2011 Finals Preview Penny & Fred

Penny Dredfell (Technical Analyst) and Fundamental Fred (Fundamental Analyst) discuss the top 8 teams chances for a flag.


Fred:  Let’s go from least chance to greatest, Penny. 

The Swans have to travel to Melbourne four weeks in a row to win the flag.  It is beyond them, even with Mumford in great form.


Penny:  No technical data on them, but I agree.  One win maximum and even that is unlikely.


Similarly for the Bombers.  I don’t have any graphs on them, but they would struggle to beat Collingwood or the Eagles (in Perth) in the second week.


Fred:  They probably won’t survive week one but, if they do, their only hope is for the Pies to have all their “doubtfuls” break down.  Even so, they are likely to be playing the second week on a 6 day break.


While on the subject of 6 day breaks, the Blues will face the same 6 day break should they win in round 1.  I like them against the Bombers, without being certs, by any means.  But they need their big guys contributing.  Count Waite out for the finals; and Jamison, Kreuzer, Hampson plus back-up tall defender Watson have all had their share of injury worries.  This bit of news is the reason Essendon have a show in week one. 


But the Blues won’t make it past the second week.  Like Essendon, their best chance is to play a battered and bruised Pie team in the second week.


Penny:  I’m not too excited about the Blues, nor any team finishing 5 – 8.  The last one to do anything of note was Collingwood in 2007 and they beat the Eagles courtesy of Eagle injuries.  Having said that, they went within a kick of making the Grand Final.   The team in the bottom half of the eight that really interests me is the Saints.  


There is a lot of technical data on teams losing a grand final one year and then finishing 5 – 8 the next (which is the Saints fate this year).

The teams to have done it and their results are as follows:


Swans runners-up 2006; 2007 7th and lost an elimination final to Collingwood


Essendon runners-up 2001; 2002 5th and beat the Eagles in an elimination final; then lost week 2 to Port


St Kilda runners-up 1997; 1998 6th and lost both finals (in the old system where 1 plays 8, 2 plays 7 etc and the 2 lowest losers drop out for week 2)


Swans 1996 runners-up; 1997 6th and eliminated in week1


So the record isn’t great.  But I do like they way they are finishing off their games and this is a positive.  They are the best chance of the 5 to 8 teams, but no hope for the flag.


Fred:  I do agree that they are the best chance of the “bottom 4”.   Lenny Hayes (and maybe Gwilt) aside, their injuries have tended to be fringe players – like Mcqualter, Eddy,  Ledger.  They can cover those blokes and they have found improvement from Dempster and Peake.  And Polo has become so popular that they named a top after him!  The return of Gardiner is an interesting move.  Given Leigh Mathews’ article about the importance of big men in the finals, he will be watched with interest. 


They are the most settled side, with 16 players playing every game since their round 15 bye, while a further 2 only missed due to suspension.  They are my smoky for the flag.  Their best pathway through would be a round 2 clash with Hawthorn followed by a prelim final against a somewhat inexperienced Eagles outfit in Perth.


Now let’s look at the big four.  I like the Eagles to get to a prelim one way or the other.  Of course, the ideal result would be a win this week over the Magpies.  But I reckon the more likely result would be a loss to the Magpies followed by an easy home ground win over Carlton or Essendon in week 2.   Their last 9 matches since the bye have resulted in 8 wins (including over the Cats) and one loss to the Saints in Melbourne.


Cox is fit again and Naitanui has taken the next step.  Their tall forward line and good execution of the press holds them in good stead.  They only have 9 of their premiership team on the list and two of those (Butler and B Jones) aren’t walk-up starts.  I’ll go for a prelim final loss in Melbourne for the Eagles – which is about 12 spots better than most predicted in March.


Penny:  This year, two teams from the bottom four the previous year (Essendon 14 and Eagles 16) have risen to the finals.  Such teams tend to get eliminated in week 1 from the 5 – 8 spots and go out in the prelim if they make top 4.  The last team to go from bottom 4 to a grand final is Melbourne 1999 / 2000 and they lost the grand final to the Dons by 60 points


2009 Freo 14th  2010 6th  won first home final; lost week 2

2007 Dogs 13th;  2008 3rd and lost the prelim

2006 North; 2007 4th and lost a prelim

2005 Pies 15th; 2006 5th and lost first final

2003 Dees 14th; 2004 5th lost week 1

2002 Freo 13th; 2003 5th lost home elimination final


So I favour a loss on week 1, followed by a win in week 2 and a prelim final loss in Melbourne.


The Hawks interest me.  They won a flag “before time” in 2008.  The last team to do this was the Baby Bomber sin 1993.  They followed a similar trend to the Hawks thereafter.  Those Baby Bombers spent a couple of years in the humilicrib as they finished 10th in 1994 and then 5th in 1995 where they were eliminated in week 2 of the finals.  They then progressed to 6th in 1996 but they made the prelim – only to be beaten after the siren by a Plugger point.

Meanwhile the Hawks bombed to 9th in 2009 in the year after their flag and then 7th in 2010, when they were eliminated in week 1.

The technical charts suggest that the Hawks should make it to a prelim and no further.   But the data is a sample of one only.  So I don’t want to be too dogmatic about this.  It’s just that the two trends are virtually identical. 


Fred:  The Hawks retain 16 of their 2008 premiership team.  That is the good news.  The bad news is that Gilham and Roughead are out for the year while Renouf is extremely doubtful.  Then Ladson, Ellis and Young are fringe players. So the team that fronts up on Friday will have approx around a dozen premiership players in it. 


The Hawks are a dangerous team and have a chance to go a long way in the finals.  Their first challenge is to overcome the Cats in week one.  While the Cats have won their past 6 games against the Hawks, Hawthorn have a long finals winning run over Geelong (4 wins, and more if you count the night series, going back to 1989).  Their last finals loss to Geelong was in 1963.


Their 6 day break back from Brisbane is not ideal, but 8 players were rested.  An underrated player is Bailey.  He has played every game from round 9 onwards except for 12 and 24.  They lost R12 to Geelong and almost lost R24 to the Suns.  Their only loss while Bailey has played was to the Pies; and this coincided with the club’s longest injury list for the year.


They tend to fancy themselves against Collingwood and, to a lesser extent, Geelong (some of those 6 losses have been very close games).  But I reckon that the best is to come in the 2012 – 2014 period.


This brings me to the Cats.  They are the least favoured 19 and 3 team with 157% of all time.  Many were prepared to write them off totally after their home loss to the Swans in R23.  But then a whopping win over the Pies made everyone wonder:  were the Pies trying?  Are the Cats hitting form at the right time?


One favour that Mark Thompson did for the 2011 Cats was to give them a long break after the 2009 season.  This caused them to run out of puff in 2010, but has refreshed them for the 2011 season.  I still favour the Pies as a superior team, but they are in there with a big chance, given some concerns about Magpie players’ fitness.  I will discuss percentage in the Pies’ comments. 


I am not convinced that they will win in week 1, but they deserve to be favourites.  And a win in week 1 should see them through to a prelim final – most likely vs the Eagles.  From there, they would be favoured to win and be a big chance in the grand final.  They will be ready to pounce if anything goes wrong for Collingwood.


Penny:  I need to discuss the Magpies and Cats together.   Late last year, I reviewed the teams that had had big grand final wins over the past 50 years

The précis of the article was that 19 teams had won the flag by over 6 goals in this time frame.  Only 7 of the 19 made the grand final the following year.  And each team lost the second half of that grand final.  The Hawks in 1989 were barely able to hold on, while the other 6 all lost.


The Pies, on that basis, are heading for a grand final loss.  One thing that is consistent with last year is a Magpie loss in the last round.  They did it last year when they lost to the Hawks, before hitting top form for the finals.  So I expect them to be on top of their game for week 1 of the finals against the Eagles.  The only concern here is that they had a healthy list last year apart from Presti and Dick.  This year there are a number of players with injury worries or who may be underdone due to a lack of continuity of match play.


Many Collingwood fans thought that they should have been undefeated for the first 23 rounds (with a close loss to the Cats in round 8 the subject of much discussion).  Had they won that match, then their season would have been virtually identical to that of the Cats in 2008.  IE only one loss in home and away, and it was a big one.  This is another technical pointer to a grand final loss.


But someone has to beat them.  The Cats are in the best position to do this.  So it’s the Cats for the flag for my tip.


Fred:  In terms of percentage, the Pies are the most dominant team ever to play the game.  The figures are slightly skewed due to the arrival of the Suns and the performance of Port plus a few other teams.
Their percentage is 167.7 which beats the previous best of 162.2 by the Eagles in 1991 (lost grand final) and 161.84 by Geelong in 2008 (lost grand final).  The Dons won the flag in 200 with 159.1
Percentage tends to be good indicator of overall ability and is a good guide to premiership success.

But a better indicator (while not perfect) is percentage differential.  Examples of this are 2007 where the Cats were 33% ahead of the next best percentage.  In 2000, the Dons were 25% ahead of Carlton (who blew their chances in round 1 of the finals).  This is by no means foolproof.  The Cats in 2008 and Saints in 2009 had huge percentage breaks on the competition, but lost the grand final.


Looking through this filter, the Pies are still clearly the best team for the year, but the percentage gap tells us that 20 wins and 167.7 doesn’t translate to invincibility.  Had the other top 4 teams had percentages of 110 to 120, then we could virtually hand the flag to Collingwood now.

A further important consideration is looking at the players’ availability and match fitness.
They are missing the following:
N Brown        in best 22 2010
Dick                exciting fringe player with potential.

Those with not the ideal preparation
Didak (injury interrupted year but can he hit top form in the finals)

Those who suffered minor injuries in round 24

And, finally, Dale Thomas is out suspended for week 1 of the finals.

It is likely that everyone except N Brown and Dick will be available at some stage during the finals’ campaign.

They are possibly the most vulnerable in week one vs West Coast Eagles, but the home state advantage should see them over the line.
Then they would face one of Cats, Hawks, Saints or Pies in the prelim.  By then, Heath Shaw will have had a run under his belt.  Maxwell should be 99% right and Dale Thomas can return.
There is some small chance that their long campaign (having played a 5 week finals’ series last year and begun their pre season much earlier than the Saints) is taking its toll and that other teams may have gone past them.  But it is more likely that the recent poorer than normal form is due to loading in preparation for a big finals’ campaign.
Pies to win the flag, for mine.  The Cats and Hawks are next best, but don’t totally write off the Saints.

Fred’s final word – Pies to win.  Cats to pounce if Pie injuries compound.  Hawks and Saints are also chances.


Penny:  It’s the Cats for me.  They win it in the odd years.  I’m not totally writing off the other top 4 teams, but the technical charts favour the Cats.  Teams 5 – 8 are no hope.