With two rounds to go in the 2014 home and away season, it’s time to go through the likely candidates for what promises to be a hotly contested finals series.
But before we do that, forgive me if I indulge slightly by revisiting my finals predictions made on the 12th of June:
- Hawthorn – were struck down by injuries so always had some upside in the second half of the year.
- Port Adelaide – had only lost one game for the year.
- Sydney – were just starting to hit their straps.
- Fremantle – had an easy two months coming up, too easy in the case of the St Kilda game.
- North Melbourne – were plagued by too much inconsistency to be considered a top-four team.
- Geelong – seemed to be waning.
- Collingwood – fifth to eighth seemed around the mark for them.
- Gold Coast – the writing was on the wall as they started their slide down the ladder.
Of the eight teams listed above, six are still in the eight, and two – Collingwood and Gold Coast – have capitulated in the second half of the season to still be in the mix, but are unlikely finals participants.
This is how I think they’ll finish in two weeks’ time:
I hated them for the Buddy Franklin deal and the fact that the AFL bends over backwards for them to make sure the playing field is nowhere near level, but the Swans have clearly been the standout team of 2014.
The Hawks will likely finish a game behind the Swans after winning their last two games against the Cats and Magpies. They’ll play the Cats again in the first week of the finals, and although their recent history is littered with tight matches, the Hawks will easily move straight into the third week of the finals.
Coach Chris Scott may bristle at the suggestion that his side are pretenders, but the Geelong of 2014 is one of the least deserving sides to ever finish third. The Cats have scraped through in too many games this season to be considered seriously, and will be found out in finals where their diving and ducking tactics won’t be rewarded by the umpires compared to the home and away season.
The Dockers should do enough to beat Port Adelaide to the double chance, even if they lose to the Power in Round 23. They’re hitting their strides at the right time of the season, although consistency in midfield personnel for the last two games could be a concern.
5.0 Port Adelaide
From the bullet-like start they had, the Power have come back to earth with a thud in the second half of the season. As I said in my mid-season predictions, “For all their success this season, there is still an underlying sense of “surely not” associated with Port Adelaide.” The whiff of “surely not” subsequently turned into a stench.
6.0 North Melbourne
North are pretty comfortable in sixth spot and should stay there, particularly when one of their remaining games is against perpetual basket-case Melbourne. They say that flags can only be won from the top four, but I get the feeling North are one of those rare teams that could upset anyone on its day, and win it all from the bottom half of the eight.
The last two spots in the eight are where things get a bit trickier. One loss could mean the seventh-placed side falls to as low as 11th, or the eighth-placed side falls to 12th. I think the Bombers will make it on the back of some pretty good recent form, and a home game this week against the Suns.
The last spot in the finals will be a race between West Coast and Adelaide, and will come down to percentage. The Eagles will belt Melbourne and the Crows will belt St Kilda; whoever belts their lowly opponent by the most will get the final spot. I don’t know for certain that the Crows will make it, but I think they’re the more worthy finals contenders, and the team that could potentially do more damage if they got there. Plus, it sets up a mouth-watering first week showdown with hometown rivals Port at the Adelaide Oval.
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