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Finals 2018

Round 23 review & Finals week 1 comments – by Penny Dredfell (added 05 Sep 2018 after hearing Bucks on SEN 1116)
My round 23 tip was a winner! spot on – with the Dockers looking winner at one stage but eventually losing by 9 points.  MY one disappointment was that I was quite keen on the Dogs to exceed expectations (which they did easily) but did not bother to write about them.

Back on 19 July this year, I summarised all 18 teams and talked about their flag prospects. Not much has changed for me since then and I am still tipping the Eagles for the flag; but losing Gaff is a huge blow for them.

The finals: pleased to hear Terry Wallace’s summary of the 8 teams on SEN yesterday; his only chances were 4: Tigers, Eagles, Pies and the winner of Dees / Cats; he wrote off the two Sydney teams and the Hawks.  “They don’t bat deep enough” he said of the Hawks.  This was pleasing to hear, because I feel like they have done a bit of a Steven Bradbury in getting to the double chance.  Their winning streak has extended to six now – taking them from outside the 8 to 4th.  Here’s the breakdown:
R18: beat the Blues by 72 points; Blues lost Dale Thomas as a late withdrawal; also lost Zac Fisher and Liam Jones in the game
R19: beat the Dockers by 59 points away; Dockers without Fyfe, but probably the Hawks’ best win in this sequence
R20: beat the Bombers by 4 points; Bombers had 2 late changes, but fair win by the Hawks
R21: beat the Cats by 11 points; made their move when Stanley in the ruck got injured for Geelong and Tuohy was off the ground; Pittonet replaced Roughead; fair win
R22: beat the Saints by 4 points; coach Clarkson said the better team lost; each team lost a player
R23: beat the Swans by 9 points; Franklin and Parker late withdrawals for the Swans; Hannebery a huge corkie was was ineffective; Hawks did peg back an approx 4 goal lead

So the winning streak equates to good, honest finals competitive type footy – not flag football; therefore the Tigers – fairly close to full strength will beat them easily?  Well, I’m not so sure about that; you see, I have some doubts about the Tigers as well; some time ago, I wrote that their season 2017 & 2018 is very similar to the Cats of ten years earlier.  Back in 2008, the Cats were the biggest certs of all time to win the flag; but they ended up being overrun by the Hawks and, in fact, were inferior to Hawthorn for the entire finals series.  So I am expecting some sort of below par effort from the Tigers at some stage in the finals.  The big query is WHEN?

For Geelong in 2008, their first final was excellent, their second so-so and, in the grand final,  they were overrun after half time.  Nowadays, we have a week’s break before the finals – which didn’t happen in 2008; but Richmond’s form leading in to the finals is just so-so (again, not premiership certs type form) – running out of puff against the Bombers without looking like losing to win by 8 points and then a 3 point win against the Dogs, who had a lot of players out injured.  The positive for the Tigers is that they were resting a few injured players during that time; meanwhile, the Hawks were going flat out just to make the finals and, in round 23, to grab a top 4 spot; a top 2 spot was sewn up for Richmond long ago.

The Eagles / Pies match is the most significant of them all – because of what it does to the Vic teams (and the Eagles, of course).  Terry Wallace has already written off the two Sydney teams and I agree – mainly because of the players each team has out injured or playing but not 100%; so that leaves 5 Vic teams plus the Eagles (with QLD and SA not featuring).

The winner of Richmond / Hawthorn stays at the MCG all finals series.  The loser of  Richmond / Hawthorn + the winner of  Melbourne / Geelong stays at the MCG all finals series IFF the Pies win in week 1; but will have to go to Perth for the prelim IFF the Eagles win.

Back briefly to the Sydney teams; the winner has to go to Perth in week 2 if the Pies win; or the MCG in week 2 if the Eagles win; if they make the prelim, it will be at the MCG.

And, of course, the Eagles / Pies match is the final one for the weekend.

On to the weekend: I don’t like the game in Sydney because there is too much uncertainty about both teams; the more changes that the Giants make, the more I would downgrade their rating; huge changes rarely work, unless it is a “cleansing of the soul” type change – such as when the Baby Bombers all got games in 1993.  Remember Heath Shaw’s 8 week suspension for a $10 bet on the footy in 2011 (too hefty, I reckon, but that’s another story); some said it would be good for him.  But why, then didn’t we see the Tigers rest a star for 8 weeks? or even 4 weeks?  A single week’s rest is about all that is needed – barring REAL injury; I reckon 2018 is an injury write-off for GWS, even if they get through week 1 of finals.  their injury quotient (IQ) was 23 a few weeks ago and is 13-20 now (depending on how many are fully fit); the Swans IQ is 13, but have less depth than GWS; leave me out and the winner might depart week 2 – unless the Pies get battered and bruised.  Neither would win in Perth in week 2.

The ladder is:  Richmond 18 wins, Eagles 16, Pies and Hawks 15,  Dees and Swans 14; GWS 13.5; Cats 13; so not much of a gap from 2 down to 8 as has been the case in recent years.

Here is the percentage ladder (percentages truncated, not rounded): Tigers 136; Cats and Dees 131, Eagles 121, Pies and Hawks 120, GWS 114, Swans 109; based on percentage (as Glen Luff likes to do), there is a huge gap between the “top 3” and the rest – with the Sydney teams bringing up the rear.   Of course, with an uneven fixture, the % can be a little bit skewed.  The Tigers, Hawks, Dees and Cats are 1,6, 3 and 2 on the % ladder and all in the same half of the draw.  So if the Tigers beat the Hawks, Hawthorn will face a team with a 10% percentage break on them.  Bad break for the Hawks (or even Tigers if they lose); that’s just the luck of the draw.

My tips, forced to have a pick, are Tigers, Cats, Swans and Eagles.  But my real tip is just is in just one game.

My non-tips: suspect the Richmond might be very good in week 1, but not totally convinced; see above comments
Swans and GWS – see above, leave me out

Cats and Dees – I hark back to the QB game against Collingwood and I noted that the long break (thanks, Mick Malthouse, for the tip) seemed to be bad for the Dees this year.  Can they cope with the 2 week break?  How will they go in the first finals match for many years?  Most team do badly, but the Dees did extremely well back in 1987 (ask your grandparents about the 1987 Dees, kiddies) and won their first final by 118 points!!!; More recently, Richmond made the finals in 2013 for the first time in 12 years and, ironically, lost to 9th placed Carlton (with Essendon being disqualified) and under-performed – losing by 20 points; Carlton made the finals in 2009 for the first time in 8 years and were favourites but lost narrowly. These are the dual concerns about the Dees – long break and first time in the finals for a long time.  Another piece of the puzzle is that these teams have played twice – with both games being decided after the siren; the Dees lost both and 1 win in these would have given them the double chance.  Back to my comments earlier in the year comparing Dees 2018 to Cats 1989; in 1989, the Cats made the finals for the first time in 8 years and played a bit like Melbourne did this year (now that the Dees have had two excellent wins against top 8 teams to finish the season); the Cats were just awful in the first final 1989 and then had two huge wins to make the grand final; the Dees have no safely net here.  These two teams come in with the best form in the last 2 weeks; what to make of Geelong? 2 monstrous wins over lowly teams (although they beat Freo at the Cattery in round 22 and Freo pushed the Pies in Perth in round 23); the positive for the Cats is that they are getting healthier after having niggly injuries to the list for most of the year.  I slightly favour the Cats, but without huge confidence.

My REAL TIP is the Eagles – and my smoky for the flag!  They have an injury (+ suspension) quotient of 9 – missing Nicnat 3 pts, Gaff 3 pts, McKenzie 2 and a point for the small doubts on Kennedy and Jetta; Collingwood’s injury quotient is 17 – Broomhead 1, Dunn 2, Elliott 2, Moore 2, Reid 2, Scharenberg 2, Terloar 2 ( a”3″ player and I reckon he’s very doubtful this week – okay next week, after listening to Bucks, Wells 3 with a further 1 point about slight doubts on Howe, Varcoe and Pendles.
Add to the edge regarding injuries the home ground advantage and it’s a big boost for the Eagles. The Pies look the better team in the mid an the Eagles better up forward.  The Pies would need to win the midfield battle clearly to win the game; the other injury factor is that the Pies have been so bruised and battered that it can take a toll at the end; the Eagles are favoured by about 10 points; I have them winning by 3 goals plus.

Finals week 1 review & Finals week 2 comments – by Penny Dredfell (added 11 Sep 2018)
My tip for Finals week 1 just failed by a whisker; the Eagles overachieved, but not by enough; back to the Dees / Cats game; the doubt about Melbourne was not related to ability (as were my concerns about the Hawks taking on Richmond); mainly there mental state and ability to get up for their first final in 12 years; at about half way through Q1, I was feeling pretty upbeat about their chances; they won the Supercoach scores by 339 – which means they should have won by more (as most onlookers thought); on the Swans and GWS; Terry Wallace noted that Buddy could not move laterally; he was their number 1 target inside 50; that explains the result and the low score (his SC score = 16!!!!) – even with Josh Kelly going off early in the game; Swans’ newer players McCartin, Ronke and Florent all struggled.

Later this week, I will analyse the teams that have lost qualifying finals in recent times and how they have gone in week 2; the picture might be a bit murky. 

Here we go: teams that lose a qualifying final in F1 (first week of finals) have a pretty good record of bouncing back in F2. Looking at this millennium, these teams have outperformed expectations by 10 points on average.  There are reasons for this. Firstly, they often get undervalued on the basis of one finals loss. Every expert picks them apart and tells us how bad they were (or so it seems). Conversely, the elimination final winner from F1 is praised, while the team they beat is often harshly scrutinised. Another advantage for the qualifying final losing tea is that they often get an extra day’s break on their opponent.  The losers of the qualifying final have won 31 of the 36 games since 2000.  Now before you go running off and declaring the Pies and Hawks as certs, we need to drill down a bit more. Of the 5 losses, 3 came in the past 4 years (2014-2017); so the record since the start of 2014 is only 5-3 for the higher placed team outperforming in F2. 

I need to explain the recent changes and how they affect things. The post season bye was introduced in 2016. It gives everyone a week’s break before the finals. This helps the lower teams more, because they are more likely to be scrambling like anything to grab a finals berth (whereas teams 1-4 would almost certainly know that they are playing finals – though some might need to win the final round to secure a top 4 spot or to grab a home final). With the bye before the finals, teams playing in F2 off a 6 day break against a team with a 7 day break aren’t as badly off as in previous years.   

I have checked the data and all the variables seem to have little impact.  I do note, however, that a few teams have underperformed for obvious reasons.  Last year, the Eagles had to fight tooth and nail just to make the 8, then played extra time against Port; and they were travelling from Perth to east two weeks in a row.  This brings me to the real thing that makes a difference – the elimination final winner that has to travel in both F1 and F2; the team that plays these poor suckers outperforms expectations by 25 points on average (with Port – elimination final winner in 2013 vs Geelong the only team to outperform expectations, but not enough to win).

So where does this leave us for the coming week; uncertain; the technical lead tells us that the Hawks and Pies should, on average, outperform expectations by a bit over a goal (given that neither opponent is on the road for both F1 and F2).  Let’s tackle the Hawks first; I rate them lower than the Dees, but they have experience.  Earlier in the year, I compared the Dees to Geelong of 1989; their finals series went: loss by 76, win by 63, win by 94 to the team that beat them by 76, then gave the Hawks 6 goals start and lost by a goal.  The Dees have no safety net like the 1989 Cats – one loss and they are gone.

On to the other match and then my tip: the Pies and Giants both had players back last week from long breaks (Pies: Tyson Moneybags Goldsack, Adam Treloar and, to a lesser extent, Jeremy Howe); for the Giants – Zac Williams (thought to be gone for the year early on) as well as shorter term injury players Matt de Boer, Tony Greene and Brett Deledio; the Giants looked impressive, but maybe the Swans were very poor as well and played Buddy injured.

All this adds up to the likelihood of an unlikely result; so here is the go: at least one of these games will be a blow-out; to define, that would be 7 goals outside of range = Hawks winning by over 5 goals or Dees by over 9 goals; in the other one, Pies by over 8 goals or Giants by over 6 goals.  This is a woosie girl tip for many who just want to tip a winner, but that’s my tip; if you must just tip, it’s the Dees (small amount of confidence) and the Pies (even less confidence); I hope we get some great entertainment out of the weekend.

Finals week 2 review & Finals week 3 comments – by Penny Dredfell (added 19 Sep 2018)
My tip for Finals week 2 tip was looking good at various stages – the Dees looked like they would win big at 3QT; then the Hawks gave their fans some (what turned out to be) false hope for a few minutes; consequently, the Dees failed to win big; The Pies looked like winning big early on; then the Giants fought back well; Pies will feel they should have won by more; GWS fans reckon they couldn’t buy a free; in any case, I was wrong; I tipped the two winners, but give myself a fail.   

On to the prelims: these are in some ways more devastating to lose than a grand final.  The after R23 bye came in in 2016.  The teams that won the qualifying finals in that year (Geelong and GWS) both underperformed markedly in their prelims and lost. The Giants were warm favourites and lost by a goal; the Cats were slight favourites and lost by 37 points.  It seemed that they didn’t cope with the two byes in 3 weeks.  But in 2017, Richmond and Adelaide won the qualifying finals and then overachieved in the prelims.   The Tigers were favoured by 2 goals and won by 6; the Crows were favoured by 3 goals and won by almost 10.  Was it the study of GWS and Cats 2016 that helped them prepare well for the 2017 prelims?  Or just a small sample anomaly?  I am going to say that the teams have learned how to make use of the two breaks. Given that any team 1 – 4 can win their qualifying final and get the double break, maybe all four teams aimed for it this year and the losers are at a disadvantage!  But we are way too early into this brave new world to be too cocky.  The fascinating game for me is Richmond vs Collingwood.

I have been banging on about how the Tigers could be heading for a downer – and it could be this week. But I rather suspect that it will be a week later.  The Pies have been doing fabulously well despite injury concerns and it is a credit to them to have made it this far; but they now face the well rested Tigers while they themselves are coming off a 6 day break (and having had to go to Perth before that). Add the weight of the year’s injuries to the scheduling and I reckon that the Pies might fall flat.  The Tigers are fancied to win by about 3 goals; I’ll tip them by 5 goals plus; this is a risk because the Pies have defied gravity all year and their is a rumour that Dusty in struggling (from good sources, too), but that’s the tip.  PS Pies might have some players struggling to get up as well.

The Dees are on a great roll.  I suspect it is going to come to an end this week.  The Eagles have been home all finals series, while the Dees have played 2 “lose and your out” games.  They certainly have momentum and won in Perth in round 22 against the Eagles; since then, the Eagles have got back Kennedy and Jetta, while the Dees got Viney back.  The round 22 match favoured Melbourne, in my opinion.  The Eagles had just won YET ANOTHER game after the siren against Port, while the Dees had had a shocker against the injured Swans and lost.  The Eagles win left them flat and they started badly (hitting the front in Q4 but not able to sustain the surge).  Team that win after the siren can often struggle the following week – and the eagles only needed to win in Brisbane to grab the double chance.

The Eagles are the narrowest of favourites and I tip them to win by over 2 goals – making it a Tigers / Eagles grand final. Can’t wait for the games to begin (but I’ll have to).  Just before game time Saturday: some are saying the long break for Richmond contributed to the loss; I blame playing injured players; still keen on the Eagles but not hugely confident.

Finals week 3 review & grand final comments – by Penny Dredfell (added 26 Sep 2018)
My tip for Finals week 3 tip were a pass – just; the minus was getting the down week estimate for Richmond wrong (but at least people following me would NOT have put down the Tigers as flag certs – as most experts were tipping); the Eagles tip was safe at quarter time on Saturday.

I am not really confident on the grand final and, it if were a normal week, I would be bypassing this game to pick another.  The reason for my pessimism is that both teams have red flags against them.  The Eagles are without key mids in Nicnat and Gaff – plus have some injury concerns over McGovern; and they have to travel to a cool (temperature) MCG.  The Pies have looked like a prize fighter with 100 metres of tape covering sore spots all year; they have had multiple injuries and will be without Wells, Scharenberg, Elliott and Dunn for Saturday and the “maybe off to the Swans” Moore is unlikely, with Ben Reid some hope.  Plus so many players have been playing under duress.  With that proviso, I move on to the technical analysis.  Since the current final 8 has been in place, there was been 4 occasions where the teams that played in the week 1 qualifying final met again in the grand final; in each case, the team that lost the first encounter won the rematch.  The examples are:
2003: Pies beat Lions week 1 at the MCG by 15 points; grand final: Lions won by 50 points; close to a 50/50 game
2005: Eagles beat Swans in Perth by 4 points; grand final: Swans won by 4 points; close to a 50/50 game
2006: Swans beat Eagles in Perth by 1 point; grand final: Eagles won by 1 point; close to a 50/50 game
2015: Eagles beat Hawks by 32 points in WA; grand final: Hawks won by 46 points; Hawks favoured by 2-3 goals only

In each case, the winning grand final team got off to a good start – leading at quarter time by 14 points in 2003, 2 points in 2005, 18 points in 2006 and 19 points in 2015.  The Pies are favoured by about a goal; I will make 2 tips: firstly, they will be over a goal up at quarter time; 2 that they will lead at every change and win; enjoy the game.

Grand Finals review – by Penny Dredfell (added 04 Oct 2018)
My tip for the grand final was a C-; I was actually more confident about the first bit (Pies leading well at quarter time) but didn’t state that; the second bit was almost correct – but not quite; it was level at the last break and then the Eagles hit the lead late in the contest.  This was the first time a qualifying final winner also won the grand final against the same team (stats above) and it was only by a little bit; in retrospect I think I slightly underestimated the cumulative effect of the troubles that the Pies had been through in the year – and maybe it caught up with them.  But the Eagles were good enough to travel east and win, so well done them.  I hope some people followed my July tip for the Eagles to win the flag.  Enjoy the off season