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Can Crows defy odds?


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.

HuffPost Australia

AFL 2016

Round 1
Thu, 24 MarTimes shown AEDT
RIC vs CAR 19:20MCG
Sat, 26 MarTimes shown AEDT
MEL vs GWS 13:40MCG
GCF vs ESS 16:35MS
NTH vs ADE 19:25ES
SYD vs COL 19:25ANZ
Sun, 27 MarTimes shown AEDT
WBU vs FRE 13:10ES
PTA vs STK 15:20Adelaide Oval
WCE vs BRI 19:40Domain Stadium
Mon, 28 MarTimes shown AEDT
GEE vs HAW 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 2
Fri, 01 AprTimes shown AEDT
COL vs RIC 19:50MCG
Sat, 02 AprTimes shown AEDT
ADE vs PTA 13:45Adelaide Oval
ESS vs MEL 14:10MCG
BRI vs NTH 16:35G
STK vs WBU 19:25ES
FRE vs GCF 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 03 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs GEE 13:10SO
HAW vs WCE 15:20MCG
CAR vs SYD 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 3
Fri, 08 AprTimes shown AEST
PTA vs ESS 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 09 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs COL 13:45MCG
RIC vs ADE 14:10ES
SYD vs GWS 16:35SCG
GCF vs CAR 19:25MS
WCE vs FRE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 10 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs MEL 13:10BA
WBU vs HAW 15:20ES
GEE vs BRI 16:40SS
View All Fixtures
Round 4
Fri, 15 AprTimes shown AEST
WCE vs RIC 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 AprTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GEE 13:45MCG
HAW vs STK 14:10AS
BRI vs GCF 16:35G
CAR vs WBU 19:25ES
ADE vs SYD 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 AprTimes shown AEST
GWS vs PTA 13:10SO
COL vs MEL 15:20MCG
NTH vs FRE 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 5
Fri, 22 AprTimes shown AEST
HAW vs ADE 19:50MCG
Sat, 23 AprTimes shown AEST
SYD vs WCE 13:40SCG
GCF vs NTH 16:35MS
WBU vs BRI 19:25ES
PTA vs GEE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 24 AprTimes shown AEST
STK vs GWS 13:10ES
FRE vs CAR 16:10Domain Stadium
MEL vs RIC 19:10MCG
Mon, 25 AprTimes shown AEST
COL vs ESS 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 6
Fri, 29 AprTimes shown AEST
NTH vs WBU 19:50ES
Sat, 30 AprTimes shown AEST
MEL vs STK 13:45ES
ADE vs FRE 14:10Adelaide Oval
GWS vs HAW 16:35Spotless Stadium
RIC vs PTA 19:25MCG
GEE vs GCF 19:25SS
Sun, 01 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs SYD 13:10G
CAR vs ESS 15:20MCG
WCE vs COL 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 7
Fri, 06 MayTimes shown AEST
RIC vs HAW 19:50MCG
Sat, 07 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs CAR 13:45MCG
GEE vs WCE 14:10SS
SYD vs ESS 16:35ANZ
GCF vs MEL 17:10MS
WBU vs ADE 19:40ES
FRE vs GWS 20:10Domain Stadium
Sun, 08 MayTimes shown AEST
STK vs NTH 15:20ES
PTA vs BRI 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 8
Fri, 13 MayTimes shown AEST
ADE vs GEE 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 14 MayTimes shown AEST
ESS vs NTH 13:45ES
HAW vs FRE 14:10AS
GWS vs GCF 16:35Spotless Stadium
BRI vs COL 19:25G
RIC vs SYD 19:25MCG
Sun, 15 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs PTA 13:10ES
MEL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs STK 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 9
Fri, 20 MayTimes shown AEST
HAW vs SYD 19:50MCG
Sat, 21 MayTimes shown AEST
COL vs GEE 13:45MCG
GCF vs ADE 14:10MS
PTA vs WCE 16:35Adelaide Oval
NTH vs CAR 19:25ES
FRE vs RIC 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 22 MayTimes shown AEST
MEL vs BRI 13:10MCG
GWS vs WBU 15:20Spotless Stadium
STK vs ESS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 10
Fri, 27 MayTimes shown AEST
SYD vs NTH 19:50SCG
Sat, 28 MayTimes shown AEST
BRI vs HAW 13:45G
MEL vs PTA 14:10TIO Traeger Park
STK vs FRE 16:35ES
ESS vs RIC 19:25MCG
ADE vs GWS 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 29 MayTimes shown AEST
CAR vs GEE 13:10ES
COL vs WBU 15:20MCG
WCE vs GCF 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 11
Fri, 03 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs RIC 19:50BA
Sat, 04 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs MEL 13:45MCG
CAR vs BRI 14:10ES
GEE vs GWS 16:35SS
GCF vs SYD 19:25MS
FRE vs ESS 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 05 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs PTA 13:10MCG
WBU vs WCE 15:20ES
ADE vs STK 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 12
Fri, 10 JunTimes shown AEST
ESS vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 11 JunTimes shown AEST
PTA vs WBU 13:40Adelaide Oval
BRI vs FRE 16:35G
GEE vs NTH 19:25ES
WCE vs ADE 19:40Domain Stadium
Sun, 12 JunTimes shown AEST
STK vs CAR 13:10ES
RIC vs GCF 15:20MCG
GWS vs SYD 16:40Spotless Stadium
Mon, 13 JunTimes shown AEST
MEL vs COL 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 13
Fri, 17 JunTimes shown AEST
NTH vs HAW 19:50ES
Sat, 18 JunTimes shown AEST
BRI vs WCE 13:40G
FRE vs PTA 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 19 JunTimes shown AEST
SYD vs MEL 13:10SCG
ESS vs GWS 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 14
Thu, 23 JunTimes shown AEST
ADE vs NTH 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 24 JunTimes shown AEST
COL vs FRE 19:50MCG
Sat, 25 JunTimes shown AEST
RIC vs BRI 13:40MCG
GWS vs CAR 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs GEE 19:25ES
Sun, 26 JunTimes shown AEST
HAW vs GCF 15:20AS
View All Fixtures
Round 15
Thu, 30 JunTimes shown AEST
WCE vs ESS 20:10Domain Stadium
Fri, 01 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs RIC 19:50Adelaide Oval
Sat, 02 JulTimes shown AEST
GCF vs STK 13:40MS
SYD vs WBU 16:35SCG
CAR vs COL 19:25MCG
Sun, 03 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs ADE 15:20MCG
View All Fixtures
Round 16
Thu, 07 JulTimes shown AEST
PTA vs HAW 19:50Adelaide Oval
Fri, 08 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs SYD 19:50SS
Sat, 09 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs COL 13:40Spotless Stadium
GCF vs BRI 16:35MS
WBU vs RIC 19:25ES
MEL vs FRE 19:40TIO
Sun, 10 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs ADE 13:10MCG
WCE vs NTH 15:20Domain Stadium
ESS vs STK 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 17
Thu, 14 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs HAW 19:20SCG
Fri, 15 JulTimes shown AEST
FRE vs GEE 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 16 JulTimes shown AEST
RIC vs ESS 13:40MCG
NTH vs PTA 16:35ES
WBU vs GCF 19:25CAZ
ADE vs COL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 17 JulTimes shown AEST
CAR vs WCE 13:10MCG
STK vs MEL 15:20ES
BRI vs GWS 16:40G
View All Fixtures
Round 18
Fri, 22 JulTimes shown AEST
COL vs NTH 19:50ES
Sat, 23 JulTimes shown AEST
SYD vs CAR 13:45ANZ
GCF vs FRE 14:10MS
WCE vs MEL 16:35Domain Stadium
WBU vs STK 19:25ES
GEE vs ADE 19:25SS
Sun, 24 JulTimes shown AEST
ESS vs BRI 13:10ES
HAW vs RIC 15:20MCG
PTA vs GWS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 19
Fri, 29 JulTimes shown AEST
GEE vs WBU 19:50SS
Sat, 30 JulTimes shown AEST
GWS vs RIC 13:45SO
HAW vs CAR 14:10AS
COL vs WCE 16:35MCG
BRI vs PTA 19:25G
NTH vs STK 19:25ES
Sun, 31 JulTimes shown AEST
MEL vs GCF 13:10MCG
FRE vs SYD 15:20Domain Stadium
ADE vs ESS 16:40Adelaide Oval
View All Fixtures
Round 20
Fri, 05 AugTimes shown AEST
RIC vs COL 19:50MCG
Sat, 06 AugTimes shown AEST
SYD vs PTA 13:45SCG
MEL vs HAW 14:10MCG
GCF vs GWS 16:35MS
WBU vs NTH 19:25ES
ADE vs BRI 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 07 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs STK 13:10MCG
GEE vs ESS 15:20ES
FRE vs WCE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 21
Fri, 12 AugTimes shown AEST
WBU vs COL 19:50ES
Sat, 13 AugTimes shown AEST
BRI vs CAR 13:45G
HAW vs NTH 14:10MCG
GWS vs WCE 16:35Spotless Stadium
STK vs SYD 19:25ES
PTA vs MEL 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 14 AugTimes shown AEST
ESS vs GCF 13:10ES
RIC vs GEE 15:20MCG
FRE vs ADE 16:40Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
Round 22
Fri, 19 AugTimes shown AEST
WCE vs HAW 20:10Domain Stadium
Sat, 20 AugTimes shown AEST
NTH vs SYD 13:45BA
RIC vs STK 14:10MCG
GWS vs FRE 16:35Spotless Stadium
COL vs GCF 19:25ES
PTA vs ADE 19:40Adelaide Oval
Sun, 21 AugTimes shown AEST
CAR vs MEL 13:10MCG
BRI vs GEE 15:20G
ESS vs WBU 16:40ES
View All Fixtures
Round 23
Sat, 27 AugTimes shown AEST
HAW vs COL 12:00MCG
STK vs BRI 12:00ES
ESS vs CAR 12:00MCG
GCF vs PTA 12:00MS
SYD vs RIC 12:00SCG
NTH vs GWS 12:00ES
GEE vs MEL 12:00SS
ADE vs WCE 12:30Adelaide Oval
FRE vs WBU 14:00Domain Stadium
View All Fixtures
AFL 2015
Overall standings
Team P W L D % Pts
Adelaide Crows 0 0 0 0 - 0
Brisbane Lions 0 0 0 0 - 0
Carlton 0 0 0 0 - 0
Collingwood 0 0 0 0 - 0
Essendon 0 0 0 0 - 0
Fremantle 0 0 0 0 - 0
Geelong Cats 0 0 0 0 - 0
Gold Coast Suns 0 0 0 0 - 0
View all

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