Balls of Steel’s AFL Beat – 2017 Finals Bye Week edition

There were no games this weekend since the AFL instituted a bye last year between the last Round of the Home and Away season and the first week of Finals.   However, there was a lot of action on and off the field.  I will also review my preseason predictions to see how well I did, and I will do a full preview of next week’s finals.  All this and more on

Welcome to Balls of Steel’s AFL Beat!

EJ Whitten Legends Match

For the second year in a row, the EJ Whitten Legends game was played on the bye weekend before finals. This is not only an important fundraiser for men’s health (preventing prostate cancer and other men’s diseases), it is also a heck of a fun time as old players get together and play one more game for fun and beers after the game.  This year’s game was no different and I was able to catch a replay on the Fox Footy channel on the AFL Watch app.  It was a lot of fun and featured miked-up players, a camera on a segway on the field, in-game commentary from coaches and players alike, and some good-natured shit-giving.

The game came down to the final controversial seconds:

If Phil Matera had nailed his eighth goal instead of kicking a behind, the All-Stars would have won, but it was still an amazing shot from Jonathan Brown and he deserves the accolades.  If you tune in to the On The Couch show that is on the Fox Footy channel on the AFL Watch app, I’m sure you will hear him talk about this all week long.  Victory goes to the Victorians by one point.

Here is the post-game fun:

I fucking LOVE Brian Taylor!!  And I love that everyone is having a beer. Don’t you wish the NFL did something this fun?  Reason #98,367, well, you know the drill.

***

AFL Women’s State of Origin match

In Australian culture, which state one is from is actually a pretty big deal and there are deep rivalries between the states.  In Australian football, they show up in the rivalry between Victoria and the rest of the states as Victoria is where Australian footy was created.   You saw an example in the EJ Whitten game and another example was in the AFL Women’s State of Origin match.

This exhibition game was also held during AFL finals bye week as part of a “celebration of footy” that the AFL planned.  Other activities included the announcement of the All-Australian team as well as the winner of the Rising Star award.

Unfortunately for the “Allies”, the Victorian ladies pretty much had their way with them. I don’t think Allies have taken a beating like that since Dunkirk. There were no highlights posted on Youtube, so I’ll leave it to your imagination to picture a bunch of girls taking full advantage of other girls and getting them to submit to their will.

***

Preseason Predictions Review

 Let us start in reverse order of 2017 finish:

18th (Wooden Spoon winners) – Brisbane Lions

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Down

Why?: Essendon is getting its players back.  The Lions fired their coach and are starting fresh.

Potential Pitfalls:  It’s very difficult to change coaches and move dramatically up the ladder.  It’s going to take some time to rebuild.  Unfortunately, it seems like Brisbane has been rebuilding forever.

2017 Predicted Finish:  18th, Wooden Spooners

Preview Assessment:  I think I pretty much nailed that one.

Graphical Depiction:

17th – Gold Coast Suns

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Down

Why?: The Suns have gone through a LOT and none of what I’ve read sounds good.  It seems no one knows what they are doing in that organization.

Potential Pitfalls:  The whole season looks like a pitfall.

2017 Predicted Finish:  They will seriously challenge Brisbane for the Wooden Spoon.  Call it 17th.

Preview Assessment:  Two in a Row!

Graphical Depiction:

16th – Carlton Blues

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Down

Why?: The preseason is, I understand, for practice and getting some fresh faces in the lineup.  The Blues looked really bad in all three preseason games.

Potential Pitfalls:  It’s easier to list potential good things that can happen rather than pitfalls.  The Blues need to really improve in order to not fall further behind everyone else

2017 Predicted Finish:  16th

Preview Assessment:  Hat Trick!!

Graphical Depiction:

You didn’t even notice the hats, did you?

15th – North Melbourne Kangaroos

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Down. Way down.

Why?: The Roos basically purged their roster of all older players and are now one of the youngest teams in the competition.  This is good for the future, but the present is going to hurt.

Potential Pitfalls:  It’s going to take a while for the players to get used to playing together and to develop chemistry.  The lack of leadership could also impact how quickly the team comes together.

2017 Predicted Finish:  Most people are anticipating a big drop.  I’m not quite sure the Roos are Wooden Spoon material yet, but they will not go to finals.  Let’s call it 15th.

Preview Assessment:  Ok, seriously, you can check the link.  I really did say these things way back then!

Graphical Depiction:

14th – Fremantle Dockers

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Up

Why?: Nat Fyfe is back and seemingly in great shape.  The house-cleaning of last year left only players that were ready to buy into Lyon’s program.

Potential Pitfalls:  If Fyfe reinjures himself, the Dockers are toast and it could be 2016 all over again.  In that case, Lyon might not survive this time.

2017 Predicted Finish:  Midpack. The Dockers will be much better, but I’m not sure about finals.  Call it 13th.

Preview Assessment:  Ok, fine.  I was off by one.  That’s still a pretty fair and accurate assessment.  The Dockers WERE better for stretches but could not put a complete season together.  Luckily, Nat Fyfe did not get hurt.

Graphical Depiction:

13th – Collingwood Magpies

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Up

Why?: Similarly to Richmond, the team has looked good in preseason.  They, like Richmond, look set to make the leap into the Eight.

Potential Pitfalls:  The preseason is a mirage and no one should pay attention to it.

2017 Predicted Finish:  The coin has spoken.  Call it 8th.

Preview Assessment:  I was wrong about the Pies, although they played really hard all year long and ended up with a 99.0 percentage.  That means they were in every game. They slid down to 13th from 12th, so I’m gonna call this one a miss.

Graphical Depiction:

12th – Hawthorn Hawks

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Down.

Why?: The Hawks made some moves in the offseason to try to get younger and they get Jarryd Roughead back after a cancer scare, but it will take time for the new players to get accustomed to the Hawks’ system.

Potential Pitfalls:  If the new players don’t mesh and the stress of not matching previous success gets to them, the team could be headed for a North Melbourne-like fall.

2017 Predicted Finish:  I don’t think the Hawks will fall too far.  I say they stay in the Eight.  Call it 5th.

Preview Assessment:  I was correct about the fall as the Hawks lost five of their first six games.  The Potential Pitfalls I mentioned in the preview actually happened. The Hawks did right the ship somewhat, but they were not able to copy the Sydney Swans and get all the way into the Eight.  The fact that I had them in the Eight makes this a miss.

Graphical Depiction:

11th – St. Kilda Saints

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Up

Why?: This is the year.  The Saints have been building for some time and this is the year they break through.  Last year’s finish was a portent of things to come.  Nothing in the preseason has shown me that this team is not ready to make the leap.

Potential Pitfalls:  It could all fall apart, of course.  The team could suffer devastatingly close losses and lose faith and confidence.  A strong start to the season will be the key.

2017 Predicted Finish:  7th

Preview Assessment:  This was NOT the year.  I don’t think there will ever be a year.  The Saints are the new Chicago Cubs now that the Cubs have won a championship.  They are the lovable losers that will never win anything.  Once again, though, I was correct in the Potential Pitfalls.

Graphical Depiction:

10th – Western Bulldogs

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Um, sideways?  You can’t go higher than winning the championship.  At the same time, the Bulldogs did finish the regular season 7th.  They will be back in finals for sure, but I doubt they will climb all the way to 1st in the ladder at the end of the Home and Away season.

Why?: Last year’s success was completely unexpected, though it had been building.  Now that the championship has been won, will the team have the hunger for another one?  This is unknown territory for the Doggies.

Potential Pitfalls:  Laziness and self-satisfaction.  Western will also, as the reigning champions, have a bullseye on their backs.  Every team will be playing extra hard to knock them down to earth.

2017 Predicted Finish:  Definitely in the finals.  Probably not first.  Call it 4th.

Preview Assessment:  The Doggies still had a shot at the end to sneak into the Eight, but lost to the Hawks to put an end to an up and down season that was mostly down.  They could not recapture the magic of last year and slid all the way out of the Eight.

Graphical Depiction:

9th – Melbourne Demons

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Down

Why?: The Demons didn’t get another star.  Jack Viney is supposed to be the next star in the Demons’ lineup, but he needs to demonstrate that on a daily basis.

Potential Pitfalls:  Too much is placed on Jesse Hogan and the rest of the team doesn’t raise their games.

2017 Predicted Finish:  Lower mid-pack.  The Demons will not be as good as last year.  Call it 14th.

Preview Assessment:  The Demons actually went up from last year’s 11th place finish but their sweet collapse at the end of the season to end up out of the Eight more than makes up for the fact I got this one wrong.

Graphical Depiction:

8th – West Coast Eagles

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Down

Why?: Naitanui is still hurt and will miss most, if not all, of the 2017 season.

Potential Pitfalls:  How do you replace a superstar?  Fremantle certainly could not.

2017 Predicted Finish:  Mid-pack and out of the Eight.  Call it 10th.

Preview Assessment:  I’m sorry, but if it wasn’t for Melbourne’s hilarious collapse in the last game of the season, this is pretty much where the Eagles would have landed.  Sorry again.  I’m taking credit for this one.

Graphical Depiction:

7th – Essendon Bombers

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Definitely UP

Why?: The players that missed all of last year due to suspension are back.  Last year gave Orazio Fantasia and a few other young players the opportunity to shine and get experience and that should pay dividends this year.

Potential Pitfalls:  It’s going to take a while for the players to get used to playing together. It is a big change in personnel from last year. If they can jell quickly, the team can improve greatly.

2017 Predicted Finish:  Mid-pack.  Definitely not Finals material yet.  Let’s call it 12th place.

Preview Assessment:  I’m torn about whether to take credit for this one.  I did call the improvement and the team did jell quickly and improved greatly.  I did not have them in finals, but I don’t think anyone else did.  Ok, give me half credit.

Graphical Depiction:

6th – Sydney Swans

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Sideways.  You can’t go higher than #1

Why?: The Swans return essentially the same team as last year except the young team from last year now has a year of finals experience.

Potential Pitfalls:  It’s hard to see much derailing the Swans this year.  They are the odds-on favorites this year.

2017 Predicted Finish:  #1 in the Home and Away season.  Once you get into finals, as the Swans know, anything can happen.

Preview Assessment:  Even losing the first six games of the season didn’t derail the Swans as they roared back to life and made it back into finals.  While they did not finish first, they had a shot all the way at the end to finish Top Four and are definitely the odds-on favorites.  Even though I didn’t nail the finish, I’m taking credit for this one.

Graphical Depiction:

5th – Port Adelaide Power

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Down

Why?: Have you seen the movie Groundhog Day?

Potential Pitfalls:  Until the Power can break the pattern they are in, I have no reason to move them from their usual mid-table-and-out-of-the-Eight spot

2017 Predicted Finish:  Call it 11th.

Preview Assessment:  It looks like the Power finally broke their pattern!  Good for them!

Graphical Depiction:

4th – GWS Giants

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Up

Why?: Last year’s finals experience should help this team improve even more.  From what I saw of them in the preseason, this team has the potential to be scary good.

Potential Pitfalls:  Injuries are always a concern, but this team does not rely on superstars so only widespread injuries Gold Coast Suns-style should derail this team.

2017 Predicted Finish:  This team looked really good in preseason.  I know it doesn’t mean much, but they seemed primed for another top four finish.  Call it an incremental improvement to 2nd and look for them to make some noise in finals.

Preview Assessment:  The Giants were in second place all the way up to the last game and still remained top four.  I’m calling this a hit.

Graphical Depiction:

3rd – Richmond Tigers

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017:  Up

Why?: The Tigers have looked a lot better in preseason.

Potential Pitfalls:  The preseason performance may be deceptive and the Tigers’ true colors could shine in the regular season.

2017 Predicted Finish:  I have this as a coin-toss between the Tigers and the Magpies for the 8th spot.  Heads it’s the Tigers, tails it’s the Pies.  Tails never fails.  Let’s call it 9th.

Preview Assessment:  The Tigers were indeed the real deal that they showed in the preseason and managed a Top Four finish.  I tossed a coin that kept them out of the Eight, so I’ll take the miss, but most everything else was right on.

Graphical Depiction:

2nd – Geelong Cats

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Down

Why?: The Cats added some new faces and some old ones retired.  The problem for the Cats last year and, from what I’ve seen of the preseason this year, is consistency.

Potential Pitfalls:  The lack of consistency has hurt this team tremendously.  They can look really good and then look extremely average.  Within the same game.  That has to be fixed in order for them to do anything.

2017 Predicted Finish:  The Cats will not finish 2nd again.  I’m looking at them to fall but still stay in the top four.  Call it 3rd.

Preview Assessment:  Turns out the Cats DID finish 2nd again!  The rest is spot on, so I’m giving myself credit on this one.

Graphical Depiction:

1st – Adelaide Crows

What did I say?

Direction the Arrow is Pointing for 2017: Down, but just barely.

Why?: Father Time takes no prisoners.  The Crows should be good again, definitely in the Eight, but younger and sexier teams are on the rise.

Potential Pitfalls:  The Crows have been lucky about not having any players with significant injuries.  Hopefully, this trend continues.

2017 Predicted Finish:  A slight drop to 6th.

Preview Assessment:  The trend did continue as the Crows did not suffer major injuries.  Younger and sexier teams did arise, but they could not get close to the Crows.  I’ll take a half credit on this one.

Graphical Depiction:

So, how did I do overall?  Hmm, carry the one…

Four picks nailed EXACTLY, five full credits, two half credits, and 7 misses. Not too bad, if I do say so myself…

***

Finals Week One Preview

Here again is the schedule of games (All times Pacific):

Thursday, September 7, 2017

First Qualifying Final – 2:50 AM – Adelaide Crows v GWS Giants at Adelaide Oval

The Crows’ Rory Sloane had his appendix removed and is rushing to get back for this game.  Back in the days without the bye, he would have been out for sure, but now he has a chance.  Interestingly, he is the SECOND Crow to get his appendix out this season as Eddie Betts had his removed a few weeks back and missed some time. Even if he plays, I’m sure the Giants will tag Rory, which usually slows him down and limits his productivity.  The rest of the team, then, needs to step up.  I know stars Eddie Betts and Taylor “Tex” Walker will do so, but what about the rest of the team?  The Crows are not going into finals on the best form having lost two games in a row.

On the Giants’ side, most of the players that missed time due to injury are now healthy and so the team has a selection dilemma.  Does Stevie J, who has taught all these players a lot and has a ton of finals experience, get included in the team even though he lately has not played very well?  If so, who is kept out of the team?  If he is in, where does he play?  I suppose these are nice problems to have, but any misstep by the Giants could ruin their chances at a vital road win.

The loser of this game plays next week against the winner of Port Adelaide-West Coast.  If both Adelaide and West Coast lose, this would set up a Showdown in a Semi-final with the loser being out.  It doesn’t get more intense than that.

Even though Adelaide has the home field advantage, I do not think that will faze the Giants.  I look for this game to be close with the winner scraping by with a one or two goal margin.  There really is a big chance that the Giants spring the upset.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Second Qualifying Final – 2:50 AM – Geelong Cats v Richmond Tigers at the MCG

This game is, due to the expected attendance, being played at the MCG, which happens to be Richmond’s home ground.  This will help the Tigers.  The Tigers are one of the most popular teams in the AFL and will most likely draw a big pro-Tiger crowd.  This also helps the Tigers.  Oh, and the Tigers just recently lost a big game to the Cats and are looking to get some revenge and should have learned some things from that clash.  That also helps the Tigers.

On the bright side for the Cats, coach Chris Scott has effectively said that the AFL could play this game anywhere and they will show up and play their best.  He has refused to get drawn into the debate as to whether this is fair or not although he did encourage others to have the debate at his post-game press conference after the Giants game. The big question for the Cats is whether Joel Selwood will have recovered enough from ankle surgery to return and played well.

It may actually be better for Joel to sit out another week as the team has actually played pretty well without him. The rest of the midfielders have stepped up their games and that is what has taken the Cats to the 2nd spot in the ladder over the last month.  In order to do ANYTHING in finals, the Cats need contributions from everyone, not just the stars.

So, what it basically comes down to is that the Cats have a lot of finals experience while the Tigers are young and have none.  Will that make a difference?  The key matchup to me will be Harry Taylor against Alex Rance.  In the game a few weeks ago, Harry got the better of Rance and propelled the Cats to victory.  It remains to be seen if the Tigers have come up with a way to address this and make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The loser of this plays the winner of the Sydney Swans – Essendon Bombers match, so the stakes are extra high as both of those teams are really good and could knock the loser of this game completely out.

Second Elimination Final – 11:20 PM – Sydney Swans v Essendon Bombers at the SCG

At first glance, it may seem the young Bombers have no shot against the seasoned Swans that just last year were in the Grand Final.  One thing to keep in mind, though, is that the last time these two teams played, Round 14 of this year and AT the SCG, the Bombers held a 19 point lead late into the fourth.  The Swans came storming back and ended up winning by one with an After-The-Siren goal.

If I’m the Bombers, I’m looking at that match as the one that got away and I’m fairly confident that I can beat the Swans on their home turf.  Hopefully, Essendon has learned some lessons from that game. The big problem for the Bombers, though, is injuries. Orazio Fantasia has been out for a while with a hamstring injury while Cale Hooker (leg) and Michael Hurley (calf) are also in a race against time to be match fit.  While the Bombers say they are happy with the trio’s progress and expect them to play, it’s not a sure thing and if anyone is unable to play, it will seriously damage the Bombers’ hopes.

On the Swans’ side, they’re hoping that the bye doesn’t slow down their momentum they’ve carried since the 0-6 start.  Since then, the only team to have beaten the Swans is the Hawks, twice, and they’re sitting at home watching the telly.  The only other team that got close to beating them was Essendon.

I’m going to wait until the very end to make my Footy Tip for this game depending on the injury news.  If Essendon plays everyone and they are fit, they have a real shot to pull the upset.  Anything else and it will be a Swans romp.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

First Elimination Final – 2:50 AM – Port Adelaide Power v West Coast Eagles at Adelaide Oval

The last game of Finals Week One should be straightforward based on form as Port Adelaide has been playing much better.  However, there are lingering narratives to pay attention to:

1) Port plays well against lower competition and badly against better competition.  West Coast finished lower on the ladder this year, but there is plenty of finals experience on that team and they did finish higher than Port last year. Will the pressure of finals get to the Power?

2) The Eagles are considered flat-trackers as they win at home and lose on the road.  However, they tend to play WORSE in Melbourne and are not that bad in Adelaide.  Their record is actually quite decent at Adelaide Oval. They have also been through finals many times in the last few years, so this will be nothing new to them.  The Eagles just finished beating the number one team in the competition to get INTO finals, so they’ll be feeling pretty good about themselves and their chances.

I don’t actually like either of these two teams to accomplish much beyond this game as the winner will most likely lose against the loser of Adelaide-GWS unless it’s a Showdown and then you never know.  This one will be close and it will come down to whichever team chokes the most.

***

That’s all for this week.   For our Footy Tip Contest participants, I remind you that the Contest is still going on!  Here are the standings:

PLACE TIPPER Round Tips Round Margin TOTAL Tips TOTAL Margin
1 BALLS 8 4 128 539
2 Litre_cola 5 2 127 637
3 JolietJakeDelhomme 3 9 125 923
4 Spanky 5 2 123 640
5 SonOfSpam 4 30 122 779
6 Sunrisesunrise 5 26 118 860
7 BFC 6 2 117 621
8 WhyEaglesWhy 5 9 114 736
9 Blax 4 59 93 698
10 Dolph Ucker 8 11 90 769

As I always say:

DON’T FORGET TO PUT THE FOOTY TIP IN!

It’s classy because there is a pearl necklace!

See you next week!

ballsofsteelandfury

ballsofsteelandfury

International Member of the Geelong Cats and recovering Steelers fan. Likes Butts. And Balls. And Boobs. Pretty much anything that starts with the letter B. Preferably together.
ballsofsteelandfury

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Member

[…] remember how I was bitching about the Cats not really having home-field advantage due to being forced to play […]

BrettFavresColonoscopy
Member

Accountability? What kind of bullshit is this? I hope you’re not expecting to set a precedent.

litre_cola
Member

That is not the pearl necklace I thought I had paid for.

Rikki-Tikki-Deadly
Member

THIS GUY DONALD TRUMP I CALL HIM MIKE POLK CAUSE HIS ENTIRE MESSAGE BOILS DOWN TO “FUCK THE BROWNS”.

Unsurprised
Member
Unsurprised

/REX RYAN FLIES TO AUSTRALIA

Unsurprised
Member
Unsurprised

It’s classy because there is a pearl necklace!

/Giggles uncontrollably

blaxabbath
Member

Still holding off Dolph! He NOSE I won’t be caught!

comment image

Dolph Ucker
Member
Dolph Ucker

Eye nose stuff too.
https://goo.gl/images/mtqboF

Dolph Ucker
Member
Dolph Ucker

Can I get one more tutorial on how to attach a friggin photo?
Apparently eye does not nose teh technical stuff.

Rikki-Tikki-Deadly
Member

Probably need something that’s got a .png or .jpg file extension.

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