What a weekend of footy to open the 2018 AFL Finals Series. The Tigers flexed their muscle to quash the Hawks challenge and qualify for a home Prelim. Melbourne showed no sign of nerves, in their first final in 12 years, and eliminated the Cats. GWS claimed bragging rights over the Swans as they ended their crosstown rivals season and the Eagles won a classic in the west over Collingwood to earn a weeks rest and before a home prelim at Optus Stadium. What did we Learn, Like and Dislike from week 1 of the finals?
Finals hold no fears for Demons
Melbourne hadn’t played finals for 12 years but you wouldn’t have know it by watching how they went about their business on Friday night. Opposed to a team that has been a fixture in September for over a decade, the Dees were harder, more determined and more poised. Seemingly invigorated by the challenge, they will take a lot of beating.
Josh Kennedy is vital to the Eagles premiership tilt
Entering the 2018 Finals campaign the Eagles had a 6 & 5 record without Josh Kennedy, a completely different team to the 10 & 1 record they enjoyed with him. As if to highlight his importance to the team, just as Kennedy was finally able to impose himself on the contest coincided with West Coast taking the ascendancy in the match. Kept on a tight leash by Tyson Goldsack, Kennedy’s two goals coincided with Collingwood’s two biggest leads of the game in the third and fourth quarter respectively.
Kung fu kicks are in right now
Toby Greene’s penchant for using his foot to protect the drop of the ball was back in the spotlight after a couple of incidents against the Swans on Saturday afternoon. Sydney players were angered, talkback radio went into meltdown as everyone awaited the MRP verdict on the incidents.
The all clear verdict from Michael Christian prompted an outpouring of fear for the safety of his opponents this weekend but there were no such fears from Jeremy Howe. When asked how he’d deal with the situation if confronted with it on Saturday, he replied that he would simply kick him back.
Vice-Captain in The Pinch Hitters All-Australian team, we have to say we were surprised at the omission of Phil Davis from the official squad of 40. His performance in shutting down Buddy Franklin once again showed his value to the Giants and highlighted how much he is underappreciated by ‘football experts’.
Davis kept Franklin’s influence to just eight possessions and a behind. As one of the most dangerous players in the competition, Franklin loomed as the man most likely to give the Giants trouble. Unfortunately for the eight-time All-Australian, Davis completely dominated him in the pair’s one on one contests leaving the Swans attack completely impotent.
Nathan Buckley’s charges have refused to be bowed by anything that has been thrown their way in 2018 and playing West Coast in front of a hostile crowd proved no different. Fourteen Magpies were playing their first final but you wouldn’t have known in the way they went about their task of trying to cause a boilover.
Given the cries at his absence from the All-Australian team, this is not news to Richmond fans. Yet for fans of other clubs, the fact the 27-year-old has been happy to go about his business in the shadow of Alex Rance, he has possibly flown under the radar. As he showed again on Friday night, Grimes is seldom beaten, able to play on small or tall and is a reliable user of the ball. One of the most important members of the Richmond machine, his days under the radar are no doubt coming to an end.
With the best record in the competition against Top Eight opposition, and victories over three of the Top Four teams, there were many who considered the Swans a team capable of causing some damage from sixth place on the ladder. What they delivered in their most important game of the season made a mockery of these high expectations.
To borrow a phrase that Mick Malthouse despises, the Swans simply didn’t turn up after quarter time. Despite the absence of Josh Kelly and having a one-point lead at the eight-minute mark of the second term, the Swans would not manage another major until the final stages of the match. Despite scoring less than half their opponents’ score, things could have been considerably worse for the Swans had the Giants, who scored 10.19, could have been more accurate with their scoring opportunities.
To get Ablett, the Cats only had to give up the compensation pick they received from Motlop’s departure, so it’s not like they mortgaged their future to go all-in on this season. But much like Essendon and Port Adelaide, the other off-season headline grabbers, this season can only be considered an underachievement. The Cats had potentially assembled the best midfield core of all time; to scrape into finals and be knocked out in the first game, it’s undeniably a fail mark for this season.
We were all shocked by the news on Friday morning of a 61-year-old man having been assaulted in East Melbourne after the First Qualifying Final. Sadly, not the first such attack this year it is one of many that has blighted our game in 2018. It is not too much to ask that people arrive, attend and leave sporting events in this country safely. That there is a doubt on this at present because of a small number of dickheads is disgusting.