Preliminary Finals weekend sees the Cats and Swans start as solid favourites, while the Lions and Pies look to snatch a fairytale Grand Final berth.
Friday 16th September, 19:50 (AEST)
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History: Played 54: Geelong 33 v Brisbane 20 (1 draw)
Last Meeting: AFL R4 2022: Geelong 11.14 (80) defeated Brisbane Lions 11.4 (70) at GMHBA Stadium
The competition’s best side for a number of months, Geelong are primed for their first AFL Premiership success since 2011. They’ll need to overcome a plucky Brisbane side to reach the last Saturday in September, but start as one of the shortest Preliminary Final hopes in recent times. Chris Scott’s men have overcome Brisbane on four of the last five occasions and will have benefitted from the week’s break after a bruising Qualifying Final in week one against the Pies. Their one encounters against the Lions this season saw the Cats overcome a three-quarter time deficit to get up by 10 points at GMHBA Stadium.
Geelong has Brisbane covered in most parts of the ground; they possess the AFL’s best defensive structure and up the other end have a forward line featuring three All-Australians in Tom Hawkins, Jeremy Cameron and Tyson Stengle. They don’t, however, have a definitively better midfield. As such, the quelling the in-form Lachie Neale and Hugh McCluggage will undoubtedly be high on the radar for Scott and his coaching staff. If they can do that, they’ll plug both the inside-50 supply (in Neale’s case) and quality of entries (McCluggage) the Lions need if they’re going to force an upset win.
At $13 to make the Grand Final prior to this year’s AFL Finals Series kicking off, Brisbane are now one win away from the big dance after two upset wins. The latest, against Melbourne, was in fact the AFL’s biggest finals upset since 2013, with Chris Fagan’s men saluting despite drifting all the way out to $4.28 pre-game. With the MCG hoodoo now broken, the Lions will treat this clash as a free-hit of sorts, starting as considerable outsiders. They’ll also take confidence in the fact that their only meeting with Geelong this year — at the Cattery no less — saw them push the flag favourites all the way, leading at three-quarter time but going down by 10 points.
What’s clear for Brisbane is that their forward line, which has been wayward and inefficient at times in the back-half of 2022, need to fire like they did against Melbourne, coming up against the AFL’s best defence. Fagan can bank on Charlie Cameron again producing the goods, but it’s the more inconsistent Eric Hipwood (four goals against the Dees) and the returning Joe Daniher who will have to step up should they be a chance. The Lions’ backline arguably have an even bigger job on their hands to deal with Hawkins, Cameron and Stengle. In particular if they can keep Cameron on a leash they’ll remain in the contest but if the dynamic left-footer gets hot, it will get away from them very quickly.
Tip: Margin, Geelong by 1-39 @ $2.10
Saturday 17th September, 16:45 (AEST)
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History: Played 230: Sydney 86 v Collingwood 143 (1 draw)
Last Meeting: AFL R22 2022: Sydney 11.11 (77) defeated Collingwood 7.8 (50) at the Sydney Cricket Ground
Refreshed from a week’s break and with precious few injury concerns, the Swans (who have won three of their last four against Collingwood at the SCG) are cherry ripe to make their first AFL Grand Final since 2016. But while they start as solid favourites with Palmerbet, there’s still a sizeable hurdle to overcome in Collingwood who are the undisputed vibes team of 2022. Their pair met just four weeks ago, also at the SCG, when the Swans’ pressure proved too much for Collingwood. However on that occasion the Pies’ player of the finals series to date in Jordan De Goey was out injured. Further, three-goal hero against Fremantle Jack Ginnivan hurt his hamstring before half-time.
On the smaller confines of the SCG it’s clear this will be another clash whereby pressure, and who handles that best, could very well determine the winner. The final contested possession figure could prove indicative, as will (as is always the case at the ground) clearance numbers. As such, All-Australian Callum Mills and Luke Parker will again prove crucial. The beauty of the Swans’ victory against Melbourne in the AFL Qualifying Final was the even spread of contributors, with lesser lights such as Robbie Fox and Dylan Stephen stepping up on the big stage. Big guns in Lance Franklin and Isaac Heeney — and even emerging star Chad Warner — were relatively quiet, which only bodes well for coach John Longmire.
After five closely-fought finals prior to their semi-final clash on Saturday night, Collingwood bucked the trend with a clinical dismantling of Fremantle. And while the final margin read just 20 points, the ease with which the Pies got over the line is a hugely positive sign for Craig McRae heading into this one, which will undoubtedly prove a stiffer test. Collingwood have been refreshingly honest about where they went wrong against the Swans in AFL Round 22, and are clear on the areas they need to improve. “We were flicking our magnets around a bit too much, blokes were getting confused, so we lost a few different roles at times,” Jack Crisp said in recent days. “But Sydney’s pressure was also elite. We are going to have to combat that with our own pressure.”
As highlighted in the Fremantle win, Collingwood move the ball swiftly from defensive to forward 50. But this is tougher at the SCG than the MCG. They’ll have to be pinpoint by foot or risk Sydney’s efficient turnover game, which has been elite in recent weeks. While De Goey looms as the match winner in this one, it’s Darcy Moore and Jeremy Howe who need to similarly step up in defence, after they were outclassed by the Swans’ forward line four weeks ago. This has all the hallmarks of a classic AFL Preliminary Final thriller.