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The clash we all wanted to see - and one week early to boot

Jeff Kennett with Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson last year. The inevitable role of the former in the forthcoming drama is the only downside to it.

Jeff Kennett with Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson last year. The inevitable role of the former in the forthcoming drama is the only downside to it. Photo: Sebastian Costanzo

THE GOOD

As much as we've admired Port Adelaide's efforts in 2013 and again last Friday night, Geelong's eventual win has at least given us Melburnians two bumper games to close out the season, a premiership decider as well as this week the grand final you have when you're not having one. The Cats and the Hawks have consistently provided the best entertainment of the season for the past five years. Their clash in the year's second-most important game contains enough subplots for several documentaries before the ball is even bounced. And Jeff Kennett's inevitable role in the drama? Well, there's a downside to everything.

THE BAD

We're starting to lose count of how many times this issue has cropped up under this heading in 2013, but seriously, is there any chance we can get the goal review process working at least half-decently? Much was made of the new ''real time'' technology introduced late in the season to make these adjudications easier. But on Saturday night, after Carlton's Kade Simpson had lunged at a shot from Josh Kennedy bouncing through, all we got were four irrelevant angles. The only one that really mattered, on the goal line, was conspicuously absent. We've had that shot other weeks. Why not in the third-most important week of the season?

THE UGLY

St Moritz skating rink. Wet 'N' Wild. You could call the surface of ANZ Stadium on Saturday night many things. What you definitely couldn't call it was an appropriate surface for an AFL final. Stadium managers shrugged off the inadvertent staging of ''Benny Hill on ice'' by citing the lack of complaint from the clubs (one had bigger fish to fry and the other didn't want to be seen to be making excuses) and muttering something about dew. Hate to think what impact a genuine shower would have had on the spectacle if some moisture in the air caused that amount of chaos. As for the pitiful crowd of 37,000, how's that promotion of the game in west Sydney going again?

THE WRAP

CARLTON

Blues remained in touch on the scoreboard for a half, but were toast once Sydney started to convert its dominance in possession. Walker a good contributor in defence and Simpson a real trier in his 200th game, but a quiet one for Judd didn't help. Carlton midfield generally simply didn't have the depth of its opponent. Blues didn't tackle hard or often enough and a largely impotent forward line didn't work hard enough to lock the ball in, with predictable results. Some good moments for Carlton in recent weeks, but Blues still a fair way below top four quality, and potential arrival of a big name or two in trade period can't come quickly enough.

GEELONG

Cats were in all sorts of trouble at half-time but pulled out a vintage third quarter, their 19th winning third term of the season. Fightback was spearheaded not only by the midfield class of skipper Selwood and old stager Kelly, but dash of Stokes and Varcoe, the latter's improvement timely. Chapman's guile and goal scoring critical and his loss at the hands of match review panel would be a bitter blow, but encouraging signs from key forward Hawkins towards the finish. Preliminary final against Hawthorn awaits, the Cats at as long odds as they've been against their rival, but buoyed by their phenomenal record against the Hawks over the past five years.

PORT ADELAIDE

Lost the game and bowed out of the finals, but the Power emerges from 2013 with all sorts of credits on and off the field, a seeming basket case restored to respectability and with its future bright. Performance against Geelong indicative of the ‘never give up' ethos Ken Hinkley has brought with him, Port refusing to buckle even when the cause looked lost. Skipper Boak has led magnificently, veterans Cornes and Cassisi continue to prove their worth, and midfield group comprising the captain, Wingard, Wines, Ebert and Hartlett looks set to be one of the best in the competition. Lower profile likes of Pittard, Lobbe and Jonas all coming along nicely, too.

SYDNEY

Many sceptics wrote the Swans off as too injured and tired, but comfortable semi-final win over Carlton was a tremendous response, led from the front by co-captain and potential leather poisoning victim McVeigh. Hannebery back near his best, Jack, O'Keefe and Kennedy prolific, and Grundy and Richards, like all Sydney backmen full of attacking instinct. Perth final against Fremantle is about as big a challenge as there is, particularly with more injuries and Goodes' season now officially over, but one the Swans will tackle with confidence given their liking for the space available on Subiaco and a tremendous recent record of six wins from last eight starts there.

4 comments so far

  • Cats showed in second half last game they have turned their form around. Hawthorn are not balanced with Buddy in the side. If Chappie doesn't play it's a loss however he didn't play last time they met either.

    Commenter
    Catattack
    Date and time
    September 16, 2013, 9:20AM
    • That Paul Chapman was reported for the bump on Friday night is reasonable in itself, just as Buddy Franklin was before, but the review panel are failing to be consistent.
      Last weekend Freemantle's Dawson was reported for a an appalling hit on Joel Selwood. Dawson left the turf and launched himself towards Selwood in a totally reckless way. He collected Selwood in the head with his hip! His hip he was that high and this was well after he had disposed of the ball. I don't know how Selwood wasn't concussed from it. Yes, there was a free kick. yet unbelievably the MRP deemed the hit not even worthy of one week.
      If Chapman is sidelined for the other night then it's a farce. Or is it just that it suits the AFL for Freemantle to get an easy ride, as having them in the Granny and possibly winning is good for their 'National' competition?

      Commenter
      Justice for all
      Date and time
      September 16, 2013, 11:29AM
      • Ah yes, the clearest sign of the AFL's bias towards Fremantle (note: that's how it's spelt) is that that incident took place in Geelong (at a ground not on the list of approved venues a week before).

        Apparently, the difference was that Dawson was trying to block the handball over-the-top, and not trying to make contact with Selwood at all. And to be fair, Selwood probably dropped at the knees in an automatic response to possible contact...

        But I was a little surprised there was no case to answer. My alternative conspiracy theory is that the AFL, like many Freo fans, believe that Freo's a better team without Dawson....

        Commenter
        Phil
        Date and time
        September 17, 2013, 3:35PM
    • Benny Hill on ice? Actually Benny Hill on grass would be an apt description of AFL today. Other options - a flock of seagulls fighting over a chip, or a cross between a bowl of spaghetti and the fall of Saigon. Whatever it is, it's not the same attractive game they played 30 years ago before flooding and unlimited substitutions, as Alex Jesaulenko recently pointed out. For the non-fanatic its really become just a drain on our player pool to take on other countries in sports the rest of the world cares about, and where national pride is at stake.

      Commenter
      Rob
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      September 16, 2013, 10:42PM

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