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Pies and Crows look vulnerable

Chris Dawes struggled to be competitive against the Hawks.

Chris Dawes struggled to be competitive against the Hawks. Photo: Paul Rovere

IT IS pretty easy to jump off the bandwagon of a qualifying final loser. Easy and almost always wrong.

It is worth repeating the figures. Since the 2000 revamp of the final eight, we've had 24 qualifying final losers, 22 of whom have rebounded to reach at least a preliminary final, the exceptions being Port Adelaide in 2001 and West Coast in 2007, both of whom went out in straight sets.

That said, though, this year's week-one survivors do look more vulnerable than usual. Adelaide can at least take some comfort from having beaten Friday night's opponent Fremantle twice already this season. And Collingwood?

Let's start with the upside. The Magpies weren't short of effort last Friday night. Travis Cloke is back in touch. They've beaten West Coast once this year at the MCG, a venue at which the Eagles have won only once in their past 11 attempts.

The downside, right now, however, seems to carry more weight. Cloke's six goals against Hawthorn left the Magpies still 38 points adrift. Collingwood's midfield is still racking up impressive numbers without having anything like the sort of impact it once did.

Nick Maxwell's potential suspension stands to weaken further a defence that is lacking both the organisation and rebound it used to offer. And there's still a gaping hole in the ruck. On that score, Collingwood's 49-point loss at the hands of the Eagles only a fortnight ago looms large. That was the evening the Magpies rested a sore Darren Jolly and went with Cameron Wood, hoping the second-stringer could at least nullify West Coast pair Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui around the ground if not at the taps.

The move didn't work on either count, the Pies smashed 59-12 at the hit-outs, the Eagles pair not only giving their onballers an armchair ride but combining for 30-plus disposals and a couple of goals in the general play.

Jolly is back in harness now but wouldn't have been encouraged either by support partner Chris Dawes' continued struggle for competitiveness against the Hawks, nor yesterday's efforts by Cox and Naitanui in the Eagles' demolition of North Melbourne.

Defensively, meanwhile, Collingwood is being exposed by both the falling away of the pressure from its midfield, allowing the ball to come in regularly and at speed, and the added burden that is placing on its key backmen in the one-on-one contests.

And to that end, the likes of Ben Reid and Nathan Brown might have drawn a few deep breaths yesterday afternoon watching the ball slingshot out of West Coast's backline, and the room in which Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy and Quinten Lynch had to move.

Collingwood just staved off the Eagles at the MCG in round 13. The Magpies were playing a lot better then than now and, disturbingly, the reverse is true of its opponent. History will be on the Pies' side on Saturday night. But when it comes to form and structure, not a lot else.

THE WRAP

ADELAIDE
Crows seemed slightly overawed and were certainly out-thought by Sydney. They have copped a double whammy in structural terms with loss of key defender Talia. Delivery faltered under intense finals pressure, and Adelaide won’t survive without a lot more from the likes of Tippett and Porplyzia.

COLLINGWOOD
The Magpies threw the kitchen sink at Hawthorn and still came up well short. Great effort from Cloke again up forward, but still huge issues in the ruck, concerns down back over potential suspension of the skipper, and midfielders racking up the possessions without having enough impact.

FREMANTLE
Best moment by far in an AFL history now spanning nearly two decades. Dockers are playing with absolute confidence and an increased repertoire of tricks, the results obvious in the far healthier scoreboard returns of late to go with the manic defensive pressure now a regular standard.

GEELONG
The slow start, a recurring problem earlier this season, reared its head again at worst possible moment. Predictable ‘‘end of era’’ song will be sung again, but continued blooding of younger types like Motlop, Murdoch and Simpkin on top of Christensen, Duncan and Menzel shouldn’t see Cats falling far.

HAWTHORN
All systems go for flag favourite, imposing winner on Friday night and satisfied onlooker the following evening as the Hawks’ one regular nemesis bowed out. Whitecross gone, but late scratching Lewis and long-kicking Young more than adequate replacements. Going to be very hard to toss from here.

NORTH MELBOURNE
Sorry afternoon for the Kangaroos, whose form dried up completely at the critical moment of the season. Looked out of gas the last three games and were gone by quarter-time at Subiaco under the West Coast assault. Can still focus on great second half of the year and further improvement in number of youngsters.

SYDNEY
Another Swans classic, shrugging off recent slump in form and intensity with one of the most sustained efforts of the season. Goodes back to his best, defence superb and deep pool of midfielders all chipping in. Go into home preliminary final with confidence restored and hopes high.

WEST COAST
Awesome display in front of adoring crowd, Eagles tougher in the clinches and brilliant in transition from defence with run to spare. Rucks supreme, forwards on song and potent, and while Waters’ loss is a blow to defensive balance, it is not a fatal wound. Away finals from here, but heaps of confidence after touching up Collingwood a fortnight ago.

27 comments

  • Yep so tell us again how Geelong will win the flag from sixth? A couple of wins down at Geelong and everyone seemed to forget that they haven't been that good all year. Hopefully now we can end the ridiculous talk about them being the best team ever. They're definitely not in the best five teams ever and probably not in the best ten.

    Commenter
    Zoibil
    Location
    Melbin
    Date and time
    September 10, 2012, 8:31AM
    • What do you base your comments on Zoibil? Name one team in recent history that has even come close to replicating Geelong's dominance over the '07 - '11 period. Only one comes to mind, being Brisbane, and how did they do it? A merger and the MASSIVE AFL compensations & payouts that come with it. Jealousy is a curse mate. Get over it. 3 out of 5 ain't bad, it's brilliant!

      Commenter
      Andy 82
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 12:40PM
    • Geelong no good during the past five years Zoibil?? I dunno what you're smoking but I wouldn't mind a kilo of it!!

      Commenter
      Laurie Mills
      Location
      Bowen
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 2:37PM
    • Great comment.

      The legendary Lions team went back-to-back-to-back and 4 grand finals straight, all while travelling every second week. They even had to contend with an archaic rule that had them play a "home" prelim at the 'G (which was subsequently changed the next year). Eddie has convinced the world that the extra salary cap that Brisbane were afforded is the be all and end all, conveniently disregarding the fact that Brisbane never used the full amount, and actually had LOWER total player payments than Collingwood during the premiership years!

      Geelong meanwhile have been a fantastic team, built on enormous advantages such as their father-son selections (hi dad!) and are the only Victorian team that has a legitimate home ground advantage. Coupled with the fact that they couldn't cope with being "the hunted" means history will remember this team as very good but not quite great. 3 x one-in-a-row is a decent effort, but the threepeat will be forever remembered.

      Commenter
      Gary Jnr
      Location
      Gold Coast
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 7:22PM
  • adelaide, hope mark williams has not lost his tie, because the way adelaide choke in finals they might decide to use it.

    Commenter
    pommie farmer
    Date and time
    September 10, 2012, 9:23AM
    • Goodbye Cats, the invincibilty tag has well and truly worn off this year. An ageing warrior list and retirements have seen to that. All the talk from Garry Lyon that a flag was still possible from sixth is just that, all talk. It would have been fitting for them to have gone down fighting in another epic in front of 85,000 against Hawthorn but not to be. It was embarrasing to watch them in the first 2 quarters being slowly strangled by a fired up and focussed Ross Lyon team. They had no answers early and even Scarlett was turning the ball over. Their coach has a lot answer for as well because they looked absolutely flat and unprepared from the first bounce. When a pulse was found the game had flown and even a fightback seemed always a goal too far. Chappy and Bartell were well down, and this was a cut throat final, unheard of over the last 4 years. From what i have seen over the last month Hawthorn with their exciting brand of football look nearly invincible. They sliced through the pies who it must be said threw not only the kitchen sink but the whole kitchen at them and still got flogged. They are exciting to watch with an unbelievable array of talent on tap, they will be worthy premiers I think.

      Commenter
      Jacques
      Location
      Lilydale
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 9:38AM
      • @Jacques, you forget, the teams that finished 5th and 7th are still in it. It's not time yet to say it can't be won from 6th - or 5th, 7th, or 8th.

        Cats lost because of there own experience. Sometimes experience can be an enemy because you can assume you can handle the situation and then are more "relaxed" as they say. Thus you're not as sharp at the beginning.

        Nothing worries me more in finals than players saying they are relaxed. I follow the Swans and am still haunted by Swan's players saying that before the 2006 grand final.

        Freo, with no experience, only knew they had to play that first quarter with as much effort as usually put into a whole game. Their intensity blew the sub-consciously complacent/relaxed Cats away.

        Freo have a tough draw though, with a rebounding Adelaide at home, followed by the in-form Hawks.

        But wouldn't it be good tho (for footy), if both Freo and West Coast get thru to the grand final?!

        Commenter
        Chrish
        Location
        Vic
        Date and time
        September 10, 2012, 12:06PM
      • Chrish, wasn't saying it couldn't be done, just commenting on the fact that Geelong and their media darlings got ahead of themselves, as they did in the 08 Grand Final. You still have to show up with your A game and actually win the game. If you're off the boil even by 5 per cent you'll get rolled this time of year, unless you're playing North. Freo came to play, Geelong didn't and they got rolled. Their coach should take some of the blame for their pathetic start.
        Hawthorn as they were in 08, are peaking at the right time and the list is so talented, unless they drop the ball, like Geelong did, should go through and win it. It's a given there will be one interstate team in the GF, I'm thinking The Swans.

        Commenter
        Jacques
        Location
        Lilydale
        Date and time
        September 10, 2012, 4:05PM
    • The AFL are a disgrace!! Sydney comfortably dismantling the Crows proves a point. The Crows are not a Top 4 team and they proved it. They were handed a double chance by the AFL by the softest draw I have ever seen. Nearly every time they have faced quality opposition they have failed. They did beat the Swans in Sydney however and have improved.They deserved a Finals berth but definitely not a double chance. The AFL constantly give everything to the Interstate Clubs and sweet nothing to the struggling Melbourne Clubs. Andrew Demetriou can you please have a close look at the draw you gave the Crows and tell me it's fair!!! By the way I am an AFL member and unless I receive a damn fine explanation I will not be renewing my membership!!!

      Commenter
      Maxy1975
      Date and time
      September 10, 2012, 9:56AM
      • maybe you should write a letter to the AFL maxy, rather than hoping Demetriou reads these comments on the AGE!

        Commenter
        john
        Location
        fremantle
        Date and time
        September 10, 2012, 11:15AM

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