An inform Melbourne return to the finals for the first time since 2006 and square off a Geelong team who conversely have missed September just once in that time. These teams have played out a pair of classic encounters with Geelong prevailing only after a late Max Gawn miss in Round One and a Zach Tuohy after the siren winner in Round 18. Will they treat us to another nail-biter to complete their 2018 trilogy?
Recent meetings with Melbourne have been a happy experience for the Cats winning the last four and tasting defeat just once in the last 16 encounters. They have prospered on the back of their big names having big games, Hawkins kicking bags and the ‘Dangerwoodlett’ all getting plenty of the ball in recent times.
Given Melbourne’s absence from the finals over the last 12 years and Geelong’s almost constant presence in them, there is a gulf of difference in the two teams finals experience. With just 44 games, of which Jordan Lewis provides 23, Melbourne has the least of all teams competing this weekend while the Cats are the third most finals hardened with 209 games.
It is sure to be a high possession, high scoring encounter with both teams among the competitions elite for winning and sharing the ball and for scoring. The Demons scored more points than any other team and accumulated the second most possessions while the Cats were ranked and sixth in both categories.
After bye jitters
Geelong’s record in their last 10 post-bye matches is remarkable for all the wrong reasons. They have won just one of their matches after a weeks break and this was only after Isaac Smith sprayed his after the siren shot wide in the 2016 Qualifying Final. After winning their last two games by a combined total of 235 points, it might be argued they are coming off a three-week break this time around. Will Chris Scott be able to shake his charges into action quicker than he has in the past post rest?
Omens everywhere you look
Melbourne ruthless streak when dealing with the lower teams in the competition saw them finish the 2018 season with a percentage of 131.4, the best in the competition and their own best since 1964 – the year of their last premiership win. Geelong finished the season with two 100+ point victories over Fremantle and Gold Coast a feat they last achieved in 2011 – the year of their last premiership win.
The big-bodied midfielder has good goal sense and it might well be needed with the Demons looking for goals in the absence of Jesse Hogan. The number two draft pick has shown plenty of promise without really announcing himself, if he can do so in September he may well play a role in a deep Demons charge.
With a calm complaint likely to keep Rhys Stanley from playing on Friday night, Blicavs might find himself with the job of limiting the effectiveness of All-Australian Ruckman Max Gawn. The bearded Demon has won 1000 hitouts this season and looms as a danger man for the Cats, which makes Blicavs job vital to their chances of victory.
Herald Sun: Melbourne 20, Geelong 10.
The Age: Melbourne 10, Geelong 2.
The Pinch Hitters: Melbourne 6, Geelong 2.
Betting: Melbourne $1.75, Geelong $2.10.
Melbourne’s long wait for finals footy comes to an end after qualifying for September with their two most impressive wins of the season over fellow finalists West Coast and GWS. The Cats, on the other hand, have been a fixture in September of over a decade and settled their berth in the finals on the back of two 100+ point hidings over Fremantle and Gold Coast. While some are worried that the Cats less challenging run-in might be a concern, their finals experience should more than counter it.
Geelong to win by 5 points.
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