The second week of the finals series is always a fascinating time. Every year we have two sides who were good enough to finish in the top four, but all of a sudden find themselves fighting for survival after missing out on a preliminary final berth and a nice week off. Some clubs are able to bounce back and progress, others fail to recover and exit the finals series in straight sets!
And it has been mind games-a-go-go leading into this weekend’s cut-throat semi finals with all four teams fighting tooth and nail to award themselves underdog status. And then there is all the speculation over who will risk their injured stars in a do-or-die effort to win on the weekend…which drove one network we all know and loathe to new heights (literally) that only a powerful dose of Septocemia could inspire.
Look, it’s a footballer! And he’s standing on some grass! What a scoop!!!
St Kilda’s closed training session was ambushed by the Channel Nine helicopter yesterday, in an effort to show what most of already know anyways – that Luke Ball might play on the weekend…or he might not. What an exclusive!!! The Saints had their bit of fun by trotting out some other guy in Ball’s number 14 jumper, which the network reported with it’s typical disdain for reality, but they would have not been too concerned about the whole thing. Sorry Tony jones…we just don’t give a shit!
And they wonder why most people think Channel Nine are evil…
But the Saints should be more concerned about yesterday’s headline in the Melbourne Age, the one that screamed “I could have won!”. Oh, wait a sec…we just assumed that it was yet another quote from former St Kilda coach Grant Thomas, who seems to have a bit of trouble letting go. But no, it was Peter Costello talking about last year’s federal election! Funny…they both share that same smarmy, off-putting smirk!
Would you trust either of these men with your vote?
Anyway, we digress…will either of the Dogs or Saints suffer the embarrassment and the inevitable media slaying of being bounced out in straight sets? And will it even matter anyway? We have the AFL equivalent of Roger Federer (Geelong) and Raphael Nadal (Hawthorn) waiting in the wings, preparing for a shot at a grand final berth next weekend. Will any of these four teams playing this weekend have the capacity to shock the football world and knock off a raging hot favourite on preliminary final weekend, like Andy Murray did to Nadal at the US Open last week? Is there a weedy Scotsman amongst this lot that can knock out one of the top seeds and qualify for the big decider?
Aker may have a better chance of winning the Davis Cup than another premiership cup!
Second Semi Final – MCG, 7:50pm (local): Western Bulldogs v Sydney (SEVEN)
SWANS by 9: After being ‘Franklin’d’ last Friday night, the Dogs have been yapping all week about the things they must do. So, if you read all the reports this week, all they need is a call to arms, to go back to the future, find their own spark, respond better to the heat of finals footy and make a few changes…or not. For if they don’t win, 2008 will be a wasted season…but relax boys, there’s no pressure!
In Sydney, the land that football forgot, the Swans appear to be in a happy place. They romped home last week on the field but also won the fierce battle for underdog status too! They have cast off the ‘spent force’ tag (for one week at least…), are choc-full of self belief and will be drawing inspiration from the great Paul Kelly. We think that Sydney will continue to fly the flag for the interstate clubs and keep the coach smiling..well, he has plenty to smile about right now.
Plenty of promise but failing to live up to the hype…is Justin Koschitzke the Chris Guccione of the AFL?
First Semi Final – MCG, 7:30pm (local): St Kilda v Collingwood (TEN)
PIES by 19: Mick Malthouse may not be reading too much into St Kilda’s loss last Sunday but he should read plenty into the loss his Mapgies inflicted on them straight after the Shaw-Didak debacle! It looks good for Collingwood – the captain appears ready to go, the coach is wary and the kids are terrific. And with a massive crowd ready to rock the ‘G, it seems that only another bad dose of ‘blockbusteritis’ could prevent the Pies from qualifying for the prelim!
Ross Lyon’s underdogs are hoping to recover from last Sunday’s beat-down and fire up for the Pies. But having been exposed by the Cats, and with serious doubts over the fitness of valuable midfielder Luke Ball, their chances don’t look good. They didn’t handle the increased pressure of finals footy and they have struggled against the Pies in recent times; all this despite being the trendy pick as the best Victorian challenger for quite a few years now. We predict another blown season and no pot’o’gold at the end of Robert Harvey’s rainbow…but it will give them time to prepare for the supposed arrival of Daniel Kerr!