2012 Brownlow Preview

Brownlow Medal

The 2012 Brownlow Medal looks to be one of the most open in recent years, with up to nine players considered legitimate chances.

As always we expect it to primarily be a midfielder’s award. The shortest price you’ll find for a big man at Sportsbet is ruckman Dean Cox at 150-1, and you need to go down to Tom Hawkins at 250-1 before you’ll find anyone who plays predominantly forward or back.

Bigfooty News takes a look at the top chances:

Trent Cotchin (Richmond) – $4.25

The inspirational Tiger stamped himself as one of the AFL’s elite in 2012, and has been nominated as the equal favourite to take Charlie home. Brett Deledio may well take votes from him in the early rounds, however Cotchin should easily poll the most votes for Richmond in the second half of the year. Expect him to poll well in the final rounds in particular, starting with his 35 disposals and three goals against the Bulldogs in round 20, and a clear best on ground in their final round draw against Port Adelaide.

Gary Ablett (Gold Coast) – $4.25

The 2009 Brownlow winner has polled 20 or more votes in each of the last five seasons. He proved last year that he has no problem polling votes in a losing team with a tally of 23, and many would say he’s had a better year in 2012. The man voted by his peers as the AFL’s most valuable player this year has had 40 or more possessions seven times this year.

Jobe Watson (Essendon) – $5.25

A stunningly consistent year has seen Watson collect 25 or more disposals in 19 of his 22 games, with the Essendon captain spending much of his time right under the umpire’s nose winning the hard ball. Despite the near certainty that team mate Brent Stanton will take some votes from him early, Watson is almost sure to be leading the count up until round 13, and probably even round 16. His form continued throughout the year, but his biggest concern is that Essendon lost their last seven games of the year, often by big margins.

Scott Thompson (Adelaide) – $8.00

The Adelaide ball magnet was at it again in 2012, averaging 29.5 disposals in a side that collected 17 wins. Thompson traditionally polls well, and will be in the umpire’s sights again with the second most clearances in the AFL. With an impressive 30 or more disposals on 12 occasions this year, Thompson is every chance to be in the mix late in the count.

Patrick Dangerfield (Adelaide) – $9.00

The dynamic Adelaide midfielder had his breakout year in 2012, and what a year it was. First in the AFL for hard ball gets, Dangerfield also has the advantage of being explosive when in space. He was often the go to man who stood up in the big moments, and did not miss a game this season.

Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn) – $12.00

Another proven vote getter, Sam Mitchell only just missed out last year with 30 votes. Has had slightly less of the ball than last year, however his creativity by hand, particularly in the big moments, seems to have somehow improved. A clear best on ground with his 32 disposals in Hawthorn’s big win over Carlton in round 14, should be the start of a streak in which Mitchell storms home strongly.

Dane Swan (Collingwood) – $14.00

Last year’s winner after polling 34 votes has averaged 34.7 disposals a week, which is up by four on the 31.7 he averaged in his Brownlow year. He has however played three less games and had six less wins than 2011. Probably has been a little less effective with ball in hand compared to last year, but a previous winner with those sorts of numbers simply cannot be ruled out.

Josh Kennedy (Sydney) – $18.00

With a similar big-bodied style to Jobe Watson, Kennedy’s votes will likely come in bursts. He opened the season with a bang, and could legitimately claim three votes in each of the first five weeks. Is expected to poll less frequently in the middle rounds of the season, however will almost certainly poll votes in each of the last three games.

Dayne Beams (Collingwood) $21.00

Unlikely to poll votes until his 33 disposal game against the Western Bulldogs in round six, however expect to hear his name regularly from this point on.  A dynamic player who is hard to miss when he plays well, Beams averaged 31 disposals a week and often contributed goals.

 

 

Weapon of Mass Destruction hits The Hangar: Essendon 2012 Review

Ladder position: 11th

Win/loss: 11 wins, 11 losses, 100.05%

Season

More so than any in living memory, Essendon’s 2012 was a season of two halves. The Bombers were the talk of the AFL and sitting 8-3 at the half way mark, only to see their list fall apart at the seams in the last eleven games.

There were many positive signs early on, the most important of which was Essendon’s defensive pressure in all areas of the ground. As a unit they were able to consistently choke up the better sides between the arcs, and put a few of the weaker sides to the sword.

Injury was a concern for the forwards even in the first half of the year, robbing the Essendon forward line of continuity. However with the half back line and midfield so far on top, they were still leading the AFL for marks inside the forward 50.

Brent Stanton’s running ability has never been questioned, however early in the year he looked to have dramatically improved his ability to win the hard ball as well as his defensive accountability. Likewise David Zaharakis and Ben Howlett were playing great footy through the midfield, and Jobe Watson took his game to new heights.

Tom Bellchambers and Patrick Ryder controlled the ruck most weeks as they found career best form, whilst Dustin Fletcher, Cale Hooker and Jake Carlisle shut down the opposition key forwards with regularity.

It was looking like a fairytale rise up the ladder for James Hird and his men before the longer term consequences of Dean Robinson’s extreme fitness program started to coming to the fore. Week by week the soft tissue injuries began to add up. With monotonous regularity Essendon would find themselves with two or three more players snapping hamstrings or tearing calf muscles, in what eventually proved to be one of the worst runs of soft tissue injuries in living memory.

The end result saw Essendon fielding teams with far too many underdone players, and playing like a team that had no rhythm or cohesion. The season that promised so much for the Bombers at the half way mark, eventually had the fans simply wishing it would end.

Key Man – Jobe Watson

Clearly the best Bomber for 2012, Watson is considered by many to be a red hot chance to win the Brownlow. One thing is for sure, he will win the Essendon best and fairest by a country mile. His in and under grunt work brings fellow midfielders into the game, and his work rate and consistency is second to none.

Most Improved

After missing all bar four games with a knee injury in 2011, Courtenay Dempsey is an unlucky runner up after a career best season this year. However the most improved for 2012 would have to go to Tom Bellchambers, who took the leap from fringe player to number one ruckman. He regularly had the better of some of the best in the business, and was often forced to do it alone with regular injuries to Ryder and David Hille.

Biggest Letdown

Whilst many Essendonians would point to a dreary June night at the MCG when the Bombers failed to overcome Melbourne, the biggest letdown has to be the fitness program implemented by Robinson. The long term merits of his program will become evident one way or another in the next 12-24 months, however no individual at the Essendon Football Club could claim to have affected their ladder position more than the man they call “the Weapon”.

Needs

Another quality midfielder is number one on the Bomber’s wish list. Essendon are widely tipped to have a second try at trading for Josh Caddy after missing out in last year’s trade period, however any and every quality midfielder must be considered a target.

Expectations for 2013

Making the finals will be the bare minimum expected from this list, and expect to hear rumblings from within if they fall short again. If the Bombers can improve their fitness and conditioning and deliver better player management, they should have the talent to win their first final in almost a decade.

Dockers Stun Cats at the ‘G

FREMANTLE 5.7 8.9 12.11 14.12 (96)
GEELONG
0.1 3.5 6.9 11.14 (80)

Fremantle have produced one of the most stunning first quarter performances in finals history, on their way to an historical 16 point victory over Geelong. They dominated the Cats from the outset by any and every measurement available, including effort and intensity.

Geelong’s work rate seemed non-existent. They failed to chase or work hard with any desperation when they didn’t have the ball, or to run hard to create options when they did have it. That’s not to play down how good Fremantle were. Their defensive pressure and organization was first class, and would have taken Geelong’s best efforts to penetrate. The Docker’s attack on the ball and commitment in the air was that of a side with genuine claims to make an impact this September.

Matthew Pavlich was a class above kicking three of Fremantle’s five goals for the quarter, and had it not been for a number of easy missed chances the 36 point margin should have been more.

The first 15 minutes of the second quarter was more of the same. The ball was almost exclusively in Fremantle’s front half as they pushed the margin out to 48 points. David Mundy was finding plenty of the ball and managed to find space in heavy traffic a number of times, and Michael Barlow also played a big part in Fremantle’s midfield dominance.

Almost unbelievably it took Geelong until the 18 minute mark of the second quarter to register their first goal.

Immediately it was as if the Cats collectively snapped their fingers and decided they would start doing the things that are mandatory to win finals – they started applying defensive pressure, hitting contests harder than their opponents, running hard to support one another…..in other words, all of a sudden they started having a go. By half time they had reduced the margin back to 34 points.

After the break the champion Geelong side that we’ve become so accustomed to watching in September came out doing what they do best. Joel Selwood and Jimmy Bartel stamped their mark through the middle, Paul Chapman was starting to look creative, and the Geelong forward line started to function.

The Cats kicked 3 of first 4 goals drawing the margin back to 21 points, and looked set to run over the top of the Dockers. However it was Fremantle’s response when challenged that was probably more impressive than their phenomenal start.

Matthew Pavlich and Hayden Ballantyne lifted and kicked successive goals, followed quickly by a goal to Michael Walters. Fremantle had thus far withstood Geelong’s best efforts for a comeback, and went into the final change 38 points ahead.

Geelong threw everything they had at Fremantle in the last quarter, and once again looked like they were going to run over the Dockers and produce another champion victory in September. They were running on top of the ground and putting the Dockers under immense pressure. When Josh Hunt kicked his second goal for the quarter, the Cats were back within 17 points with 10 minutes left of the clock.

Yet once again with the game in the balance, Pavlich showed his class with a side step around Tom Lonergan, and a beautiful goal to finish off Geelong’s season.

Votes:

3- Matthew Pavlich

2 – Hayden Ballantyne

1 – David Mundy

GOALS
Fremantle
: Pavlich 6, Ballantyne 3, Walters 2, Crowley, De Boer, Pearce
Geelong: Mackie 2, Hunt 2, Christensen, Duncan, Motlop, Selwood, Stokes, Vardy, Taylor

BEST

Fremantle: Pavlich, Ballantyne, Mundy, Barlow, Walters
Geelong:
Selwood, Mackie, Bartel, Corey, Duncan

SUBSTITUTES
Geelong:
Jonathan Simpkin replaced Jordan Murdoch in the third quarter.
Fremantle: Nick Suban replaced Leigh Spurr in the fourth quarter.

Reports:
James Kelly (Geelong) reported for rough conduct on Tendai Mzungu by umpire Pannell in the third quarter.

Umpires:
Bannister, Pannell, Rosebury

Official crowd:
44,460 at the MCG

Roos Disappointing in Victory

North Melbourne Football Club Logo

GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 3.3 4.5 7.8 11.11 (77)
NORTH MELBOURNE 3.2 7.4 12.5 16.9 (105)

North Melbourne have survived a scare against an under manned Greater Western Sydney at Skoda Stadium on Saturday night, and have squandered the opportunity to play their first final in Melbourne in the process.

Despite entering the game needing to open a gap on Fremantle’s percentage, it was clear that the Giants were the side playing with more endeavour and spirit. They consistently led the Kangaroos to the ball and convincingly won the contested footy, resulting in a clearance tally of 14-5 by the first break.

The second quarter was more of the same as North fumbled easy balls, dropped basic marks and missed simple targets on a regular basis. Their work rate on the spread was unacceptable for an AFL side, and if not for GWS’s inability to hurt them on the scoreboard, they could have been in dire straits.

For the Giants Toby Greene was everywhere. By the break he had 21 disposals and a goal, and was getting good support from Callan Ward and Dom Tyson.  Israel Folau also excited the home crowd with a few silky possessions, including a goal assist and a goal of his own as he delivered his best performance for a number of weeks.

Matt Campbell was one of the only Kangaroos that looked switched on, with his work rate and two first half goals an example to many of his team mates. Andrew Swallow was the only other North player to lead from the front in the first half.

As the second half rolled on, North did enough to win, but that was all. It was a performance that would likely have seen them beaten by any other side in the AFL.

Toby Greene finished the night with 38 possessions and was a clear best on ground. He has undoubtedly been the best first year player in the land.

North Melbourne on the other hand will have the rare task of regrouping after a win. Their form, or lack thereof in their last five quarters, has been at a standard far below that of any of the other finalists. They now face a trip to Perth as a consequence of their apathetic performance.

Votes

3- Toby Greene

2 – Callan Ward

1 – Scott D Thompson

Goals

North Melbourne: K Harper 4 M Campbell 3 B Harvey 2 D Petrie 2 L Thomas 2 A Swallow L Delaney S Gibson.

Greater Western Sydney: J Giles 3 R Palmer 3 A Treloar C Ward D Tyson I Folau T Greene.

Best

North Melbourne: S Thompson L Anthony B Cunnington S Gibson R Bastinac D Petrie.

Greater Western Sydney: T Greene R Palmer D Tyson C Ward J Giles A Treloar.

 

Umpires: Stuart Wenn, Ben Ryan, Gary Fila.

Official Crowd: 6,696 at Skoda Stadium.

 

For more post-match comments, see the North Melbourne board autopsy thread and the GWS match thread.

Cats and Swans too close to call

Geelong vs Sydney

WHERE AND WHEN: Simonds Stadium, Saturday September 1, 1.45pm

TV & RADIO: Fox Footy (live), Channel 7 3pm – ABC 774, 3aw, Triple M

BETTING: Geelong $1.71, Sydney $2.32

WEATHER: Min 6, Max 14 – Cloudy. Scattered showers, easing later in the afternoon. Winds west to southwesterly 20 to 30 km/h tending south to southwesterly and becoming light in the afternoon.

In a round in which we’re spoilt for quality options, the Geelong versus Sydney game on Saturday is most deserving of match of the round status.

Despite a thrilling loss to Hawthorn last week, the Swans are producing the best standard of hard, aggressive football they’ve produced in years. Can they maintain the rage and emulate the intensity we saw against the Hawks, or will there be a letdown after playing so well without any reward?

In contrast Geelong are a champion team who are yet to hit top gear. They should be fresher this week after a comparatively less demanding encounter than Sydney had, however are experienced enough to understand that they must improve on the form of the last fortnight if they are to challenge in September.

The Rundown:

Sydney

The Swans are already assured of the double chance, however the all-important home ground advantage is most likely riding on the result of this match. Presuming Hawthorn defeat West Coast in Melbourne and Adelaide get over the Gold Coast, the equation is simple…win and host Adelaide in week one of the finals, or lose and face the daunting task of travelling to the City of Churches and playing in front of 50,000 hostile Crows supporters.

The biggest challenge to the Sydney game style is usually to restrict the opposition from opening up space. Geelong also being an inside styled unit have not presented such problems to the Swans in their last two encounters, with Sydney taking the points on both occasions.

Importantly the venues of these last two encounters, the SCG this year and Kardinia Park late last year, are two of the smaller playing surfaces in the league. This is perfect for the Swans and will no doubt give them a better opportunity to play the style they prefer than they’ll get if these teams meet in September, where the venue would be the vaster spaces of either ANZ or the MCG.

Geelong

The ramifications of this contest are a little less clear for Geelong as their percentage is so close to Fremantle and North Melbourne. This much is certain: a win guarantees Geelong a home final first up. A loss however brings with it the very real possibility that they will have to travel to Perth to face the Eagles.

The Cats will welcome back Joel Selwood, Matthew Scarlett and Taylor Hunt, however the most intriguing selection will be the second ruck option. Shane Mumford and Mike Pyke are a physical and in form combination. They are every chance to dominate if Trent West isn’t provided appropriate cover.

Josh Walker is a young, promising forward who has been backing up in the ruck in recent weeks. He has shown potential, however still has a lot of development ahead of him and is likely to be replaced by Orren Stephenson or Nathan Vardy.

Stephenson struggled to hold down a regular spot for much of the year, however provides a mature body and found some fantastic form just prior to missing the last fortnight through injury.

Vardy on the other hand is probably a better ruckman and certainly a better forward than Stephenson, yet is coming off a much longer lay off and is more of a risk. He played 70% game time in the VFL last week and by all reports moved well. Given more time he would be Geelong’s preference of the two, and after all some risks must be taken for a side to win a flag from outside the top four. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.

Prediction

This is a fascinating contest, and is simply too close to call. If the weather remains relatively dry the Sydney key forwards may just have the height to stretch Geelong’s defence, and if the rain is a factor it’s hard to go past the best wet weather team in the land.

If there was ever a game to select as a draw, this would be it.

4 reasons Geelong should win the flag from outside the four

Source: Flickr – JamesDPhotography

2012 is shaping as one of the most even and exciting premiership races in modern history. No one could doubt the current top five in Sydney, Hawthorn, Adelaide, Collingwood and West Coast all have legitimate claims to this year’s prize.  And of course history would suggest that they’re right….all have the opportunity to finish in the top four, and winning a flag from outside the top four is almost unheard of.

However one consistent theme in both life and sport is that tradition always has and always will, eventually provide results outside of the norm.

Take the current Geelong side for example. Three flags in five years has only been achieved by Geelong and three other sides in over half a century since the Melbourne juggernaut ended its run of dominance with their last flag in 1960.

The last time a side won the flag from lower than fourth was Adelaide in 1998. However a vastly different finals set up from which we see today saw them lose their first final, and win from fifth. The current system simply doesn’t allow such graces to the fifth ranked side.

Make no mistake, despite popular opinion Geelong tick all the boxes to suggest they can and will break the mould and win an historic flag from the lower half of the eight…..and here are the four key reasons why.

1. Psychology

History’s greatest sides always boast several big game players. These are the players who build much of their reputation on producing the goods when their side needs them most, irrespective of what they might achieve during the run of the mill thrashings of the lower ranked sides.

Names ranging from the legendary status of Leigh Matthews and James Hird, to so called serviceable players like Clarke Keating and Billy Duckworth. They all knew how to deliver when everything was on the line. These are the men that win premierships for their clubs and write their names into the history books.

The big game players are rarely motivated by their next contract or money. They are on the whole driven individuals who take enormous pride in their performances, yet will happily sacrifice any personal glory for the betterment of the team…..especially when it counts most.

They are pure of mind footballers. These are the men that every coach dreams to have on his list. When spring is in the air, these men thrive and consequently produce their best.

Geelong is still chock full of this special breed of player, and it should come as no surprise after such a sustained period of success that they should struggle to motivate themselves in the lead up to the 2012 finals series.

They’ve done enough thus far….which is perfectly consistent with the psychology of such players in these uncommon circumstances.

A primary example of this is Jimmy Bartel, Paul Chapman and Matthew Scarlett.  It’s common in the footy world for bookies, punters and experts alike to suffer from the goldfish syndrome of only remembering recent form, yet those with a broader perspective simply cannot ignore the ability of such players to produce when they are motivated to the extreme.

Not that they’ll admit it on the record, but it’s simply the nature of the beast for players of this mindset to struggle for motivation in round 10, 12 or 14 after winning three flags. It is not however the nature of the beast for them to produce anything less than their elite best in September.

2. Talent

Some might say the first ingredient required to go deep into September are two big bodied, accomplished key forwards. Essentially they are required to not only straighten up their midfielders and bring the ball to ground, but to deliver clutch goals when required. In Tom Hawkins and James Posdiadly, Geelong have this area more than covered.

Additionally support from the mid and smaller sized forwards is critical. Once again Geelong are strong in this area. Steve Johnson nailed four goals at half fitness in last year’s Grand Final, and Chapman has been below his best this year and still kicked a respectable 31 goals. He is another Geelong champion proven to lift when it counts most, kicking three goals with a hamstring strain after quarter time in 2009, with a flag and the Norm Smith medal his reward.

The X factor of Steven Motlop’s pace and flair in kicking 25 goals with a truckload of score involvements adds to Geelong’s potency.

The midfield speaks for itself, particularly their size and ability to play the hard-nosed, contested footy that’s proven to deliver deep into September.

Last year’s Norm Smith and clutch player Bartel, Joel Selwood who also proved himself on last year’s big stage, All Australian James Kelly on the back of a whopping 13 tackles in the last Grand Final, Joel Corey’s run and carry, Taylor Hunt’s tagging abilities, the list goes on….Travis Varcoe’s inclusion could add yet another string to their bow.

Defensively the Cats should be the envy of the competition. All three of Geelong’s key defenders have proven time and again that they can carve up big name forwards on Grand Final Day. Tom Lonergan, Matthew Scarlett and Harry Taylor are the best set of key defenders in the competition….bar none.

The support and drive they receive off half back from Josh Hunt and Andrew Mackie perfectly complements their defensive unit.

And lastly the rucks. Whilst Brad Ottens’ finals performances are unlikely to be replicated, Orren Stephenson and Trent West are both competitive and hungry, providing significant challenges for opposition ruck combinations.

3. Structure/Game Plan

Finals footy requires a combination of skill and execution, an ability to create space, and an unstoppable desire to win the contest. Again, Geelong are hard to fault in any of these areas in the games that matter.

When they’re hungry, there’s not a side in the land that can match them for contested footy. This list is purpose built for high intensity, ultra desperate, in the clinches contested footy.

Additionally Chris Scott demands they play a highly accountable and disciplined brand of football. There are rarely passengers in the big games and on the most part everyone plays their role well, yet they are more than capable of playing with flair and moving the ball inside 50 quickly.

The great advantage the Cats hold structurally is that they are the best side in the wet by a country mile. Even their key forwards seem to hit the scoreboard, as demonstrated by Hawkins’ sensational six goal display in the slosh against Brisbane earlier in the year. If it rains in a final, back the Cats all the way.

4. Experience

More than any side going around these guys know what is required – finding a way to win high intensity finals and grand finals with everything on the line is not something anyone can teach.

There are virtually no key players in this side that don’t fully understand the intangibles of what is required to deliver on the big day.

 

Make no mistake, with six weeks to go there’s still a lot of water to go under the bridge, however if Geelong are anywhere near the finish line when the whips are cracking, it’s hard to see anyone getting in their way.

Hawks get up in classic

SYDNEY SWANS 4.3 8.5 10.7 14.11 (95)
HAWTHORN 0.1 7.6 10.11 15.12 (102)

Saturday afternoon had the SCG hosting the match of the round this week, as the footy world had the rare privilege of witnessing a first versus second clash on the eve of the finals. With both sides looking to sure up home ground advantage for September, the attack on the man and the ball had all of the intensity of a final from the opening bounce.

The high pressure and contested style of footy suited the Swans to a tee in the first quarter, completely negating the Hawks natural game plan of controlling the ball. Craig Bird held Sam Mitchell to just three possessions, as John Longmire exposed Hawthorn’s lack of height in defence by starting Adam Goodes, Lewis Roberts-Thompson, Sam Reid and Mike Pyke inside the forward 50.

Josh Kennedy and Daniel Hannerbury were dominating in the clinches as the Swans led the contested possession count 54 to 39 at quarter time, resulting in 18 to 9 inside 50 count and a 26 point lead.

In the second quarter the intensity remained, although the game began to open up as the quarter progressed. Reid and Mumford continued to expose Hawthorn’s lack of tall defenders, and seven minutes in, Isaac Smith finally landed Hawthorn their first goal of the evening. It would be the first of a seven goal quarter for the Hawks, as their midfield led by Shaun Burgoyne began to adapt to the speed of the game and find space.

Lance Franklin after being beaten in several contests by Ted Richards in the first quarter also found another gear, kicking three goals as the Hawks completely turned the match around to be level until Nick Malceski goaled just before the main break.

In the second half the Hawks picked up there they left off, with goals to Paul Puopolo and Liam Shiels early on. The Swans responded with goals to Roberts-Thompson and Goodes, both once again courtesy of marks against significantly shorter opponents.

The footy remained hot throughout the third as Gunston snapped truly, and the stage was set for an epic at three quarter time with the Hawks leading by just four points.

It was hard to imagine it being possible at the time, but if anything the intensity actually lifted in the last quarter. If anyone had any doubts that either of these sides were genuine premiership contenders leading into this clash, all doubts surely must have been removed as the quarter progressed.

Kennedy somehow lifted a gear and his inside work was as good as it gets. Heath Grundy repelled attack after attack, and Jordan Lewis and Brad Sewell were at their uncompromising best.

With just over 2 minutes to go the game had risen to standards worthy of being called the game of the year. The Hawks led by a point….and then the game exploded.

With every kick seemingly under impossible pressure, Ryan O’Keefe somehow found a way to kick an exceptional goal from the pocket to give the Swans the lead. From the clearance the Hawks surged forward which led to Luke Hodge finding Burgoyne 35 metres out. A pressure set shot on goal if there ever was one, and Burgoyne delivered to once again give the Hawks the lead.

With one and a half minutes remaining the Hawks again won the centre clearance, this time resulting in Sewell launching a long bomb for a goal to finally decide this epic contest.

By the time the final siren sounded, the standard of footy from both sides was more than worthy of being labelled the game of the year. More accurately, this was a classic. Both sides were brilliant in what turned out to be a more than memorable seven point victory to the Hawks.

 

Votes:

3 – Josh Kennedy

2 – Shaun Burgoyne

1 – Jordan Lewis

 

GOALS
Sydney Swans:
Goodes, Mumford, O’Keefe, Reid 2, Jack, Kennedy,
Malceski, McGlynn, McVeigh, Roberts-Thomson
Hawthorn: Franklin 4, Burgoyne 3, Suckling, Puopolo 2, Gunston,
Sewell, Shiels, Smith

BEST
Sydney Swans:
O’Keefe, Goodes, Richards, Kennedy, Hannebery, Grundy
Hawthorn: Burgoyne, Lewis, Birchall Franklin, Hodge, Young, Sewell

INJURIES
Sydney Swans:
TBC
Hawthorn: TBC

SUBSTITUTES
Sydney Swans:
Lewis Roberts-Thomson replaced by Mitch Morton at
three-quarter time
Hawthorn: Brendan Whitecross replaced by Xavier Ellis in the fourth quarter

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Donlon, McBurney, Margetts

Official crowd:
31,167 at SCG

Saints and Giants Finally Meet

WHERE AND WHEN: Etihad Stadium, Saturday August 25, 1.45pm

TV & RADIO: Fox Footy (live), 3aw, Triple M

BETTING: St. Kilda $1.00, GWS $31.00,

The early Saturday game this week sees Greater Western Sydney take on St. Kilda for the first time in their short history. GWS are coming off two respectable losses and a win in the last three weeks, whilst the Saints will be looking to bounce back from their heartbreaking loss in which Geelong ended their finals ambitions.

With finals no longer on the Saints’ radar, it will be interesting to see how coach Scott Watters manages his list against the young Giants. In particular, Saints captain Nick Riewoldt may be put on ice for the rest of the season after injuring his knee against Melbourne a fortnight ago, and Sam Dunell looks a likely chance to be recalled after a solid performance in the VFL.

The Rundown

Saints

Whilst the season is gone for St. Kilda, circumstances like these can often be valuable from a coaching and development point of view. Watters now has two games in which to experiment with no real pressure to win, which gives him a lot more freedom to play with his structures.

Stephen Milne and Ahmed Saad have combined well for a collective 76 goals so far this season, yet the Saints key position forwards have often struggled to gel. This week provides Watters with another opportunity to find the right mix of talls in the forward 50, so expect to see Beau Wilkes, Rhys Stanley and Brendan Goddard tried in a few different combinations. Justin Koschitzke was appalling at times last week and finished the night with a meagre return of zero kicks and one handpass…it will be interesting to see how his coach reacts.

The selected team will give us a hint as to how adventurous the coaching panel are prepared to be in the next two weeks. Will they stick with their best available 22, or will we see the inclusion of more young talent?

Giants

All the talk surrounding the Giants lately has been a case of the good and the bad. The good is Toby Greene. Unquestionably the best first year player in the AFL, Greene has the extraordinary stat of collecting over 30 disposals in six of his last seven outings.

The bad has been the much publicised lack of impact of rugby convert Israel Folau. Big Izzy has struggled to find the ball with any regularity, however this week has an opportunity in to present with Jeremy Cameron and Jonathon Patton likely to miss. Expect Mark Williams to give Folau every opportunity as the main forward target in the GWS 50 meter zone against the undersized St. Kilda defence.

Prediction

St. Kilda would be disappointed with their form in the last fortnight, in particular their second half efforts. Irrespective of how experienced the selected side is, the focus will no doubt be to run the game out. On the other side of the coin it’s hard to see where GWS are going to find enough goals to be competitive.

St. Kilda by 70 points.

Mouth Watering Clash for Footy Purists

Where and When: Melbourne Cricket Ground, Saturday June 23rd, 4:40pm

Weather: Min 4, Max 12 – Cloudy. Scattered showers until evening. Winds northwesterly 20 to 30 km/h.

Last Time: Qualifying Final 2011 – Collingwood 12.10.82 d West Coast 9.8.62

TV and Radio: Fox Footy, SEN, ABC 774, 3aw & Triple M

A few times a year a game comes along that just has that feeling about it. A feeling of anticipation throughout the footy world, that can only be galvanized by two sides with top class talent across all lines on the team sheets. A vibe of excitement in that we all feel we are about to witness two football clubs that have been eyeing each other from a distance for quite some time, who finally get the chance to do battle.

This Saturday at the MCG, there is a game that carries that feeling. First versus third with both sides currently 9-2, in what many expect to be the grand final preview between West Coast and Collingwood.

Make no mistake, West Coast are aiming for very big things in 2012 and have been looking at this fixture for some time. Their first game for the season at the home of football, and their first opportunity to test themselves against the Magpies since their loss in the qualifying final last year: a final in which they failed to capitalize on their chances when they counted most, and ultimately fell short by 20 points.

On the flip side Collingwood are legitimately a champion side, who are used to absorbing the pressure applied by sides that set themselves for a shot at the big boys. They have beaten West Coast in six of their past seven encounters, and are on an eight game winning streak.

Possibly the most impressive characteristic of both clubs this year is their ability to cover injuries to key players. Most weeks we’ve seen multiple forced changes at the selection tables, yet both still sit in the top four with a more than realistic chance of obtaining the double chance in September.

The Pies have temporarily lost their best player Scott Pendlebury, yet welcome back Heath Shaw, Ben Reid, and Alan Toovey. This will be the first time this year that Collingwood will have their three first choice key defenders in Chris Tarrant, Nathan Brown and Reid all playing at the same time.

West Coast have had to cover Adam Selwood and the in form Will Schofield, yet have very handy replacements in Beau Waters and Mitch Brown to fill the void.

As is often the case when two quality sides match up, there is no shortage of talent set to face off in the midfield.

The West Coast midfield is a dynamic mix and well balanced. Dean Cox and Nic Natanui are simply the best ruck combination in the league, and are spoilt for talented options at ground level. Matthew Priddis somehow remains under rated by many on the east coast, and he along with the combination of Daniel Kerr, Matthew Rosa, Scott Selwood, Luke Shuey, and Andrew Gaff provide a great mix of speed, strength, creativity and flair.

The Pies of course have Brownlow medallist Dane Swan in the middle, fresh from 42 possessions against Melbourne a fortnight ago. Dayne Beams and Steele Sidebottom have lifted their game a notch to fill the void left by early season injuries, and have Sharrod Wellingham and Dale Thomas rotating through as well.

Darren Jolly arguably has the biggest task of any player for the afternoon as he tries to match Cox and Natanui, and will ultimately go a long way to determining Collingwood’s fortunes.

The other area to get the football purists talking will be the action in the West Coast forward zone. After five rather uninspiring seasons at the Western Bulldogs, Josh Hill has found his mojo in his first year with the Eagles. His defensive efforts have been first class, and he currently shares the West Coast goal kicking honours with young star Jack Darling with 21 goals apiece.

Big Quinten Lynch plays his 200th game this weekend and is always a threat, and Cox has proven more than dangerous when under the long ball inside 50 this season.

Watching Brown, Reid and Tarrant match up the tall timber should be a treat to watch regardless of with order they line up in, along with the run from Heath Shaw, Harry O’Brien and the defensive efforts of Nick Maxwell.

Match Ups:

Scott Selwood vs Dane Swan – Scott Selwood took Chris Judd to the cleaners last week, restricting the champion to 12 disposals whilst gathering 33 of his own. However Swan has been running much harder than Judd of late, and we are sure to be treated with an intense match up between these two.

Darren Glass vs Travis Cloke – Yet another pairing to get excited about. The West Coast captain is one of the only defenders in the league who can realistically match Cloke for strength, and reads the ball better than most in the air. Cloke will undoubtedly attempt to run Glass further afield in an attempt to capitalise on his superior endurance, but it will be his ability to win possession in more dangerous territory that will most worry the Eagles.

Chris Tarrant vs Jack Darling – Darling is only in his second year, yet has already shown himself to be a consistently dangerous forward with a great footy brain. Tarrant will be the first assigned the responsibility to keep him quiet, and will be relying on help from O’brien and Maxwell when the long ball is headed their way.

Prediction:

The football public will be looking to get a read on how these two will match up, with a view to how it will play out in the finals. Expect a high intensity and highly entertaining game, but don’t be fooled into thinking this game will mean much at all by September.

West Coast by 14 points.

Collingwood

B: Heritier O’Brien, Nathan Brown, Chris Tarrant
HB: Nick Maxwell, Ben Reid, Martin Clarke
C: Simon Buckley, Dale Thomas, Jarryd Blair
HF: Alex Fasolo, Chris Dawes, Heath Shaw
F: Dayne Beams, Travis Cloke, Tyson Goldsack
Foll: Darren Jolly, Dane Swan, Steele Sidebottom
I/C: Alan Toovey, Sharrod Wellingham, Jamie Elliott, Marley Williams
Emg: Cameron Wood, Tom Young, Kirk Ugle
In: Heath Shaw, Alan Toovey, Ben Reid
Out: Alan Didak (Adductor), Ben Sinclair (Ankle), Tom Young

West Coast

B: Beau Waters, Darren Glass, Patrick McGinnity
HB: Shannon Hurn, Eric Mackenzie, Jacob Brennan
C: Andrew Gaff, Matthew Priddis, Matthew Rosa
HF: Josh Hill, Quinten Lynch, Chris Masten
F: Nic Naitanui, Jack Darling, Daniel Kerr
Foll: Dean Cox, Scott Selwood, Luke Shuey
I/C: Mitch Brown, Brad Sheppard, Ashton Hams, Thomas Swift
Emg: Sam Butler, Koby Stevens, Lewis Stevenson
In: Beau Waters, Mitch Brown
Out: Adam Selwood (Illness), Will Schofield (Hamstring)

BigFooty Team Board Previews:

Collingwood

West Coast

Follow it live on BigFooty’s Game Day Thread 

Hawthorn Too Strong In Wet

HAWTHORN 4.6 8.12 12.19 19.21 (135) 

BRISBANE LIONS 6.1 7.2 8.2 11.4 (70)

Hawthorn have overcome a dogged Brisbane Lions outfit on a wet and soggy MCG to record their third big win in a row.

The Hawks kicked 19.21.135 to Brisbane’s 11.4.70, although it was never as easy as the scoreboard suggests.

Brisbane turned up ready to play and showed great spirit in a first half that saw the lead change eight times, as they earned themselves a seven point quarter time lead. Jed Adcock was working hard in defense, and Tom Rockliff and Jack Redden were amongst a midfield group whose long and direct play ensured the forwards were converting a higher number of their inside 50’s than the inaccurate Hawks.

It was however the last quarter that Brisbane would win for the afternoon, as the pressure Hawthorn was applying took its toll on the younger Lions outfit. As the game rolled on Hawthorn amassed a dominant 97-70 tackles which in part resulted in 71-41 inside 50s, as the opportunities started to present themselves to Lance Franklin who finished with 17 possessions and five goals.

Sam Mitchell’s inside work was superb in conditions made for the former captain, and Shaun Burgoyne was released into the midfield and played his best match for the brown and gold for the year.

After the game Alistair Clarkson said he was pleased for his players to have found form in recent weeks, but was cautious not to get too carried away.

“If we’re going to be a great side at the end of the year then we need to make sure that we do it against some of the more seasoned campaigners”, he said.

“With no disrespect to the Kangaroos, Brisbane or Port Adelaide, there wasn’t a scribe in the land that had them as seriously challenging for the flag. So we’ve done really well the last three weeks, we’ve been pleased with our intent, but it’s yet to be proven that we can do it against the very good sides.”

It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the Lions as Jonathon Brown took the points over Ryan Shoenmakers with seven marks and three goals on a day made for key defenders, and Dayne Zorko showed their was plenty to work with gathering 24 disposals and kicking three of his own on a forward flank.

The Lions will return to Melbourne next week when they take on the Western Bulldogs in what shapes to be a big game for both sides, whilst Hawthorn will enjoy their mid-season bye before they take on the Blues in a fortnight.

Votes:

3 – Shaun Burgoyne

2 – Dayne Zorko

1 – Lance Franklin

GOALS

Hawthorn: Franklin 5, Breust 2, Burgoyne 2, Puopolo 2, Gunston 2, Roughead 2, Hill, Mitchell, Rioli, Savage
Brisbane Lions: Brown 3, Zorko 3, Bewick, Cornelius, Polkinghorne, Raines, Rich

BEST
Hawthorn:
Burgoyne, Suckling, Puopolo, Franklin, Mitchell, Roughead, Rioli
Brisbane Lions: Zorko, Rockliff, Hudson, Raines, Brown

INJURIES
Hawthorn:
Guerra (hip)
Brisbane Lions: TBC

SUBSTITUTES
Hawthorn:
Bradley Hill replaced Brent Guerra in the third quarter
Brisbane Lions: Rohan Bewick replaced Jared Polec in the third quarter

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Schmitt, Armstrong, Pannell

Official crowd: 35,492 at the MCG