It seems history repeated itself once again on the weekend.
After a week in which Carlton and Port Adelaide were strongly tipped to cause havoc, the double chancers, Geelong and Sydney, managed to progress to the Preliminary Finals.
The top 4 ranked sides face each other in the Preliminary Finals, a trend that has developed since 2000.
However, it wasn’t an easy ride for the victors.
Both matches were tense and neither Geelong nor Sydney really impressed. Both looked flat and uninspired at times reflecting their form of previous weeks.
But as Steve Waugh once remarked, Form is temporary class is permanent.
That was the central theme of the matches this weekend; when the going was tough, Geelong and Sydney’s class shone.
It seems to be the theme of Semi Final weekend each season.
The Cats and Swans weren’t great, but they were good when they needed to be.
Carlton and Port had good moments, but the lack of consistent class evident in the throes of the contest.
On Friday, we saw the epic Port Adelaide 2013 season come to an end.
If Port were a rock band on Friday, they would have been Bon Jovi because they went down in a blaze of glory.
For two quarters, it was the Power who controlled the game.
Schulz was imposing and terrified the Geelong defence; Kane Cornes was dominant in midfield; while Troy Chaplin was running with the freedom of an unregistered dog off the backline.
Geelong on the other hand were woeful until half-time.
Port’s pressure combined with Geelong’s ineptness saw their disposal efficiency drop considerably (around 50% for most of the first half, while star players such as Selwood and Taylor looked off the boil.
The free flowing game they play so well was reduced to a hurried, uncouth long-ball model that Port cleaned up with ease.
But the class that Geelong possessed kicked into gear in the second half.
Why? Well take away the probability that Chris Scott gave them the ‘hair dryer’ at half time and it was simply Geelong’s raw talent that powered them through the second half.
Selwood and Taylor lifted, Tom Hawkins became a nuisance and they finally shutdown Chad Wingard and Kane Cornes.
While Port never gave up and continued to push for the win right up until full-time, Geelong lifted a cog to a level the Power couldn’t sustain for the full 12 rounds.
Even as Geelong go marching on, credit must go to the boys from Alberton for their season.
Coach Ken Hinkley maybe dreamed about a season like this but I doubt he would have expected the season after Port Adelaide’s Annus Horriblis in 2012.
They’ve won many new fans (including yours truly a Crows supporter who for 30 minutes was a rabid Port fan) but importantly, they’ve won back respect.
Meanwhile 24 hours later up in Sydney, it was the case of similar but different at the same time.
The Swans class glowed but it was through different means compared to Geelong.
Sydney could have been forgiven for throwing in the towel when Kurt Tippett and Tom Mitchell broke down in the first quarter.
Their injuries added to a growing injury list that includes Rohan, Reid, Goodes, McGlynn and a host of others.
Add to that the pressure and seemingly mortal blow to their rotations, and blood was well and truly in the water.
Sydney suffocated Carlton keeping them scoreless in the third quarter.
The Swans run out of half back was deadly while their ruckman toiled all night.
While it wasn’t a vintage performance, they managed to take care of business when the game was tight.
Carlton worked hard but just never looked like finding a winning edge.
Speaking of the Blues, this season (like the last four of five), has finished with the same Groundhog Day grading.
In a sense of déjà vu, Carlton have a lot of good players but not enough match-winners that could propel the Blues deeper into September.
While Dale Thomas is on their radar, coach Mick Malthouse has to look elsewhere to find the improvements.
Carlton lacks a key defender, another quality half back, and a decent full forward.
It’s the same issues that have plagued the club since Brett Ratten yet the Blues seem unaware or in denial of these deficiencies.
In finals footy, it’s all about having classy players and Carlton just don’t have enough to be more than an 8th-12th side.
So in summarising the week, Billy Joel once sung “It’s all about Soul”.
While soul is an important part of winning, Port and Carlton can attest that it’s not enough to just play with fire in the belly.
Class will be the ultimate decider of contests and without it in huge quantities, championships become difficult to win.
Carlton and Port Adelaide will one day challenge for a premiership, but they are yet to develop the class Steve Waugh talked about.
Class for the Blues and Power is temporary and based on form.
For the Cats and Swans, their class it is perpetual and is the major reason they continue to soldier on.