game full of confidence from their stirring win over the Cats, and will take heart from the fact they have Sandilands and Fyfe both in, and in form over the team that lost to the Crows in round 20. The Crows have no obvious match up for Pavlich, who was kept to two goals by Rising Star Talia in round 20.

Prediction

Despite history being on the side of the top four team, and the form on the board against the Dockers, they were just too overawed against the Swans, and their untesting lead up to the finals have left them a step off the pace when needed.

Fremantle to continue the fairytale by 8.

Buddy and Cloke centre stage in colossal qualifying clash

Hawthorn vs Collingwood

Friday, 7th September
7:50pm, MCG

A full MCG beckons for the opening match of the 2012 AFL final series as a classic contest looms between Collingwood and the outright premiership favourites Hawthorn in the first Qualifying Final.

The Hawks have confirmed their season-long flag favouritism with a hard-fought win over Sydney and by taking the points at Patersons over West Coast in the last two rounds to finish minor premiers with one of the highest percentages ever recorded. Hawthorn go into the game having defeated Collingwood twice in the regular season, by 22 points in round one, and 47 points in round 17.

Coming into the game, The Hawks have only lost one game since their shock loss to Richmond in round nine – the after the siren-classic against Geelong in round 19. Collingwood had close fought wins against St Kilda and Sydney before consecutively losing to North Melbourne and the West Coast, yet are coming off a wasteful 34 – 22 scoring shot, 32 point win over the Bombers in the last round which secured their fourth position.

The Pies players have talked all week about the absence of any expectation, and how this finals series they are the “hunters, not the hunted”. Coach Nathan Buckley has dismissed talk of form and is only concerned on what happens on the field on Friday night.

The main selection-table and tactical query over the Pies is their ruck set up. Against the Bombers, Chris Dawes was left out of the team and captain Nick Maxwell was used as the second ruckman. Darren Jolly wrote in reference to the tactic in his column:

“It worked for us last week and I see no reason that it cannot work for us in the finals. I know I will be asked to shoulder a lot of the burden but I relish a heavy workload. I think what last week showed was that we have the flexibility and depth among our players to be able to adapt.”

David Hale competed well with the standout ruck pairing in the comp in Dean Cox and Nic Natanui , managing a dozen taps and proving dangerous around the ground, with three shots at goal while resting up forward, and with support from back up Jaryd Roughead, who won three hitouts and took seven marks last week, the Hawks will be looking to exploit their advantage while Jolly is resting.

Both defences have a potential game-breaking forward to contend with, yet both are still finding their way back to their best. Buddy Franklin has had two patchy games, with long stretches without touching the footy, but he still showed his undoubted capacity to tear a game apart with bursts of four goals against the Swans and the Eagles. Travis Cloke was held goalless against the Eagles, yet was ominously impressive against the Bombers, taking 16 marks and kicking five majors from nine scoring shots. Ryan Schoenmakers has had the measure of the Pies big man in the past two encounters and will be expected to line up on him again on Friday. The Pies backline is settled and in good form according to Allan Toovey who said “We’re probably playing the best we have all year as a back six” after the Pies win over the Bombers.

Last Time

Last time these two teams met, it was Jordan Lewis and Luke Breust proving most damaging up forward for the Hawks, with five goals apiece, though more crucially, Lewis also kept Heath Shaw accountable and ensured most of his possessions were deep in the backline to remove his dangerous rebounding potential. Dayne Beams kicked five for his side in the same clash, and is averaging more than 30 disposals a game in recent times, and had great stats in games against the Hawks.

The Stats

The two teams are very evenly matched statistically in a number of vital areas, the Hawks slightly on top in clearances (41 – 38), inside 50s (59 – 53), tackles (67 – 64) and disposal efficiency (75 – 73) – an area where both sides will need to exert pressure around the ground to counteract forward entries from the respective midfield talent on both sides.

Prediction

Hawthorn have been consistently performing all season, and in the past two weeks have removed any doubt over their ability to win close, tight games, and will be seeking revenge from their three point 2011 Preliminary Final defeat at the hands of the Pies. A classic midfield encounter looms, yet you think the Hawks will just have too much forward firepower, than the Pies, who have less avenues to goal if Cloke is again subdued by Shoenmakers.

Hawthorn by 13.

Jobs on the line in the 2012 ‘if only’ Cup

Carlton vs St Kilda

Sunday, 2nd September
Etihad Stadium, 1:10pm

Carlton and St Kilda’s 2012 seasons have both been reduced to a battle for ninth with Richmond in a match which may be Brett Ratten’s last as Blues coach.

The Blues put themselves in the running to clinch a top eight sport with three wins on the trot, including a humiliation of arch rivals Essendon, but inexplicably lost to the Gold Coast Suns, ending their September hopes, and most likely their coaches’ job. Carlton will be without Levi Casboult, who faces surgery after splitting his kidney, and Andrew McInnes who faces a knee reconstruction, while Michael Jamison is a good chance to return from his hamstring injury.

St Kilda will be buoyed by four key resigning through the week, goal sneak Stephen Milne and stoic midfielder Lenny Hayes will be back next year, while Leigh Montagna and Sam Gilbert got two, and three year extensions respectively.

The Saints took out their frustrations at a season which could so very nearly have gone a different way had a tackle been broken with five minutes to go against Sydney on the hapless GWS last week and will be keen to head for their footy trip with a solid performance.

Both teams have the opportunity to dip to the bottom of their lists and blood some young talent, and both would be hoping to put mediocre seasons behind them. It will be interesting to see how the Blues playing squad react to their feeble effort last week, and the furore surrounding the inevitable axing of their coach, and the supposed appointment of Mick Malthouse to take over the reins next season.

Carlton have a terrible record against the Saints in recent times, having beaten them only twice since 2001. St Kilda’s resigning of players through the week and punishing 128 win last week will have them best placed finish on a high.

Prediction

St Kilda by 45.

Dockers and Demons to crunch the numbers

Fremantle vs Melbourne

Saturday, 1st September
Patersons Stadium, 7:40pm

Fremantle’s coaches will have their calculators out as part of their pre-game warm up as the Dockers will be in the unique position of knowing exactly how much they will have to win by to possibly claim a home final.

While the Demons have shown some bright glimpses in an otherwise dreary season with recent wins over Gold Coast and GWS, their 69-point loss, after leading in the second term, to Adelaide last round to farewell Brad Green is more in line with their disappointing season. The form of Colin Sylvia has been a highlight, and he will probably attract the smothering tag of Ryan Crowley for his troubles this week.

The Dockers will have the luxury of having the matches that will shape their finals destiny prior to their own match. Depending on whether Geelong beat Sydney at home and if -and by how far- North Melbourne beat GWS they will be able to know exactly how much they will need to win by to secure sixth spot.

Matthew Pavlich was a late withdrawal against North Melbourne with a corked hamstring and general soreness, yet his side still returned an impressive 53-point victory to seal their finals berth. The Dockers small forwards in Michael Walters and Hayden Ballantyne stood up in the absence of their skipper, kicking four goals apiece. If Pavlich misses another week Zac Clarke may again be pushed forward. Kepler Bradley may be in doubt after being subbed off with a head-knock at half time against the Roos.

The Dockers midfield has been firing of late, with Clancee Pearce, Stephen Hill, Nat Fyfe and David Mundy dining out on Aaron Sandilands dominance in the middle. Mark Jamar is no certainty to start for the Demons, so Jake Spencer may be in for a long afternoon. Fremantle will also be farewelling Antoni Grover, fifth in the clubs all time games totals, who announced his retirement at season’s end.

Fremantle have won the past six games against Melbourne at Subiaco by an average of 33 points and took out their round 16 clash by 34 in what was their first victory against the Dees in Victoria since 2007.

Fremantle have been second only to Sydney for points conceded this season, and lead the competition for trapping the ball in opponents forward lines.

The Demons will of course be without Green and as such, wont offer much in scoreboard resistance, and are probably looking forward to another miserable season ending; allowing the Dockers to play to the calculator as need be.

Prediction:
Fremantle by *insert score required come Saturday afternoon here*

Feathers to fly for home final rights

Hawthorn vs West Coast

Friday, 31st August

7:50pm, MCG

Live Chat Friday night on the BigFooty AFL Board

Another Friday night thriller looms as the Hawks hope to clinch the minor premiership and the Eagles look to cement a top four finish.

This battle of the birds sees two sides hitting ominous form at the right end of the season; the Hawks beating Sydney, and taking their position atop the AFL ladder in a classic at the SCG and the Eagles comprehensively beating Collingwood to bump them from fourth.

Hawthorn had been flag fancies all year, and are absolutely clear-cut favourites after their grinding win in Sydney, coming back from a 38-point deficit and maintaining composure to come out on top in a close finish. The Hawks also have Luke Hodge returning to his best form, Buddy ominously kicking four goals after a scratchy first half and six weeks out of footy, and Cyril Rioli set to return this week.

Sean Burgoyne has been standing up when needed, amassing the most contested possessions, equal best clearances and slotting a vital goal when the pressure was at boiling point. Midfield hard-nuts Jordan Lewis and Brad Sewell amassed 25 contested possessions and 12 clearances between them against the Swans and Sam Mitchell was able to recover from a hard tag to end up with 17 possessions.

West Coast welcomed back Josh Kennedy against the Pies, and in combination with Jack Darling and the resting rucks Dean Cox and Nic Nataniu up forward give the Eagles formidable marking power. Swans coach John Longmire attempted to go tall against the height-lacking Hawks back six with some degree of success, and John Worsfold also has an option in Quentin Lynch if he chooses that path.

The Eagles midfield enjoyed a dominant performance against Collingwood, winning the clearances 48 – 23, with Daniel Kerr starring with 36 disposals including a dozen clearances and 21 contested possessions.

Hawthorn lost to the Eagles by five in round four this season at Subiaco, yet won their last clash at the MCG by 57 in 2008. Overall the Eagles have a great record against the Hawks, winning 24 of their 39 clashes including three of the last four.

The ruck dual will be crucial to the outcome of the contest, with both side’s midfield firing. Cox and Natanui haven’t been beaten for hitouts at any point this season when playing together, and with the Eagles finally getting on top of the clearance counts to take full advantage of the tap dominance, the centre is where this contest will be won.

Max Bailey may well be in the mix for a return for his height an advantage against Cox, yet lacking the mobility of Natanui.

Both teams have returning star forwards better with a run under their belt, Buddy’s four goals a more impressive return than Kennedy’s one goal and eight disposals.

The Eagles had 14 separate goal-kickers in their win over the Pies, while the return of Riloi and the freeing of Roughhead from the ruck as well as big-game Buddy getting back into form should just get the Hawks over the line.

The Eagles will fancy their chances against the Hawks; their ruck dominance will again need to translate to quality use by their midfield to quell the Hawks influence inside. Both teams are in red hot form and a classic contest looms, but the Hawks will have taken great confidence and belief from their win against Sydney and should prove just too good at home.

Prediction

Hawthorn by 9

A Game of Halves for Reigning Cats and Dogs

Geelong Vs Western Bulldogs
Sunday, 26th August
Simonds Stadium, 1:10pm

The Western Bulldogs are now a club in transition. Their successive defeats in preliminary finals in 2008 to 2010 was as close as they would get to ending their premiership drought. The 2010 Nab Cup was their first competition win of any sort since 1970 and the only thing to show for their golden era.

Now after a disastrous 2011 season that cost Rodney Eade his job they are looking down the barrel of finishing only above Melbourne and the two new teams with just five wins to their name in 2012.

They come into this game having lost their past nine games by an average of ten goals, and getting flogged in their second halves. They also saw a pair of 200-game defenders in Lindsay Gilbee and Ryan Hargraves announce their retirements at season end. It’s all about building for the future at Whitten Oval.

Geelong on the other hand have proven evergreen. They come into this match having won four of their past five games and sitting in seventh place, causing the rest of the competition to look over their shoulder and hoping to avoid them in September.

The Cats may use the game to allow Billie Smedts, Allen Christensen and Travis Varco to return from injury. Taylor Hunt should play despite a broken nose and Trent West should be moving freely after getting through his first game back from a knee injury unscathed, which is good news as back up ruckman Orren Stephenson may miss another week after hand surgery.

The Dogs have unearthed a potential forward option in defender Dylan Addison, who pushed forward and in tandem with Tory Dickson, himself amassing some impressive performances in his debut season, kicked seven goals against the Swans between them.

Ryan Griffen was phenomenal against the Swans, with a record 47 disposals, and Matty Boyd was as brave as ever. Jason Johannisen and the splendidly coiffed Lin Jong had a real go and were enjoying the challenge against the Swans, but will learn even more given another crack this week.

Liam Jones and Jarrad Grant have been impressing for Williamstown and may earn a call up and Will Minson sidestepped his stomping charge and is free to play.

The Cats Tom Hawkins has stamped himself as a big time forward in recent weeks, and his absence after landing awkwardly early was a contributing factor in his side’s only loss in recent times to West Coast, in their loss before that against Collingwood in round 16, he was held to only one goal.

The Cats depth has proven a luxury late in the season, with a relatively skinny injury list and players, including Cameron Guthrie and George Horlin-Smith, pressing for positions thanks to their VFL team winning the past nine straight, they are perfectly poised for another flag tilt. The spread of talent and even contribution of the side evident with the fact that only three players didn’t reach double figures in disposals against the Saints, and despite Hawkins staring with six majors, there were seven other goal kickers. The Dogs however are left to throw young players in the deep end and hope they kick enough to stay afloat.

Expect the Dogs to start strongly, as they had done in previous matches – particularly with coach Brendan McArtney returning to his old stomping ground – and the emotion surrounding the recent retirement announcements. Bulldog fans should indeed soak up the first half, as the team proved last week they can match it for two quarters against the top sides, but would be best advised to make some appointments from about 2:30pm Sunday onwards, as it could get ugly after half time.

Prediction:

Geelong by 67.