1. Finally Port Adelaide’s odds begin to shorten

It seems punters needed a lot of convincing that Port Adelaide are the real deal despite the Power occupying top spot on the ladder for the entire season.  I’m sure this may vary between the different betting agencies, but I can see now the Power sit at $4.00 with Brisbane coming in at $3.25.  That would have to be due to the Grand Final being played at the Gabba where the Lions are yet to lose a game this season.  It still puzzles me that as recently as a fortnight earlier, Port Adelaide were fourth placed in Grand Final favouritism.  It seems now sanity has prevailed.

This is a very cohesive unit.  What I have seen is a near perfect blend of experience and youth, with the talent spread across the ground evenly.  It seems Ken Hinkley has drilled the side well and each player is clear on what their role is.  Having Charlie Dixon playing most games has straightened them up.  Even though his output in this game was modest, his presence is always felt and he definitely takes the opposition’s best defender each week.  It also seems that Powell-Pepper, who has been out of favour at some stages during this season, is now close to his best form.  Tom Rockliff has also established himself as an important player after coming over from Brisbane.

The Power will take some beating, and having a week off at this stage will do them wonders.  Plenty still needs to go right, however.  Knowing that they’ll be travelling to Queensland should they win their next match will be on their minds, but I think they’ll be satisfied with where they find themselves so far.

 

  1. Tom Hawkins has managed nine behinds from his last two Qualifying finals appearances

Last year, as Geelong fell to Collingwood by 10 points, Hawkins could only manage four behinds.  This year, against the Power, his return was five behinds.  To be fair, some of his early misses were very difficult shots, but as the night wore on, it became apparent that he was having one of those games where his kicking was slightly off and the course of the game went against the Cats.  When you consider the game stats were fairly even in most areas, it becomes clear that Port’s efficiency around goal separated the two teams.  Hawkins will no doubt be reliving some of his misses and wondering what could have been.

It’ll be interesting to see how Hawkins bounces back next week.  The Pies defence is pretty solid.  Darcy Moore will prove a handful if given the job, or perhaps the somewhat underrated Roughead will line up against the star forward.  Time will tell.  My guess is Tom will be spending a little bit of time practicing his set-shots during the week.  Something also seems to have gone slightly awry with his around the corner style set shots as well.  Perhaps he may be better served reverting to a drop punt on some acute angle shots in the future.  Just an observation…

 

  1. Are the Cats really under-achievers in finals?

Since 2011, their last premiership year, Geelong has appeared in 16 finals matches.  They have only managed four wins out of those games.  There will be some mounting heat on Chris Scott.  Sure, the regularity of finals appearances is an enviable record, but their lack of ultimate success despite making the finals in eight out of the last nine seasons will begin to be a cause for alarm, and possibly some fringe-dwellers may even start talking about some kind of curse!  But I digress.

Chris Scott has tried to play this down, but it must be a source of frustration for him.  He’ll be desperate to win against the Pies next week, but judging by what they served up in Perth they’ll be anything but an easy opponent.  Perhaps the fact they will have to travel yet again with two days less rest will assist Geelong, but the Collingwood boys will be a massive challenge.

 

  1. Is this the year of the Lion?

Richmond came into this game full of belief.  After all, it had been 11 years since a Brisbane team had defeated the Tigers, and even in recent times with vast improvement, Richmond had made light work of the Lions.  The game began in blistering fashion with a 7-goal opening term and Richmond holding sway by six points.  For most of the second term the game tightened up until three late goals to Brisbane saw them entering the long break 13 points ahead.  Surprisingly, at quarter time, Brownlow favourite Lachie Neale had failed to get a possession.  However, by the end of the match he’d worked himself into the game despite a heavy tag, and finished with 19 touches and a telling goal right on half time.

Dustin Martin started the game looking ominous.  But as the game wore on, his influence waned as did the likelihood of a Tigers victory.  The Tigers are by no means a one-man team, but it does appear that quelling Martin does go a long way towards overcoming them.  Up forward, Riewoldt had his hands full with Harris Andrews returning for the Lions.  I would say Andrews is to Brisbane what McGovern is to West Coast.  He’s that good!

Brisbane can now sit back and see what unfolds in the clash between Geelong and Collingwood.  I don’t think either side will worry them more than the other and being at home throughout the series will be a huge benefit.  I truly thought Richmond would find a way in this game, but now I can see that the Lions are deserving of Premiership favouritism.  Even the wayward Hugh McLuggage was able to kick the sealer.  Perhaps that’s an omen.

 

  1. Charlie Cameron must prefer playing before bigger crowds

Early in the season, Charlie Cameron was in terrific form.  He was terrorising opposition on a weekly basis.  It all seemed to come to a halt when he landed awkwardly on his knee.  Despite continuing to play with it heavily bandaged, he didn’t seem near his best and the spark just wasn’t quite there.  On Friday night, that all changed.  Charlie was in his element.  It was on the big stage in front of a crowd of 22,000, which I imagine is possibly the biggest crowd he’s played in front of all year.  Gone were those awkward moments where he’d kick a goal and look to the empty stands for adoration.

If Charlie continues this form in the remainder of the finals series, it will go a long way to success.  He’s one of those players that ignites the whole team with his pace and attack on the ball.  He’s one of those typical small forward types who don’t need to get a lot of the football to have a huge impact on games.  He only had 11 possessions on Friday night, but his three goals were the difference in the end, and each time the Tigers threatened, right on cue Charlie would find a way to impose himself on the match keeping a mostly comfortable gap on the scoreboard.  He’s a delight to watch in full flight.

 

  1. The Dogs almost came marching in…

At 3-quarter time, the Dogs looked gone.  They trailed by four goals having scored only five for the match, and it looked as though the game would peter out into a solid victory to the Saints.  The Bulldogs did manage to kick four of the last five goals of the game to eventually fall three points short in what ended up a very tense last quarter.  Jarryn Geary played a true captain’s game kicking two goals including the solitary goal by the Saints in the final term.  He’ll be loving the captaincy right now.  The Saints had a win against the Tigers in Round 4, but that was a long time ago.  I imagine Tom Lynch will be back for Richmond, and who plays on Dusty?

The Dogs have now bowed out in the first week of the finals in the last two seasons.  Prior to that, they missed finals in 2017/18.  What that means is that since tasting premiership glory in 2016, they’ve failed to win a finals game, a fact not lost on Luke Beveridge.  After the game, he spoke of the club seeking to be very active during trade period to find some talent that can enable them to improve on where they are at right now.  There may be a few nervous players on the Bulldogs list.  It seems clear the coach won’t want another year of limited success.

 

  1. Watching Paddy Ryder getting injured so late in the game was disappointing.

He’d had a pretty solid game booting two goals and dominating the taps when playing in the ruck.  With just a minute and a half remaining in the match, he hobbled to the bench with what appeared to be a pretty nasty hamstring strain.  The camera zoomed in on him as the final siren blew and the tears were apparent.  In his 257-game career, this was his first ever win in a final, but the fact that he won’t be there as his team advances proved too much for the big man.

Based on this year’s form, I imagine Paddy will still be a big part of St Kilda in 2021, but it must’ve crossed his mind that at 32, would this be his last real opportunity to contend in finals?  It’s never nice to see when things like this happen.  Most of us are still reeling over Bob Murphy not being available for the 2016 Grand Final victory.  Every year come finals time we have several hard-luck stories, and sadly for Paddy, this is the first one of 2020.

 

  1. The Pies win will go down in history

You could see the Pies were on early.  When Mason Cox had three goals in the first quarter and looked as switched on as ever, it seemed to set the tone.  The much-maligned forward somehow seems to be a finals specialist.  He ended the game with three goals and had a definite influence.  And let’s be honest.  Who would’ve thought the scoresheet would have the West Coast forwards in Kennedy and Darling with three each while, at the other end, lesser names in Cox and Mihocek also had three goals each against their name?  The Pies have struggled to kick a winning score all year, and if anyone thought they’d win after conceding 11 goals in this game, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re crazy.

The Eagles weren’t terrible by any means. They had good contributions from Gaff and Naitanui out of the middle, but the Pies midfield led by Treloar and Adams seemed more damaging.  It was only a one point margin, but anyone watching the game would’ve thought the result was the correct one.  The Pies just seemed to have the edge all night, and two late goals to West Coast meant they almost pinched it, but despite the fact I’m a Blues fan, I can still see that would have been a tragedy.

 

  1. Mihocek must get a big pay rise

I don’t have the inside knowledge of some, but my understanding is that Brody Mihocek isn’t pulling in the big bucks at this stage.  His contract ends at the end of this season, so I’m guessing he’s about to hit pay dirt as it’s pretty clear to everyone what his true value is.  The weird part is that he was originally taken as a defender and has been converted into a forward with astounding results.  He’s now proving to be a massive handful with his strong marking, accurate kicking and overall strength.

He’ll be 28 at the commencement of next season, so I imagine he’ll be looking for a 3-year deal.  Based on what some other power forwards are worth, he may be asking for something in excess of two million over that period.  If the Pies don’t pay it, I can only speculate that there are teams on the cusp of premiership glory that would be more than happy to splurge on the rising star.  That said, the Pies seem to have a knack of retaining players, so I’m sure once the season ends, they’ll get the deal done and Mihocek will repay the faith given to him when he was taken as a mature-age rookie.

 

  1. Great start to the finals – too bad Melbourne is a ghost town

This isn’t a rant from a parochial Victorian who believes that Melbourne is the home of sport and everything should happen here.  And with everything going on, nobody is even questioning why there are no games in this city.  The thing is, finals time in Melbourne usually means there’s a buzz, even if your team is not involved.  To see things as they are during a time that normally is so vibrant is heartbreaking, as well as rather eerie.  The mood in Melbourne is very sombre.  We can only live in hope that next year’s football season is not as heavily impacted by COVID-19 as this year, not just in Melbourne, but all over the nation.

The most disappointing aspect of this weekend for Melbournians was just how bloody amazing the games all were.  Only one of those games to be honest would’ve been played in Melbourne in normal times, but even that one game means the city would’ve been lit up and a hive of activity.  That’s possibly one of the best opening weeks of a finals series we’ve seen in recent times.  Hats off to all the teams.  They all showed up and gave their all.  It was a pleasure to watch the games and I can only hope this standard remains for the rest of the finals series, because, let’s face it, for most of the year the standard has been ordinary.  At least now the cream is rising.

 

New Mongrel Podcast
Week One Finals Wrap – Week Two Preview