The regular season is over. The finals are here. We got one of the two scenarios I detailed last week, but how we got there was not as expected, which is what I love about the AFL. Who will host the trophy this year? Read on!
Welcome To Balls of Steel’s AFL Beat!
Earlier in the week, Fremantle had petitioned the AFL to let it rest up to 11 starters for their game against Port Adelaide. Since the Dockers had already clinched the #1 spot, the AFL quickly approved the request. The surprise came when North Melbourne submitted a similar request for their game against Richmond! If you remember, that was the pivotal game that would have a large bearing on finals seedings. In a somewhat surprising and controversial decision, the AFL also allowed the Kangaroos to rest a bunch of starters. The rationale was that since the final eight teams were already set, this action would not adversely impact the competition.
That would seemingly take a lot of the suspense out of the final week, but, as it turned out, the final round brought plenty of unexpected surprises. First off, North Melbourne actually hung tough with the Richmond Tigers up until the fourth quarter. At that point, the Tigers pulled away to a 41 point win. As you can see here, the Kangaroos’ subs wanted to show they could contribute at the AFL level:
Richmond’s Bachar Houli had a nice goal after he picked up a North turnover to turn things around for the Tigers:
Since North had lost, Adelaide was now in the position of possibly hosting an Elimination final if they could beat Geelong and Western somehow lost to Brisbane. The Adelaide-Geelong game started roughly a half hour before the Western-Brisbane game, so a lot of scoreboard watching was in store.
Geelong came out inspired as three of their former champions were bidding goodbye to the club. James Kelly (he of the busted testicle from earlier in the year), Mathew Stokes, and Stevie J all were playing in their final game for Geelong. The Cats ended up playing perhaps their best game of the year and ended up beating the Crows handily by 39. What made it bad was that the Crows did not rest anyone, so it was a legitimate loss. To make it even worse was the fact that Brisbane shocked the Bulldogs at home, which would have handed the Crows a home final had they won.
I watched both games and I was thrilled for both Geelong and the classy way they handled the exiting stars and for Brisbane and how they fought back from a 31 point deficit to steal the win. Here, the Bulldogs’ Jake Stringer makes a couple of fancy jukes to get free and score a goal:
Most of the highlights, though, came from Geelong. Stevie J was determined to make his last game memorable:
Late in the fourth, with the game well in hand, the Geelong players kept putting the footy in the hands of the departing trio. This resulted in goals such as this one:
And, in an interesting twist of fate, Adelaide’s Patrick Dangerfield, who has been rumored all season to be joining the Cats next year, got the last kick of the match and was given cheers by the Geelong crowd:
Interesting that he missed…
Meanwhile, in Adelaide, the Power did what was expected after Fremantle announced they would rest 11 players and dominated the Dockers by
Things did get a bit chippy, but again, I love how the refs handle it. They basically go, “Alright, are you done? We’re going to keep playing.”
There was some good footy played too:
Brisbane’s victory not only meant that Adelaide blew a chance at a home final. It also meant that Carlton needed to beat the Hawthorn Hawks to avoid earning the Wooden Spoon this year.
The Hawks hammered the Blues by
Here, the Hawks score an easy goal when Bradley Hill sneaks behind the defence and is all alone in front of goal.
The Blues did have a nice play or two themselves:
The last two games of US Friday night (Australian Saturday) featured the Sydney Swans almost doubling up the Gold Coast Suns and the West Coast Eagles QUADRUPLING the St. Kilda Saints 125-30. Talk about tuning up for the finals!
This pretty much summarizes how the night went for the Suns:
and how the night went for the Saints:
although the Saints did manage to do something right:
On Saturday night (Australian Sunday), the Melbourne Demons hosted the GWS Giants at Etihad Stadium. The game was close at the half, but the Demons had a great third quarter and held on for the nice 26 point victory.
On the last game of the regular season, Collingwood met Essendon at the MCG. The two teams had nothing to play for but pride. Well, Essendon also could give interim coach Matt Egan his first AFL win. Which is exactly what they did in pulling out a thrilling 3 point win. Here, Collingwood’s Ben Kennedy “soccers” it off the ground for a goal:
Also, Melbourned did a good:
Here are the final ladder positions:
West Coast Eagles
Gold Coast Suns
As predicted, the finals matchups are as follows:
First Qualifying Final
Fremantle Dockers host the Sydney Swans at Domain Stadium on Australian Saturday (10:20 PM Pacific Time on US Friday night)
Second Qualifying Final
West Coast Eagles host the Hawthorn Hawks at Domain Stadium on Australian Friday (3:20 AM Pacific Time on US Thursday night/Friday morning)
First Elimination Final
Richmond Tigers host the North Melbourne Kangaroos at the MCG on Australian Sunday (10:20 PM Pacific Time on US Saturday night)
Second Elimination Final
Western Bulldogs host the Adelaide Crows at the MCG on Australian Saturday (2:20 AM Pacific Time on US Friday night/Saturday morning) Note that this game will be shown live on Fox Sports 2.
I believe the other games are being shown on Fox Soccer Plus, but not everyone has that and Fox’ listings suck monkey balls.
Here are the matchups in nice pretty graphic form:
Since the NFL regular season is starting, I will be moving the AFL Beat to Tuesday for the Finals but I will be posting DFO Late Night open threads on both Friday and Saturday night where I’ll be providing live updates. Grab a couple of beers and join me!