We have an action-packed episode of the AFL Beat on tap today. Let’s get started.
Welcome to Balls of Steel’s AFL Beat!
The Round started on North American Late Thursday night with the Crows taking on Fremantle in a game they desperately needed to win in order to stay in the hunt for a Grand Final spot. The game was played in Darwin, in the Northern Territory, and it was HOT and HUMID. Temperatures reached 32 degrees (90 Fahrenheit) with a humidity of 71 percent, so the players had longer breaks. The action on the field matched the conditions as the two teams played their hearts out. Ultimately, the Crows prevailed by 4 and kept their Grand Final hopes alive. Here are the highlights:
The Brisbane Lions were sitting pretty in 2nd place at the beginning of the Round and only had to beat lowly Collingwood AT HOME to control their own destiny for a spot in the Grand Final. Collingwood had even lost captain and Balls favourite Steph Chiocci due to this bump from last week and the subsequent two-week suspension it earned:
So, what did the Lions do? They choked it up, just like the Men’s team. This was really just wow. Talk about throwing away the season. Here are the highlights and kudos to the Pies for playing hard and thoroughly earning the win:
Late on Friday night, the GWS Giants were in the same position as the Adelaide Crows: A must-win game to keep their season alive. Like the Crows, they responded and in an impressive manner in beating the league-leading Western Bulldogs in Canberra, the Giants’ home away from Sydney. While the Doggies were without Katie Brennan, the rest of the team played well and it was therefore a well-earned victory for GWS. Here are the highlights:
I watched the last game of the round from beginning to end and the Melbourne Demons managed to look both dominating and weak in the same game. They started off super-strong with 6 goals in the first quarter and looked to blow away the Carlton Blues and possibly boost their percentage to take over first place. However, Carlton played them pretty much even for the next three quarters and the final margin was only indicative of that brilliant first quarter.
If I can find a video of highlights, I’ll post it here (I DID!):
Let’s take a look at the ladder, shall we?
As you can see, we now have three teams officially eliminated (Collingwood, Fremantle, and Carlton) and five teams still in contention. No one has clinched anything yet. The two spots in the Grand Final will come down to the last game in Round 7!
Last games! Here is next week’s schedule (all times Pacific) with the Grand Final scenarios for each game:
Friday, March 16, 2018
1:05 AM (Late Thursday Night) – GWS Giants v Brisbane Lions at Blacktown International Sports Park
If the Giants win, they will be in the Grand Final as long as Adelaide doesn’t beat Collingwood by too much more than the Giants beat Brisbane.
If the Lions win, they need Adelaide to lose and Melbourne to lose and the margins to be enough that they leapfrog the Demons in percentage.
11:05 PM – Fremantle Dockers v Carlton Blues at Fremantle Oval
This game will determine who gets the Wooden Spoon.
Saturday, March 17, 2018
1:10 AM (Late Friday Night) – Western Bulldogs v Melbourne Demons at Whitten Oval
This game will determine who hosts the Grand Final. The loser will probably miss out altogether as they would need both GWS and Adelaide to lose.
8:35 PM – Collingwood Magpies v Adelaide Crows at Olympic Park
If the Crows win, they need the Giants to lose or the Crows must win by enough to overtake GWS on percentage.
As you can see, every game will have meaning and the last spot in the Grand Final will be decided in the last game. The Adelaide Crows will by then have the advantage of knowing how much they need to beat Collingwood by to get in, so it’s a question of how difficult the Pies can make it for them.
Lady Footy Tipping Challenge!
How did we do this week? Well, a couple of our tippers AGAIN managed to go without putting the tip in! Something tells me you guys REALLY like foot fetish pics. First, let’s see the standings:
|P||TIPPER||Round Tips||Round Margin||TOTAL Tips||Total Margin|
I may have to rethink the foot fetish pic thing… Here you go:
Going into the last week, it’s still possible for places 1 to 7 to win this thing.
DON’T FORGET TO PUT THE FOOTY TIPS IN!!
The preseason is thankfully now over. Hardly any of the stars were playing, so it didn’t really do much for me in terms of my season preview. I mean, last year I was able to see that the Richmond Tigers were playing a LOT better than the previous year. That, obviously, stayed true through the entire season. This year, with the AFLX taking up a game and hardly any consistent lineups, the preseason didn’t provide as much information as last year.
Here are this week’s scores:
Richmond Tigers 128 – 58 North Melbourne Kangaroos
Melbourne Demons 119 – 93 St. Kilda Saints
Sydney Swans 82 – 71 GWS Giants
Collingwood Magpies 113 – 80 Western Bulldogs
Port Adelaide Power 98 – 72 Adelaide Crows
Hawthorn Hawks 97 – 102 Carlton Blues
Geelong Cats 97 – 101 Essendon Bombers
Gold Coast Suns 49 – 42 Brisbane Lions
Fremantle Dockers 101 – 39 West Coast Eagles
Like I said, many key players did not take part, so take the scores with a grain of salt. Given that, however, here is Part One of my AFL Season Preview!
AFL Season Preview Part One – The Bottom Ten
First, let us review the final weekly graph to see how all the teams did last year:
In order of finish from worst to best:
Brisbane Lions (2017 Wooden Spoon “Winners”)
My theme last year for the Brisbane Lions was to question whether they would match the Women’s team in wins or points even though the women played only 7 regular season games. They couldn’t. The big recruit for this season is former Hawthorn Hawk Luke Hodge, which would ordinarily be a good thing if Luke had not retired from the Hawks prior to joining the Lions. How much he has left in the tank is a big question. As in previous years, the team is young and full of promise. But we’ve heard that story before
OUTLOOK: To quote Talking Heads, “Same as it ever was”. I didn’t see much improvement in the list over the course of the off-season and the performances during the preseason didn’t really signal that anything has changed. Once again, the Lions will be a strong contender for the Wooden Spoon. I’ll be optimistic and say they improve to 17th.
Gold Coast Suns (2017 – 17th Place)
Oh, those poor Gold Coast Suns. I would normally compare them to the Jacksonville Jaguars in that someone thought it was a great idea to put a team on a city on the coast with ten million other things for people to do. But the Jaguras are actually good now, so that comparison doesn’t work anymore. The story of the Suns, when they had Gary Ablett, was that they would start out great, Gary would provide leadership, and then Gary would get hurt, others would get hurt, and the team would drop into turmoil and down the ladder. Last year followed that script pretty closely.
Well, Gary is gone now (to Geelong) and there is no one left but the young kids to fill the leadership void. Can the Suns possibly teach themselves to be good and avoid the injuries they have always had?
OUTLOOK: I say no. It’s too much of a task to ask an unexperienced team to drag themselves out from rock bottom without someone to lead them. Which is where I truly believe this team will go. There will be a new Wooden Spooner this year: The Gold Coast Suns.
Carlton Blues (2017 – 16th Place)
The Blues decided to not necessarily tank last year, but to play the young guys and let them learn and improve. That paid dividends as the Blues played better as the year went on. Granted, they did not win many games and some fatigue set in late in the year, but the team learned a lot. The Blues have won both preseason games, which, again, don’t mean much, but they do signify that the team is intent of changing their fortunes.
OUTLOOK: I think the Blues will be a bounceback team this year and could threaten to join the Eight. It’s a bit too tall of a task to go from 16th to 8th, though, so let’s say the Blues end up 12th. That sounds about right.
North Melbourne Kangaroos (2017 – 15th Place)
The Roos lost a lot of talent last year and struggled to fill the voids left behind. The team is and was not as young as the Blues, though, so not much new blood came in to prove themselves. The Roos made a late charge to improve their finish, but that was deceiving. This preseason, the Roos have been humiliated by both the Demons and the Tigers. Tough competition, for sure, but 70 and 50 point losses signify a lack of fight and/or inexperience. That does not bode well
OUTLOOK: The Roos could be in for a repeat of last year. They will probably languish near the bottom for a large portion of the year only to rise in the ladder solely based on other teams losing. I say they end up 16th.
Fremantle Dockers (2017 – 14th Place)
If I’m a Dockers fan living in Perth, I’ve got reason to be both optimistic and apprehensive about the season. On the bright side, Perth has a brand new stadium which looks absolutely gorgeous and looks to be a great place to watch a game of footy. On the not-so-bright side, the Dockers are as maddening as always. The Dockers’ front office showed patience last year as Fremantle made its way into the top five only to freefall down the ladder and end up in 14th. My question is: When will the patience run out? Nat Fyfe’s injury was a good excuse one year. Team turmoil and Ross Lyon cleaning house was a good excuse another year. What’s the excuse this year?
OUTLOOK: There is no excuse this year. The Dockers should be better. If they’re not and there are no injuries to blame, Ross Lyon should be canned. I say he won’t be fired and the team will improve slightly to 11th. And Dockers fans will have one more year to wonder if the glory days will ever return.
Collingwood Magpies (2017 – 13th Place)
The Pies are an enigma. They can be very good and they can be very bad. That showed this preseason in one large win and one large loss. Doing the math, that spells a percentage of close to 100, which is roughly what it was last year. The difference last year was that the Pies experienced some close losses and their spot in the ladder reflected it. Does that change this year?
OUTLOOK: Bad luck doesn’t last long unless you’re the Cleveland Browns and you invite bad luck by crappy decisions. The Magpies are not the Cleveland Browns. With one or two losses turning into wins, this team can challenge for the Eight. I say they fall just short. Call it 10th.
Hawthorn Hawks (2017 – 12th Place)
The Hawks were in the middle of a rebuild last year yet managed to contend for the Eight until the last few weeks. Does that mean they break into the Eight this year? To me, it’s either them or the Western Bulldogs. The Doggies beat the Hawks in the preseason, so there you have it.
OUTLOOK: Improvement to either 8th or 9th. The Doggies have the easier schedule down the stretch, so we will call it 9th.
St. Kilda Saints (2017 – 11th Place)
As the great Litre_cola once said, and I may be paraphrasing, the sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and the Saints will finish in 10th. Well, Saint great Nick Riewoldt is now retired and the Saints have struggled in the preseason. As much as I like my friend Litre, I think this will be a bad year for the Saints. Which, in a weird way, is actually better. I’m sure Charlie Brown would be happier if the football didn’t exist for Lucy to pull away.
OUTLOOK: A freefall down the ladder to 15th and the blessed knowledge that a possible spot in the Eight was never a consideration for this season.
Western Bulldogs (2017 – 10th Place)
The Premiers from two years ago managed to miss the Eight last year due to a post-Premiership hangover and some bad play in the middle of the season. The end of the season wasn’t great either. However, the Doggies have improved their list and should contend again. I’m sure they are itching to get back after getting a taste of winning it all.
OUTLOOK: A slight improvement to barely make the Eight in 8th place.
Melbourne Demons (2017 – 9th Place)
You know, I should have been kinder to the Brisbane Lions in the AFLW recap above. They didn’t really choke like the Brisbane Lions Men’s team. They choked like the Melbourne Demons Men’s team. The Demons had a spot in the Eight in their hands in the last Round and managed to lose it and drop down to 9th. This is the closest they’d been to the finals in years.
OUTLOOK: The good news is that Demons fans won’t have to relive the frustration of last year. The bad news is because the Demons will drop down the ladder and settle in at the more familiar 13th spot.
Astute readers will note that I have chosen one team from last year’s Eight to drop all the way to 14th! Who is it and why do I think they will suck so bad? Tune in next week and find out!