Footy on my mind – finals week 1

Geelong v Hawthorn, 2nd Qualifying Final, MCG, Friday 7.45pm

GEELONG

B: J.Hunt M.Scarlett T.Lonergan

HB: C.Enright H.Taylor A.Mackie

C: J.Bartel J.Kelly M.Duncan

HF: S.Johnson C.Ling M.Stokes

F: T.Hawkins J.Podsiadly D.Menzel

Foll: B.Ottens P.Chapman J.Selwood

I/C: D.Wojcinski, T.Varcoe, T.West, A.Christensen

Emg: D.Milburn C.Mooney S.Motlop

In: Tom Lonergan, Mathew Stokes

Out: Shannon Byrnes (Calf), Darren Milburn

HAWTHORN

B: T.Murphy J.Gibson B.Guerra

HB: G.Birchall R.Schoenmakers M.Suckling

C: B.Sewell S.Mitchell C.Bateman

HF: C.Rioli L.Franklin M.Osborne

F: L.Breust D.Hale S.Burgoyne

Foll: M.Bailey J.Lewis L.Hodge

I/C: B.Whitecross, L.Shiels, I.Smith, P.Puopolo

Emg: X.Ellis B.Stratton K.Cheney

In: Max Bailey, Grant Birchall, Lance Franklin, Luke Hodge, Jordan Lewis, Brad Sewell, Cyril Rioli, Shaun Burgoyne

Out: Xavier Ellis, Rick Ladson, Paul Johnson, Jordan Lisle, Shane Savage, Benjamin Stratton, Kyle Cheney, Cameron Bruce (Soreness)

THE VERDICT

Fans of these two rivals will flock to the MCG in what shapes to be another tight contested game of football. This rivalry dates all the way back to the 1989 Grand Final, where Hawthorn took the four points. In more recent times, Geelong have the edge over Hawthorn. The Hawks haven’t beaten the Cats since the 2008 Grand Final, but the average winning margin since then has been under 10 points. I’m a fan of the way both these sides have gone about it in 2011, both for different reasons. Hawthorn’s efforts have been admirable due to injuries to key players and a new game plan implemented by the coaching staff at Waverley Park has been instrumental in their top four finish. Geelong, meanwhile, have been outstanding since the off season departures of Gary Ablett and premiership coach Mark Thompson. The Cats have recruited very well in the past 5-6 years and have a host of young talent that have impressed this year and will replace the elder statesmen at some stage. I believe the Cats will beat the Hawks on Friday night due to their experience on the big stage and their record against the Hawks. Geelong can stretch the Hawthorn defense through Podsiadly, Hawkins and even by resting a Trent West or Brad Ottens. The midfield battles will be the key and whoever gets on top will win the game.

Geelong by 6 points

Collingwood v West Coast Eagles, 1st Qualifying Final, MCG, Saturday 2.20pm

COLLINGWOOD

B: A.Toovey B.Reid H.O’Brien

HB: N.Maxwell C.Tarrant H.Shaw

C: D.Beams S.Wellingham T.Goldsack

HF: B.Johnson L.Brown A.Didak

F: S.Sidebottom T.Cloke L.Ball

Foll: D.Jolly S.Pendlebury A.Krakouer

I/C: L.Davis, D.Swan, C.Dawes, J.Blair

Emg: B.Sinclair S.Buckley A.Fasolo

In: Leon Davis, Nick Maxwell, Heath Shaw

Out: Cameron Wood, Ben Sinclair, Alex Fasolo

WEST COAST EAGLES

B: S.Hurn D.Glass W.Schofield

HB: S.Selwood E.Mackenzie B.Waters

C: L.Shuey M.Priddis A.Embley

HF: M.LeCras J.Kennedy M.Nicoski

F: J.Darling Q.Lynch N.Naitanui

Foll: D.Cox D.Kerr A.Selwood

I/C: S.Butler, C.Masten, B.Ebert, A.Gaff

Emg: P.McGinnity B.Sheppard A.Hams

In: Daniel Kerr, Will Schofield

Out: Ashley Smith (hamstring), Patrick McGinnity

THE VERDICT

This final shapes up to be the Eagles’ biggest test yet against the reigning premiers and John Worsfold’s team has several players who will play their first final on Saturday afternoon. The West Coast’s strength is their talls – Josh Kennedy, Quinten Lynch, Jack Darling, Dean Cox and the talented Nic Naitanui – where they can really test the Magpie defense. There are queries on the match fitness of Collingwood skipper Nick Maxwell, Heath Shaw and Chris Dawes in particular, with the suspended Dale Thomas to come back in for the Pies’ next final. Collingwood have been the best team all year and I expect them to advance to a preliminary final.

Collingwood by 12 points

St Kilda v Sydney Swans, 2nd Elimination Final, Etihad Stadium, Saturday 7.20pm

ST KILDA

B: S.Gilbert Z.Dawson R.Clarke

HB: B.Goddard S.Fisher J.Blake

C: S.Dempster N.Dal Santo J.Gram

HF: B.Peake N.Riewoldt A.Schneider

F: S.Milne J.Koschitzke J.Geary

Foll: B.McEvoy C.Jones L.Montagna

I/C: D.Armitage, J.Steven, F.Ray, D.Polo

Emg: S.Baker M.Gardiner R.Gamble

In: David Armitage

Out: Michael S. Gardiner

SYDNEY SWANS

B: R.Shaw T.Richards T.Kennelly

HB: M.Mattner A.Johnson N.Smith

C: J.Kennedy A.Goodes J.McVeigh

HF: R.O’Keefe S.Reid G.Rohan

F: L.Roberts-Thomson M.Spangher B.McGlynn

Foll: S.Mumford J.Bolton K.Jack

I/C: J.White, C.Bird, D.Hannebery, L.Parker

Emg: N.Malceski M.Pyke L.Jetta

In:Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Sam Reid

Out: Nick Malceski, Lewis Jetta

THE VERDICT

Etihad Stadium will be full for a hard, contested final between two football sides who are very similar. The Saints play their best football at Etihad Stadium and the fact they’re hosting this final is a big plus straight away. The Swans, though, defeated the Saints at ANZ Stadium just two weeks ago and won’t make it easy for the Saints. St Kilda needs its big men to stand up, in particular skipper Nick Riewoldt, who’s had an average season. I query St Kilda’s decision to leave out ruckman Michael Gardiner and opt for Ben McEvoy to battle with Sydney follower Shane Mumford, who at his best is one of the top ruckman in the competition. St Kilda also need to limit the influence of Adam Goodes. In the end, the midfield that gets on top and can hit the scoreboard will win the game.

St Kilda by 7 points

Carlton v Essendon, 1st Elimination Final, MCG, Sunday 2.40pm

CARLTON

B: M.Jamison L.Henderson J.Laidler

HB: A.Joseph N.Duigan C.Yarran

C: B.Gibbs C.Judd D.Armfield

HF: J.Garlett B.Thornton K.Simpson

F: E.Betts S.O’hAilpin A.Walker

Foll: R.Warnock H.Scotland M.Murphy

I/C: P.Bower, A.Carrazzo, D.Ellard, M.Robinson, K.Lucas, M.Davies, Z.Tuohy

In: Paul Bower, Andrew Carrazzo, Bret Thornton, Michael Jamison, David Ellard

Out: Jordan Russell, Matthew Kreuzer (Foot)

ESSENDON

B: K.Hardingham D.Fletcher D.Myers

HB: M.McVeigh T.Pears D.Heppell

C: B.Howlett J.Watson J.Melksham

HF: A.Monfries P.Ryder L.Jetta

F: A.Davey M.Hurley D.Zaharakis

Foll: D.Hille B.Stanton H.Hocking

I/C: R.Dyson, S.Lonergan, N.Lovett-Murray, K.Reimers, T.Bellchambers, J.Carlisle, T.Colyer

In: Ricky Dyson, Dustin Fletcher, Heath Hocking, Sam Lonergan, Tom Bellchambers

Out: Andrew Welsh, Cale Hooker

THE VERDICT

Carlton’s – and perhaps Brett Ratten’s – moment of truth comes on Sunday afternoon. A win will give him a new contract, while a loss may result in his dismissal. The Blues will go in as favourites having won four more games than their opponents but form accounts for nothing once the ball is bounced. The Bombers will be fresh having had the week off and regain skipper Jobe Watson, Dustin Fletcher and Heath Hocking, all who missed their last clash with the Blues 6 weeks ago. Carlton are without Jarrad Waite and Matthew Kreuzer for their first Melbourne final in 10 years, and fullback Michael Jamison has been named despite doubt over his fitness and late withdrawal last week. With an expected crowd of up to 90,000 at the MCG, this elimination final will be tight but I’m tipping the class of the Blues to get over the line.

Carlton by 12 points

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