Just six sides remain in the hunt for the 2019 AFL premiership and Richmond firmed into flag favouritism after an excellent win over Brisbane last week. The Tigers, as a result, have this week off, Damien Hardwick’s men able to put their feet up and watch who they will face in the preliminary finals.
Collingwood will also benefit from a week off after they proved too good for Geelong in their qualifying final. By finishing in the top four, the Lions and the Cats get a second chance this week but know defeat will finish their season.
And both sides face teams who will be full of confidence after big elimination final victories. That sets up two intriguing semi-finals this week and the stakes could not be higher.
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Friday, September 13, 2019
Geelong Cats v West Coast Eagles
Venue: MCG | Start: 7:50 pm (AEST)
Geelong may have finished first on the AFL ladder but go into their semi-final against interstate opposition as underdogs. The club’s patchy form following the bye is the main reason, the Cats having lost six of their last 11 matches. Geelong paid the price for a slow start against Collingwood in their qualifying final last week, going down by 10 points in a match they kept the Magpies scoreless in in the final quarter. And defeat means the Cats have lost 10 of their last 13 finals, hardly an encouraging record going into a must-win semi-final. Geelong can at least take heart from a 58-point win over West Coast, although that was back in Round 6 as the club were building a run of eight successive wins. Gary Rohan, who kicked four goals in that win, is likely to miss out with a knee problem, while midfielder Mitch Duncan will be sidelined, also with a knee issue. Cam Guthrie (calf) is also in doubt, while Tim Kelly may not be at his best after suffering a cold.
While the last 10 meetings between Geelong and West Coast are split at 5-5, all bar one of those clashes have been won by the home side. And you have to go back to 2006 for the last time West Coast beat Geelong in Victoria. Geelong coach Chris Scott has been criticised in some quarters for his decision to drop Rhys Stanley for the qualifying loss to Collingwood but he might be recalled for this match, given the fitness of West Coast star Nic Naitanui. The Eagles won’t be taking Geelong lightly, coach Adam Simpson insistent ‘the way they play stands up’ in finals football.
West Coast bounced back from two defeats in a row with a convincing 55-point win over Essendon in their elimination final, Luke Shuey and Andrew Gaff instrumental in the midfield while Josh Kennedy and Jamie Cripps booted four goals each. Kennedy’s form, particularly, was an encouraging sign for an Eagles side who limped into the finals. The reigning premiers are blessed with talent on every line, though, and appear to have the momentum going into this clash, something that is often pivotal in semi-finals.
Tall forward Oscar Allen could return after missing the Bombers win with knee soreness and the Eagles have a relatively clean bill of health. That and West Coast’s improving record at the MCG – the Eagles have won five of their past six matches at the venue – should help them record an important road victory against the Cats and set up a preliminary final meeting with Richmond.
Head to Head: West Coast Eagles
Win Margin: West Coast Eagles 1-39
Line: West Coast Eagles -2.5
Total Points: Under 152.5
Saturday, September 14, 2019
Brisbane Lions v Greater Western Sydney
Venue: Gabba | Start: 7:25 pm (AEST)
Brisbane’s push for a first finals win since 2009 sees them host Greater Western Sydney in the second semi-final, with the victor to play Collingwood at the MCG. The Lions were beaten comfortably by Richmond last week, the Tigers recording a 57-point win in Queensland. Defeat means Brisbane have lost two games in a row – both to Richmond – after an eye-catching winning streak of nine matches. But punters are backing the Lions to come good and re-find their scoring touch against the Giants.
Mitch Robinson has been ruled out for Brisbane with a hamstring injury and his hardness around the contest will be missed against a GWS side who showed they were willing to get physical in their elimination final win over the Western Bulldogs. Brisbane will be heartened by their home form, though, Chris Fagan’s men winning 10 of 12 matches at the ‘Gabba this season. They have played GWS just once this season, Lachie Neale leading the way with 31 disposals in a 20-point away win back in June. That victory ended a loss of six straight defeats to the Giants but that is hardly a surprise given Brisbane’s form before 2019. That the Lions finished second on the ladder is a great credit to Fagan given they won just five games last year.
But their lack of finals experience was shown up against Richmond last week and against GWS, they will come up against a side hardened by hard-to-swallow finals exits. The Giants lost preliminary finals in both 2016 and 2017 before a semi-final defeat in 2018. And for that reason, that finals experience, Greater Western Sydney look above the odds in this encounter. Toby Greene, Jacob Hopper and Nick Haynes all got through their injury returns in GWS’ 58-point win over the Western Bulldogs and although Greene was perhaps lucky to avoid suspension at the AFL Tribunal this week, all three players will be better for the run.
Giants vice-captain Stephen Coniglio will miss again with a troublesome knee problem and Brett Deledio’s season is done after he suffered a calf injury. But the Giants have one of their strongest line-ups of the season and in Matt de Boer, have a tagger more than capable of doing a job on Neale. The clash between the former Fremantle teammates shapes as critical to this encounter. And while it would be disappointing for the Lions to bow out in straight sets, Greater Western Sydney should prove just a little too good.
Head to Head: Greater Western Sydney
Win Margin: Greater Western Sydney 1-39
Line: Greater Western Sydney +8.5
Total Points: Over 166.5