Fremantle v Hawthorn
The build up of interest in the preliminary final between Fremantle v Hawthorn has reached a fever pitch so much so its starting to feel like an inaugural grand final played in the West in addition to next week’s GF at the MCG.
The Hawks are on a mission to win three flags in succession. It has not helped their cause finishing third on the ladder, which lost them a home ground advantage in the first week of finals.
Travelling to play the Eagles in Perth they did not look their typical dominant class act. This will change. A second trip in two week to confront the Dockers I expect the Hawks to wet the lips.
The computer is saying the Hawks have a 66% chance of winning, predicting the a margin of 14pts. My only reservation is how come the Hawks are prone to occasionally stumbling and looking dazed. Why did they give up a top two finish too easily?
But there is no doubt just how good they can be when the feathers are up. They currently sit on a ladder percentage of 158.40, which is better than last season’s 140.8.
On the other side, at home the Dockers are geared to put up a ferocious defence campaign from start to finish and can win. Coach Ross Lyon has injected ultra defensive DNA into the players veins and brain cells.
However, while finishing top of the ladder has given the Dockers a home preliminary final, on the playing field they have headed backwards with a current ladder percentage of 118.73 compared to last season’s 130.4.
With stocks such as Sandilands, Fyfe, Pavlich, Walters, and Mundy available; Fremantle can call upon unique individual brilliance to carry the day.
In sum, the Dockers suppress opponents while relying on individual brilliance to kick enough miserly goals for a win.
The Hawks set up differs. On song, they play end-to-end magnificently with an even spread of talent, and can also rely on a stock of individual brilliance in the form of Roughead, Rioli, Mitchell, Burgoyne, and even Hodgy.
Both teams at their best is why footy is being treated to such a big occasion.
West Coast v North Melbourne
Also of extra interest is two preliminary finals played in Perth for the first time on record.
The Eagles finished 2nd on the ladder with a percentage of 148.22%. West Coast is a gilt edged starter in a preliminary final race similar to a magnificent galloper bursting from a stall in a Cox Plate.
The Roos get a start because of an unexpected scratching. In last week’s semi-final they fronted Sydney who had nearly their entire forward line gutted before the game.
With so few options up front left, Sydney resorted to what they are good at, playing miserable lockdown footy. I suppose they had an excuse.
The Roos did not have any excuse for the miserable spectacle on show at ANZ Stadium. They won the semi because they were less miserable than Sydney.
North’s excellent backend of the home and away season was commendable and is why they squeezed into 8th on the ladder with a percentage of 106.45%. Good luck was on their side.
So far, during the finals they faced lamentable Richmond and a depleted Sydney. Fronting West Coast in Perth appears like the Footy Gods have now changed their minds.
Nevertheless, I reckon North is the flukiest outfit in the competition, which means there is always a chance of them landing on a shifty and worth a punt.