Digby’s AFL Preview – Finals Week 2

Friday, 15 September

Geelong v Sydney, MCG, 5.50pm

Over to you Geelong. Having failed to handle the heat in a final yet again, this time at the hands of Richmond, the football world is waiting to see the Cats’ response. Failure to meet the challenge that will undoubtedly be provided by their nemesis, Sydney, will result in fall-out and scarring for the current crop of Cats, along with coach Chris Scott.

The loser of the qualifying final between Geelong and the Richmond looked like they were always going to be on the highway to hell and that is how it has fallen. A rampaging Sydney outfit, which has mauled the Cats in their past three games, including last year’s preliminary final, hits town with the best formline of any side in the competition. The Swans continue to go from strength to strength and seemingly have no weak links.

The same cannot be said for Geelong, whose reliance on Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood is undeniable. The absence of Cam Guthrie (calf) deprives the Cats of a quality midfielder and that is alarming given how strong and efficient the Swans are in and around the contest. If the prospect of defying the odds to upset Sydney wasn’t hard enough, the forecast of rain late on Friday makes the Cats’ task even harder.

VERDICT: Sydney by 13 points

Saturday, 16 September

GWS v West Coast, Spotless Stadium, 5.25pm

How much petrol does West Coast have left in the tank? It is a legitimate question, but one that cannot be answered with any surety. What we do know for sure is the Eagles have a pulse and will not be intimidated by the challenge of tackling Greater Western Sydney at Spotless Stadium. There is a theme that is constant with the Eagles when they travel — the MCG is like the Bermuda Triangle, but other venues, including the Giants’ home ground, aren’t so much of an issue.

The major issue for West Coast is handling the second successive week on the road. It is a scenario that is foreign for the WA-based sides and will surely be something the Giants are well aware of. In saying that, they need to find a length or three on what they produced against Adelaide in their qualifying final, which won’t be easy given the season-ending injuries to spearhead Jeremy Cameron (hamstring) and ruckman Shane Mumford (foot).

The loss of Cameron means GWS are likely to employ a small forward line, with Jonathon Patton as the focal point. That could prove troublesome for the Eagles, who like to use Tom Barrass, Eric Mackenzie and Jeremy McGovern as their three main key defenders. If the midfield pressure from West Coast is solid and constant, the Giants’ entries might not be precise, enabling the intercept ability of McGovern and captain Shannon Hurn to come to the fore. But if the leg speed of GWS is allowed to operate relatively unchecked, West Coast will find themselves in trouble, even taking into account their own forward-line weapons.

VERDICT: GWS by 20 points

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