(A note from the editor: this is the most irrelevant post in the history of this blog. All of the information is dated and most of my predictions were incorrect. I wrote most of this on Friday and then finished off the bottom three teams on Saturday in a rush. The only reason I am posting it is for documenting my thoughts so that in 20 years I can’t claim I was always believing Hawthorn would win, which I think is what some people do with 2003 Grand Final. If I were you, I would stop reading.)
The annual thoughts on the final eight teams has been delayed this season. Being back at university this season has meant that any spare time not watching football or football related shows has been spent completing assignments on things that I feel like I know nothing about even though I have written 3000 words on the topic. Also, there is now an annual tradition of Collingwood performing dismally in the second half of the season and not making finals so my excitement levels have not been quite as high as they could be. But with all my assignments for the semester now done, and mid semester break next week, I finally have time to write about teams that are much better than my own. So here are my annual thoughts on the final 8 teams which are based on no real analysis and a rudimentary understanding of the game.
Pre–Finals Prediction: Premiers
Pre-Preliminary Final Prediction: Premiers
Fremantle must be the most underrated minor premier in my lifetime. I can’t recall a team who has lost only 5 games for the entire season be criticised so heavily. Ross Lyon is considered a masterful coach but a one-trick pony. They’ve had to deal with a lot of injuries as well as Crowley’s suspension but have still managed to win enough games to win the minor premiership.
They lucked out with coming up against a depleted Sydney side in the first week of the finals and did enough to get over the line. Now they come up against Hawthorn who dismantled them with ease during the home and away season. The pundits keep saying that they don’t score enough to win a premiership. My faith in Fremantle might be an ill-advised reaction to the negativity in the media about their inability to score, but all I know is that I am 100% convinced that Ross Lyon knows more about football than anyone in the media criticising his coaching method. They might fall short on Friday night, but I am tipping them to win in a close one, and then go on to win the premiership.
Pre-Finals Prediction: Lose in the QF, eliminated to Freo in a Derby Preliminary Final.
Pre-Preliminary Final Predicition: Grand Final runner up.
If I am overrating Fremantle, then I am definitely underrating West Coast. Up until their Qualifying Final against Hawthorn, I still wasn’t convinced that they were any good. You would have thought 16 wins and finishing second on the ladder would have been enough to prove to me that they were good enough, but it wasn’t. Then they completely shocked Hawthorn in the first week of the finals and proved to me that it was a worthy contender. They have had so many injuries but have just kept on keeping on. McGovern looks like the most unfit footballer since Scott Cummings and it seems like he runs off the ground injured in every game I watch, but he keeps coming back on and West Coast keep covering him.
I don’t particularly like West Coast as a club, but I do like Adam Simpson as a person and I’d be more than happy to see Sharrod Wellingham win another premiership. I also have a soft spot for Josh Kennedy as he helped me orchestrate one of the greatest trades in fantasy football history in 2014 (Josh Kennedy and Craig bird for Robbie Gray) and was also a part of my back-to-pack premiership team in 2015, sitting on the bench while Robbie put in the hard yards on the field. Irrelevant facts aside, I think they should beat North Melbourne, although it will be closer than most are expecting, but then they will lose in the GF against whoever they play.
Pre-Finals Prediction: Runner up
Pre-Preliminary Final Prediction: 3 rd
It would be easy to say that it gets boring watching Hawthorn win all the time if it wasn’t so exhilarating. Even when they are tearing apart inferior sides, it is still a joy to watch. Their ball movement is better than any other team I can remember watching. A lot of teams rely on chance and winning contests to win games of football, but Hawthorn wins contests and then eliminates chance as much possible by retaining uncontested possession as they move the ball towards their goal. Until 2 weeks ago I didn’t think anyone had the game plan to beat them, and my prediction of them not winning the flag was based on a hunch and banking on them having an off-day on Grand Final day liken Sydney did last year. It would seem that they’ve already had that bad day but I am still predicting them to lose to Fremantle. You’re probably laughing at me right now if you’re one of the very few people actually reading this ill-informed article, but I’ll try and at least base my hunch on history. Jay Croucher – a much more informed writer than me; you should listen to his podcast ‘The Good, the Bad and the Goldsack’ if you like in depth statistical analysis of games – spoke on his podcast the other day how this year’s Hawthorn has a similar feel to Geelong in 2010. (He still thought Hawthorn would win) They were contending for their fourth consecutive Grand Final, lost to the Saints in the QF narrowly, then smashed Fremantle before coming up against Collingwood in the Preliminary Final. That night was one of the best nights of my life, as Collingwood completely dismantled the Geelong team in such an aggressive manner that it didn’t seem real at half time when we were up by 10 goals. Geeelong’s reign – it seemed – was finally over. This year’s Hawthorn season has the potential to be the same as that, but with the Preliminary and Qualifying Final games reversed. Their dismantling came in the first week, reasserted their dominance and the semi-final, and now they find themselves coming up against a Ross Lyon coached team in the preliminary Final.
Hawthorn’s reign is far from over, but based on nothing but a hunch and this lazy and loose historical comparison, I feel like their 2015 season will end this weekend. If they do end up winning the premiership, then it is time to start discussing if they are the greatest team of all time.
Pre-Finals Prediction: Losing in the preliminary final to Hawthorn
Finals position: Lost in semi-final to North Melbourne
You can’t really say much about Sydney other than that they were decimated by injuries. Keiren Jack, Luke Parker, Sam Reid, Lance Franklin. Only a team like Hawthorn could cover those sorts of outs, and they probably wouldn’t be able to do it in a finals campaign. I still thought the Swans could progress at least to the preliminary finals. They had their best chance by winning in the Qualifying Final away at Fremantle, like they did in Adelaide in their premiership year of 2012, but they let themselves down with poor kicking. I didn’t watch that game as I had a birthday lunch to attend so I’m not sure if their kicking was as a result of pressure from Fremantle or unenforced. Regardless, it cost them their game and ultimately their season.
They have had two senior retirements so far this season in Rhyce Shaw and Adam Goodes, and another couple coming up in the next few years to senior players. They will need to find another couple of defenders over the next few years to make up for Shaw and the eventual retirement of Ted Richards. It seems as though the draconian trade restrictions placed on them by the commission have been lifted so that gives them some flexibility to improve their list.
Of all the things to come out of free agency, the best thing is that the football world saw Mike Fitzpatrick for the twat he is after it became public knowledge that he rang up Sydney chairman Richard Colless and verbally abused him for ten minutes for having the gall to be good enough to orchestrate a trade for Lance Franklin. That the trade restriction was imposed afterwards indicates that it was improper. Hopefully this is the catalyst for him being removed from the commission and he can go and just enjoy managing his many, many dollars and Stadium Australia.
Pre-Finals prediction: Losing the semi-final to Sydney
Finals Fate: Eliminated in the first week for the third year in a row.
I predicted Richmond to finally win a final this year. It was all set up for them, but they failed again. And they failed on the smallest of the bigger stages, which it seems like most Richmond people don’t understand. They so desperately want to win a final that it seems like it would be the equivalent of winning a Grand Final. Similar to the way they thought getting to the finals was like winning the premiership. They are a peculiar set of fans: brimming with self-confidence for no apparent reason. A few Richmond fans turned me against them this year after 27 years of unthanked support, nevertheless I admire their passion. They reached 70,000 members this year, cementing their spot as the club with the third highest membership. If they ever do enjoy some success, it looks as though they will easily overtake Collingwood.
They played one of their worst games for the season in the elimination final. Key players went missing and only straight kicking and a great performance from Jack Riewoldt kept them in the game as long as they were. I think they are still on the right track, however, and there is no doubt they were better this season than the past two. They need to do some wise recruiting this season because they are never going to be a real threat if they don’t. Troy Chaplin looked like a dinosaur in the elimination final and it seems like Alex Rance needs some better support. They should do all they can to get Harley Bennell. A mid/fwd combo of him and Dustin Martin would be something to behold.
Pre-Finals prediction: Knocked out in first week.
Everyone’s second team were what Luke Darcy would describe “a genuine feel good story” this season. After losing their captain, Brownlow medalist and their coach in the off-season, it seemed like 2015 would be a bad season for the Dogs. Lead by Bob Murphy and part-skater, part-time surfer and full time coach, Luke Beveridge, however, the Dogs played some brilliant football this season and almost won their first final. They had a very easy fixture this season and they will need to do some recruiting to improve their chances next year.
Pre-Finals Prediction: Knocked out in semi-final
The Crows performed admirably this season given the circumstances. Phil Walsh’s tragic death meant that no one would have criticised them had they performed badly, but their ability to continue playing good quality football was very impressive. It was always going to be hard for them coming up against Hawthorn following their loss to West Coast, and that game showed how far off Adelaide is.
Pre-Finals Prediction: Knocked out in first week against Richmond.
Pre-Preliminary Final prediction: Lose to West Coast.
If it is now an annual tradition for Collingwood to play awful in the second half of the season and miss the finals, it is also now an annual tradition for me to cheer on an underrated North team in the finals who will make it to the second last week of the season. The Richmond game was one of the better non-Collingwood experiences I’ve had the football. The Sydney game was a strange one that only felt like a final for about 15 minutes in the third quarter. They were lucky to come up against a team as depleted as Sydney, but you don’t get to two preliminary finals in a row by being lucky. If we’re going to criticise Richmond for losing three in a row, then we should also praise North for making the preliminary final two years in a row.
They still need to add some players through trade and like Richmond should be doing all they can to get Harley Bennell. They just need to make sure he only hangs out with their boring players like Andrew Swallow and Lindsay Thomas.
They have more of a chance than what most people are giving them this weekend. They beat West Coast during the season and have a similar kind of style that can match the Eagles fast break style. Nevertheless, I’m tipping them to lose.