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Can Crows defy odds?

Date

Rohan Connolly

Beaten $1.18 favourite: Essendon v Carlton 1999.

Beaten $1.18 favourite: Essendon v Carlton 1999. Photo: Pat Scala

WHATEVER happens in today's Hawthorn-Adelaide preliminary final, it's a game that has already created history of sorts. Seldom, if ever, can a joust for a grand final spot between sides that finished first and second on the ladder have appeared as such a David-and-Goliath clash.

The Hawks and Crows were only separated at the top by percentage. You'd never believe that if you glanced at the betting for today, though, with Hawthorn starting an unbackable $1.12, and Adelaide value to say the least in a two-horse race at $6.25.

Only one side in memory has gone into a preliminary final as a hotter favourite, Geelong in 2008. The Cats had lost only one game all year and started $1.10 to beat the Western Bulldogs. Even Essendon, which infamously lost the 1999 preliminary final by one point to Carlton, started that day at $1.18.

Narrow winner as $1.10 favourite: Geelong v Western Bulldogs 2008.

Narrow winner as $1.10 favourite: Geelong v Western Bulldogs 2008. Photo: John Donegan

They are two games, though, that might have been a source of some comfort to Adelaide this week. The Blues' memorable win is still one of the most talked-about triumphs of an underdog, and even the 2008 Cats had to do it pretty hard before blowing a grand final the following week.

A major finals upset could be just a twist of fate, an untimely injury, some inaccurate kicking or a performance out of the box from Adelaide away. Not that the Crows have shied away from their outsider status.

Coach Brenton Sanderson conceded the other day: ''Hawthorn's best is almost hard to get near. We will do everything we possibly can to be at our best, hopefully our best is good enough. We certainly need Hawthorn to not play at their best.''

That raised the odd eyebrow in coaching circles. Said one assistant coach from another club: ''It's not how I would have gone about it. Doesn't that just promote hope rather than expectation? Surely, you want them to go in thinking they deserve to be on an equal footing.''

Sanderson did, though, as did his rival coach Alastair Clarkson yesterday, point out the scoreboard would start at 0-0, with the stakes exactly the same for either side.

Clarkson wasn't about to get caught up in more mind games. As in-form and healthy as the Hawthorn line-up looks today, and as careful as the Hawks' coaching brains trust will have been to avoid any complacency in the camp, high expectations can prove a psychological burden hard to shake.

On preliminary final weekend in 2008, Geelong was rested and raring to go, having torched St Kilda in the qualifying final by 58 points. The Bulldogs had been on the receiving end of a similar result against Hawthorn and, while having recovered well to beat Sydney by six goals, went into the play-off for a grand final spot rank outsiders. They ended up giving Geelong more than a few heart flutters. Still a winning chance late in the last quarter, a few missed shots at goal spoiled the opportunity to inflict what would have been a massive boilover.

Then Bulldogs coach, Rodney Eade insists, though, that the underdog tag was never part of his planning. ''I've never been one for that mentality,'' he says. ''It was more about giving them a plan about how we could win, which they embraced, and we went in with confidence that we were there to win it, not to make up the numbers.

''The plan [which involved focusing attacks through loose Geelong defender Darren Milburn's man Shaun Higgins] worked pretty well and we were right in it till about 10 minutes to go. I've always hated that expression 'nothing to lose'. I remember Michael Voss did it with Brisbane against us the next year [in a semi-final] and I really tapped into that and said to the guys, him saying that meant they didn't expect to win. My view is you've always got a lot to lose.''

The 1999 preliminary final has been raised several times this week as an appropriate comparison for today's apparent mismatch.

In case you have forgotten the detail, Carlton, which had finished sixth and lost its first final by 12 goals, still scrambled into the preliminary final, jumped Essendon, which had finished on top, with eight goals to three in the first half. The Blues survived a withering but off-target third term by the Bombers, who kicked 7.7, then surged again courtesy of a rampant Anthony Koutoufides, Lance Whitnall, and a desperate last-second tackle from Fraser Brown on Dean Wallis to cling on by a point.

Former Bomber Chris Heffernan disputes some of the assumptions made in retrospect, one that his side had blown a certain flag. ''I don't know if it's just a coping mechanism, but while we'd been a good side that year, we weren't a great side, and we were without James Hird, Scott Lucas and Jason Johnson,'' he says. While he remembers feeling shattered by the result, Heffernan also recalls not anticipating the ''choke'' claims which followed. ''We had such a rivalry with Carlton, it was a huge game in its own right, whatever the odds were. I was a little surprised over the criticism, I didn't realise people thought we were such morals.''

In contrast, few people seem to remember much detail about the preliminary final rematch the following year, when Essendon started a similarly hot favourite and the Blues were only a little shorter than in 1999. That one did go according to plan, the Bombers gradually building their lead and winning by 45 points en route to a grand final win over Melbourne.

''Everyone was so focused that whole year, it didn't become a bigger deal than it should have been,'' Heffernan says. ''Any thoughts of a 'bogey' didn't even come into calculations.''

Teammate Adam Ramanauskas backs that up. ''We never mentioned what happened in 1999 once,'' he says. ''I don't think we were even singing the song after we won games about the last six weeks that season, we were so fixed on one goal.''

And though the ''happy team at Hawthorn'' refrain hasn't been put on hold in 2012, you could imagine Hawthorn having trod a similar psychological path this week.

Adelaide, alternately, might be able to make its role as David today work in its favour.

''I guess the upside of playing that up is you can play with abandon, take the game on, not worry so much about making mistakes,'' Eade concedes. ''The danger is you give it a go, get behind and think it's OK, because you're expected to.''

If the Crows can defy logic, form and that expectation today, it will certainly be a win for the ages - and just as famous a victory for any punters who find that amazing head-to-head price of $6.25 for a potential grand finalist a little too hard to resist.

AFL 2015

Round 1
Thu, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
CAR 78vs RIC 105 Report Stats
Sat, 04 AprTimes shown AEDT
MEL 115vs GCF 89 Stats
SYD 72vs ESS 60 Stats
BRI 74vs COL 86 Stats
WBU 97vs WCE 87 Stats
Sun, 05 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs GWS 87 Stats
ADE 140vs NTH 63 Stats
FRE 75vs PTA 68 Stats
Mon, 06 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 123vs GEE 61 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE 131vs CAR 62 Stats
Sat, 11 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 66vs WBU 85 Report Stats
GWS 101vs MEL 56 Stats
COL 63vs ADE 90 Report Stats
GCF 76vs STK 104 Stats
PTA 44vs SYD 92 Stats
Sun, 12 AprTimes shown AEST
GEE 60vs FRE 104 Stats
ESS 78vs HAW 76 Stats
NTH 133vs BRI 51 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
COL 140vs STK 66 Stats
Sat, 18 AprTimes shown AEST
CAR 84vs ESS 105 Stats
ADE 80vs MEL 55 Stats
SYD 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
NTH 105vs PTA 113 Stats
BRI 58vs RIC 137 Stats
Sun, 19 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW 127vs WBU 57 Stats
GEE 105vs GCF 96 Stats
WCE 81vs FRE 111 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
RIC 51vs MEL 83 Stats
Sat, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
STK 81vs CAR 121 Report Report Stats
ESS 49vs COL 69 Report Stats
GWS 119vs GCF 53 Stats
PTA 99vs HAW 91 Stats
FRE 74vs SYD 60 Stats
Sun, 26 AprTimes shown AEST
BRI 65vs WCE 118 Stats
GEE 67vs NTH 83 Stats
WBU 125vs ADE 68 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 45vs COL 120 Stats
Sat, 02 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC 76vs GEE 85 Stats
SYD 73vs WBU 77 Stats
GCF 118vs BRI 54 Stats
NTH 70vs HAW 130 Stats
WCE 120vs GWS 33 Stats
Sun, 03 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL 50vs FRE 118 Stats
STK 80vs ESS 82 Stats
ADE 91vs PTA 115 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
COL 59vs GEE 100 Stats
Sat, 09 MayTimes shown AEST
NTH 109vs RIC 74 Stats
WBU 87vs STK 94 Stats
GWS 108vs HAW 98 Stats
GCF 78vs ADE 119 Stats
MEL 50vs SYD 88 Stats
FRE 80vs ESS 52 Stats
Sun, 10 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR 75vs BRI 84 Report Stats
PTA 68vs WCE 78 Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 82vs NTH 93 Stats
Sat, 16 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE 119vs STK 73 Stats
HAW 155vs MEL 50 Stats
CAR 57vs GWS 135 Stats
SYD 120vs GEE 77 Stats
WCE 135vs GCF 43 Stats
Sun, 17 MayTimes shown AEST
WBU 88vs FRE 101 Stats
RIC 105vs COL 100 Report Stats
BRI 102vs PTA 65 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
GEE 140vs CAR 63 Report Stats
Sat, 23 MayTimes shown AEST
STK 78vs WCE 131 Report Stats
GWS 108vs ADE 84 Report Stats
GCF 63vs COL 132 Report Stats
HAW 69vs SYD 73 Report Stats
FRE 115vs NTH 42 Report Stats
Sun, 24 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS 136vs BRI 78 Report Stats
MEL 103vs WBU 64 Report Stats
PTA 43vs RIC 76 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD 122vs CAR 62 Report Stats
Sat, 30 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW 93vs GCF 40 Report Stats
MEL 54vs PTA 115 Report Stats
WBU 113vs GWS 68 Report Stats
RIC 72vs ESS 59 Report Stats
ADE 57vs FRE 68 Report Stats
Sun, 31 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI 86vs STK 108 Report Stats
COL 112vs NTH 95 Report Stats
WCE 120vs GEE 64 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 70vs RIC 97 Report Stats
Sat, 06 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 90vs ADE 99 Report Stats
GCF 41vs SYD 93 Report Stats
ESS 53vs GEE 122 Report Stats
PTA 100vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 07 JunTimes shown AEST
GWS 97vs BRI 67 Report Stats
NTH 85vs WCE 75 Report Stats
STK 69vs HAW 132 Report Stats
Mon, 08 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL 85vs COL 110 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA 69vs GEE 92 Report Stats
Sat, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
GCF 46vs FRE 53 Report Stats
WCE 96vs ESS 46 Report Stats
NTH 75vs SYD 91 Report Report Stats
Sun, 14 JunTimes shown AEST
COL 119vs GWS 77 Report Stats
STK 85vs MEL 83 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Thu, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE 85vs HAW 114 Report Stats
Fri, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC 70vs WCE 90 Report Stats
Sat, 20 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 110vs PTA 106 Report Stats
GWS 61vs NTH 117 Report Stats
WBU 146vs BRI 74 Report Stats
Sun, 21 JunTimes shown AEST
GEE 89vs MEL 113 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Thu, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
FRE 80vs COL 73 Report Stats
Fri, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD 77vs RIC 95 Report Stats
Sat, 27 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW 114vs ESS 76 Report Stats
BRI 69vs ADE 82 Report Stats
STK 56vs WBU 62 Report Stats
Sun, 28 JunTimes shown AEST
CAR 103vs GCF 69 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD 94vs PTA 84 Report Stats
Fri, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
COL 91vs HAW 101 Report Stats
Sat, 04 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 78vs GWS 69 Report Stats
GCF 125vs NTH 70 Report Stats
WBU 64vs CAR 53 Report Stats
MEL 60vs WCE 114 Report Stats
Sun, 05 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 52vs STK 162 Stats
ADE vs GEE 15:20Adelaide Oval
FRE 84vs BRI 48 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA 66vs COL 63 Report Stats
Fri, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC 71vs CAR 41 Report Stats
Sat, 11 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS 69vs MEL 60 Report Stats
WBU 95vs GCF 73 Report Stats
NTH 120vs GEE 79 Report Stats
WCE 147vs ADE 91 Report Stats
Sun, 12 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 84vs STK 49 Report Stats
HAW 115vs FRE 43 Report Stats
BRI 49vs SYD 70 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Fri, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
NTH 93vs ESS 68 Report Stats
Sat, 18 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE 72vs WBU 64 Report Stats
GCF 79vs GWS 94 Report Stats
COL 56vs WCE 87 Report Stats
SYD 57vs HAW 146 Report Stats
FRE 95vs CAR 53 Report Stats
Sun, 19 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL 60vs BRI 36 Report Stats
PTA 113vs ADE 116 Report Stats
STK 73vs RIC 89 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Fri, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR 35vs HAW 173 Report Stats
Sat, 25 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS 42vs GEE 69 Stats
ADE 125vs GCF 80 Stats
RIC 78vs FRE 82 Stats
ESS 116vs PTA 129 Stats
BRI 38vs NTH 110 Report Stats
Sun, 26 JulTimes shown AEST
WBU 104vs COL 86 Report Stats
MEL 46vs STK 83 Report Stats
WCE 103vs SYD 51 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
HAW 53vs RIC 71 Report Stats
Sat, 01 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 113vs BRI 57 Stats
COL 54vs MEL 91 Report Stats
SYD 117vs ADE 65 Report Stats
CAR 54vs NTH 118 Report Stats
GCF 83vs WCE 83 Report Stats
Sun, 02 AugTimes shown AEST
PTA 112vs STK 49 Report Stats
ESS 40vs WBU 127 Report Stats
FRE 84vs GWS 63 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 88vs RIC 52 Report Stats
Sat, 08 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 105vs CAR 87 Report Stats
WBU 128vs PTA 64 Report Stats
BRI 100vs GCF 114 Report Stats
GEE 95vs SYD 63 Report Stats
WCE 74vs HAW 88 Report Stats
Sun, 09 AugTimes shown AEST
MEL 92vs NTH 127 Report Stats
GWS 93vs ESS 61 Report Stats
STK 59vs FRE 96 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD 87vs COL 76 Report Stats
Sat, 15 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS 59vs ADE 171 Report Stats
NTH 120vs STK 83 Report Stats
PTA 111vs GWS 90 Report Stats
GEE 85vs HAW 121 Report Stats
BRI 131vs CAR 67 Report Stats
Sun, 16 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC 138vs GCF 55 Report Stats
WBU 153vs MEL 55 Report Stats
FRE 80vs WCE 104 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW 86vs PTA 108 Report Stats
Sat, 22 AugTimes shown AEST
COL 56vs RIC 147 Report Stats
GWS 44vs SYD 133 Report Stats
GCF 97vs ESS 95 Report Stats
STK 97vs GEE 97 Report Stats
ADE 131vs BRI 44 Report Stats
Sun, 23 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH 94vs FRE 83 Report Stats
CAR 78vs MEL 55 Report Stats
WCE 162vs WBU 85 Report Stats
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 28 AugTimes shown AEST
GEE 62vs COL 110 Report Stats
Sat, 29 AugTimes shown AEST
GWS 132vs CAR 51 Report Stats
HAW 134vs BRI 62 Report Stats
NTH 73vs WBU 96 Report Stats
ESS 47vs RIC 74 Report Stats
GCF 51vs PTA 88 Report Stats
Sun, 30 AugTimes shown AEST
ADE 51vs WCE 1 LIVE Stats
STK ($4.50)vs SYD ($1.22) 15:20ES
FRE ($1.07)vs MEL ($9.00) 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Fri, 04 SepTimes shown AEST
RIC vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 05 SepTimes shown AEST
GEE vs ADE 13:05SS
BRI ($4.60)vs WBU ($1.18) 13:45G
PTA vs FRE 15:50Adelaide Oval
HAW ($1.01)vs CAR ($15.00) 16:40MCG
SYD ($1.07)vs GCF ($7.50) 19:20SCG
WCE vs STK 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 06 SepTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GWS 13:10ES
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Fremantle 20 16 4 0 122.19 64
West Coast Eagles 20 15 4 1 150.85 62
Hawthorn 21 15 6 0 156.77 60
Richmond 21 14 7 0 121.39 56
Sydney Swans 20 14 6 0 118.16 56
Western Bulldogs 21 14 7 0 116.76 56
North Melbourne 21 13 8 0 109.08 52
Adelaide Crows 19 12 7 0 116.41 50
View all
 

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