Two teams have the weekend to put their feet up while the other four do battle.
Welcome to Semi Finals week.
This is generally the weakest week of the finals series as the top team reassert themselves in convincing fashion.
Generally, the narrative of the week talks up an upset before seeing the narrative come crashing down.
Since 2000, only twice (Port in 01 and the Eagles in 07) has the double chance team gone out in straight sets.
But will two become three?
While Geelong-Port and Sydney-Carlton seems easy to pick, history shows that these 4 clubs aren’t supposed to face each other.
2nd placed Geelong lost to 3rd place Fremantle IN Geelong, while 7th placed Port upset 6th placed Collingwood at the MCG.
While Sydney’s loss was statistically expected, Carlton who only made the finals due to the Essendon saga surprisingly defeated the rampant 5th placed Tigers.
So while there is every chance that this will be a conformist week, current form shows upsets are on the cards.
Geelong vs. Port Adelaide (MCG, Friday, 7:50pm)
Geelong Ins: Josh Hunt, Taylor Hunt and Tom Hawkins Geelong Outs: Corey Enright, Josh Caddy and Josh Walker.
Port Adelaide: Unchanged.
The only thing these teams have in common is the fact last weekend’s results were unexpected.
Geelong was starved of oxygen against Fremantle while Port Adelaide was just inspirational in their upset win over Collingwood.
For Geelong, the value of Tom Hawkins was evident in his absence.
While he is averaging only a couple of goals a game, he still takes the number one defender.
Without him last week, McPharlin and Dawson had a field day marking a second string forward line while Mzungu was allowed to run freely off halfback.
Geelong’s biggest mistake however, was to let the Dockers get under their skin.
The usually calm Cats were unusually spiteful and undisciplined, reacting to the Fremantle provocation.
They lost their cool (Geelong kicked 5 points in the final quarter despite a bombing campaign the Allies would be proud of) and as a result, lost the game.
Port on the other hand never laid down to Collingwood and always kept their discipline.
I was a little tipsy at the time as I was at a pub sipping a few lemonades, but it seemed to me whenever Collingwood challenged the Power’s lead, Port Adelaide always responded.
Importantly when the going got tough, it was Port’s young guns in Wingard, Wines and Hartlett that stood tall.
They continued to play attacking, risk taking footy rather than succumb to the intimidation of the Magpies outfit.
The sky is now the limit for Port Adelaide; only a lack of attitude can defeat them at the moment.
Key Match Up: Stevie Johnson vs. Angus Monfries
After a reasonable first half last week, Stevie J found Ryan Crowley taking an interest in him. Despite the controversial moments, Crowley gave him a bath in the second half and thus limited Geelong’s flair and composure. Angus Monfries is a similar type of player to Crowley and he may play a negating role on Johnson. If Monfries is put into attack (he did kick 7 against Geelong last time), Kane Cornes may get the job to stop Johnson.
The Burning Question
If Geelong comes out firing and angry, can Port weather the first half storm? If Geelong gets a fast start, it’s over. If Port however keeps close to the Cats like Freo did last week, can they pull off an upset win?
I expect Port to be competitive, yet Geelong are too classy and desperate for redemption. Geelong by 30 points.
Sydney vs. Carlton (Saturday, ANZ Stadium, 7:45pm)
Sydney Ins: Shane Biggs, Harry Cunningham Sydney Outs: Ben McGlynn and Garry Rohan.
This is an interesting contest.
Sydney have limped to this stage with 4 defeats in five ,while Carlton have been patchy with gutsy wins (Port Adelaide and Richmond) and horrible defeats (Western Bulldogs and Essendon).
Sydney are injury ravaged with Goodes, McGlynn, Rohan, McVeigh, Shaw, Reid and Roberts-Thompson all missing.
The quality of players missing was reflected in their sobering loss to Hawthorn in the Qualifying Final last Friday.
Without the quality mentioned above, they were thrashed in the disposal count (315-407), belted in the Inside 50 numbers (54-38).
The lack of tall defenders saw them conceded 20 marks Inside 50 to a side that was missing one of their key forwards (Hawthorn average 15 Marks I50).
While the Swans toil hard, too many experienced quality playmakers are injured which makes it difficult to implement their strategy.
As for the Blues, they keep hanging on like the man hanging over the edge of a deep cliff.
Considered gone after losing to Essendon in round 22 and again when it was announced they would face Richmond in the finals, Carlton keep proving the doubters wrong.
Mick Malthouse has installed a strong work ethic down at Princess Park and it has paid off.
It also helps to have quality midfielders’ rise when needed.
4 goals down at halftime, Chris Judd, Marc Murphy and Bryce Gibbs turned it on in the second half to overpower the Tigers midfield.
The much-scrutinised Eddie Betts played his best game of the season up forward with his pressure and goal sense back to its best.
Carlton is coming good at the right time of the season.
They look well structured in defence, gritty in midfield and dangerous up forward.
While technically and realistically they were the ninth best team, the last few weeks have shown how the Blues have the talent to be a contender.
The Key Match-Up: Matthew Kruezer vs. Shane Mumford
Kruezer is carrying a foot injury that apparently is quite painful while Mumford is fit. In pain, Kruezer had a good game last week against Ivan Maric while ‘Mumfy’ helped the Swans dominate the clearances against Hawthorn. Whoever can win the clearances will win this tight contest as both sides have quality in and under players who can turn the game.
The Big Question
Can Sydney keep Judd, Murphy and Gibbs quiet for 4 quarters? When Richmond did it last week for a half, Carlton were struggling but when the pressure went away, the three dominated.
The margin will be smaller than a bee’s you-know-what. The Blues have the form but at the Olympic Stadium in front of their home crowd I think the Swans will make amends and win by 2 points.