Results in week 1 of the 2014 finals series went according to script, with three of the four games highlighting the step up in intensity that finals are from the home and away season. All the fourth game highlighted was how far off the pace Richmond were from being a top team in 2014, in the process of being belted by Port Adelaide.
The second week of the finals is always intriguing. The temptation is to tip one of the elimination final winners to topple a qualifying loser, but in reality this rarely happens – it has only occurred once in the last decade. Will 2014 be an exception to the rule?
Geelong v North Melbourne
The Friday night game this week is the coaching battle of the brothers, with Chris Scott’s Cats taking on Brad Scott’s Kangaroos. Interestingly, Geelong are the only top-eight side the Kangas haven’t beaten this season, which aside from demonstrating that they are capable, shows what yo-yos they were throughout their home and away games.
The intrigue with this one starts at the selection table, and most pointedly, whether star Cat Steve Johnson will play. He looked set for a big impact in the first quarter in the Cats’ qualifying final loss to Hawthorn last week, but was clearly hampered by his injured foot.
The road to premiership glory is littered with teams who have taken injured players into finals and lived to regret it. If there’s any doubt about Johnson’s ability to contribute for four quarters, Chris Scott would be mad to play him.
So who wins? I’ve felt all along that the Cats will bow out in straight sets this year. I won’t go so far as to call them pretenders, and I admire them as a club for maintaining such a sustained period of success at the top end of the ladder, but I’m calling time on them. North’s performance in beating the Bombers last week doesn’t exactly fill me to the brim with confidence about their credentials, but they’ve shown they can beat virtually anyone if they put a four-quarter effort together.
North Melbourne by 15 points.
Fremantle v Port Adelaide
After last week’s disappointing performance in Sydney, the Dockers will be keen to atone against the Power, who pretty much had the game won halfway through the first quarter against the Tigers with a truly commanding performance.
The Dockers lacked composure, poise and class when the game was on the line, a fact that was made more obvious by the class of Buddy Franklin, whose two late goals sealed the Swans’ win. They lose another player this week in Hayden Ballantyne, whose four second-half goals the last time these teams met in Round 23 was the catalyst for the Dockers’ victory. Ballantyne’s second broken jaw of the season means he needs a serious review of a tackling technique that’s too face-first for my liking.
The Power will most likely go in with an unchanged line-up. But can they change the result from last time these teams met? There are similarities: on both occasions they’ve travelled to Perth as underdogs, coming off smashings of lower-placed sides.
They’re a quality side, Port, but they’re not that good. They got to within eight points of Freo last time, but only by kicking five unanswered last-quarter goals when the Dockers’ minds had clearly turned to finals.
Fremantle by 28 points.
Follow Commentary Box Sports on Social Media!