AFL

JT’s Meaningless AFL Preview: The Finals, Week One

In honour of his 300th game, here’s when Scott Pendlebury sported dreadlocks.

It’s been so long since Round 23, that I’ve actually forgotten who or what the finals are.

Once again, thanks to Brad Scott for putting us in this situation, by tanking a Round 23 game against Richmond in 2015 so North didn’t have to travel interstate for an Elimination Final, rigging more than a few betting markets in the process.

In fairness, that did actually work in the end, because the Roos knocked out Richmond and made another Prelim.


Thursday


1st Elimination Final

West Coast Eagles (5th) vs Essendon (8th) @ Optus Stadium, 6:10pm AWST

The Miracle On Ice was actually West Coast’s 2006 flag.

A superb sudden death final to kick off the 2019 Finals, between Former Team Coached By John Worsfold, against Current Team Coached By John Worsfold.

The last month has been nothing short of a Hindenburg style disaster for the Big Birds- The Hawks rose from the underworld to destroy their Top 4 chances, Bunga Hurn was dealt the emotional hammer blow of being denied the All-Australian captaincy, so much so he didn’t even bother to show up for the ceremony, and as per Gerard Whateley’s phone, Josh Kennedy injured his knee at training,

It’s the only explanation, smeg.

Without the double chance, their premiership defence has as much of a future as Saturday Night Rove.

But on the bright side, Nic Nat is ready to go, and the AFL have provided them with 3 WA umpires to ‘Look after’ the game, which also gives the Bombers fanbase the excuse they collectively need in the likely event of the “Days Since Essendon Won A Final” gag pushing on past it’s 15th birthday… which coincidentally, is today!

5,478 days and 7 Prime Ministers ago.

While the Collingwood game in Round 23 warmed Red & Black faithful up for some dodgy decisions, the Bombers VFL team mored than prepared them for heartbreak to come, by blowing a 40 point 4th quarter lead in that VFL final to Richmond, and losing by 2 points.

The other great quirk of this final is that the Bombers have a 5-0 record against the Eagles in Finals… All of which occurred in Melbourne, and funnily enough, the last of those was in Woosha’s first year as a coach in 2002, which also finished off Peter Matera’s career.

As it stands, the Essendon coterie appear set to knife Woosha and make him stay in Perth if the team does get rolled, but wouldn’t it be the most ‘Essington’ result of all-time, if the Bombers turned up, stormed out of the blocks, and utterly creamed the Eagles.


Friday


1st Qualifying Final

Geelong (1st) vs Collingwood (4th) @ GMHBA Stadium The MCG, 7:50pm AEST

Gillon and his cronies have once again adhered to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and prevented a final in Geelong for the 121st time in 123 years, giving the Pies a 90,000+ crowd at the ‘G to properly honour Scotty Pendlebury’s 300th game.

Hahahaha seriously, did Geelong, even after earning a home final with the minor premiership, actually think that the AFL were going to schedule a frikkin’ final at Kardinia Park against Collingwood?

Probably not, but then again, this is the same club that thinks the VFA should be recognised as the same competition as the VFL, when the whole point of the VFL was to break away from the VFA and start their own league… with blackjack, and hookers- In fact, forget the league!

As for Pendles, very rarely do players from basketball backgrounds reach 300 games, but Scotty got there, and along the way, he won a Norm Smith Medal, successfully grew the weirdest set of dreaddies at Collingwood since Chris Tarrant, has made it to 6 All-Australian teams, was booed on ANZAC Day, won copious amounts of Copeland Trophies, and was once called ‘Scont’ by Ash Chua on Triple M.

From the 21st July, 2012 (Audio: Southern Cross Austereo)

It’s a strange fact that Collingwood, despite their storied history of 127 years, have only had Gordon ‘Nuts’ Coventry and Tony Shaw reach 300 games prior to Pendles.

As a comparison, Melbourne have been around for 160 years, and yet only David Neitz has reached 300 games.

On to the actual game, and Geelong are the least fancied minor premier heading into a finals series since Fremantle in 2015, despite the fact they sat in the Top 2 from March onwards.

That’s probably down to the glaring fact that their finals record since the 2011 flag is 3-9, their record off the bye is 2-11, and they finished this year 5-5 after The Bye performed it’s annual mental scarring on the team, with most of those wins being beatings of shitkickers at KP.

While the Pussies now face the imminent threat wearing Black & White bearing down on them, they must simultaneously face another familiar foe- Tim Kelly and his family trying to escape Sleepy Hollow, regardless of how the season finishes.

Not since Andy Dusfresne escaped from Shawshank Prison in 1966 has someone been so desperate to get out of a horrible situation.

Meanwhile, the Pies got back at the Eagles for the Grand Final by stealing 4th spot from them (Wit some assistance), and now with their Premiership chances reignited, they will probably regain ‘Balls Of’ Steele Sidebottom, Jordan De Goey could be set to go, Darcy Moore will probably play and pull up lame 10 minutes into the 3rd Quarter, and Jaidyn Stephenson is ready to go for this brutal affair, having multi’d the Pies into Libertini in the Furious at Randwick on Saturday.

Which means Bucks will probably drop noted talisman John Noble, and the Pies will lose.


Saturday


2nd Elimination Final

GWS (6th) vs Western Bulldogs (7th) @ GIANTS Stadium, 3:20pm AEST

For the second time in 3 weeks, the Giants and Dogs will do battle on the ground formerly known as Spotless, and for the first time in the Finals since that rather whelming 2016 Prelim Final, which could just about be the best game of the 2010s.

Back to more recent events, and the Round 22 encounter was a belting for the Dogs on more than just the scoreboard (10.9 to 0.5 in the 2nd Half), with The Bont damaging Nick Haynes’ larynx and turning him into Darren Lockyer, minus the hair plugs.

Unfortunately, modern medical technology hasn’t quite reached Western Sydney, so the Giants weren’t able to rat out Marcus to Michael Christian by Monday afternoon, and thus, he escaped with a $2000 fine instead of a 2-game ban, and thus we avoided another case of a Bulldogs player losing a Brownlow Medal because of a ban.

Just thinking about that, if Bont does win ‘Charlie’, he’s got a case to be the Anti-Chris Grant.

Of course, the Bulldogs finally return to the finals for the first time since that 2016 flag, and they’re pretty much the same team, but different.

They both finished in 7th, although the 2016 Dogs won 3 more games in the H&A than the 2019 Dogs, they both have pretty much the same core of players, and yet, this Dogs midfield is performing a day and an age better than 3 years ago, put down solely to Luke Beveridge finally accepting that Josh Dunkley wasn’t a forward as long as his arse pointed to the ground.

Meanwhile, the Giants find themselves in an Elimination Final for the second year running, and in familiar circumstances to 12 months ago- Very patchy form, with a million players probably likely to come back and change the dynamic.

Toby Greene is ready to impale a few players with his studs, Jacob Hopper is set to come back, and there’s an outside chance that Haynes could return, and there’s potential for the shock return of the retiring Brett Deledio, for what could potentially be his last game.

In addition to these inclusions, because they don’t have any supporters, the Giants have sent an impassioned plea for Swans fans to venture to the Showground and support the Orange Soviets in some ‘Team NSW’ bullshit, but I doubt they’ll listen, because based on minimal research, people who live east of Balmain believe Westies to be godless flesh eating cannibals.

As for the actual game, despite him being very good before his injury, I can’t see Matt De Boer tagging 4 players at once for an entire game to stop the Dogs from dominating in the midfield.

2nd Qualifying Final (aka Rumble In The Jungle II)

Brisbane Lions (2nd) vs Richmond (3rd) @ The Brisbane Cricket Ground 7:25pm AEST

That’s not a Richmond MCG joke, the Gabba has always officially been the Brisbane Cricket Ground.

“But I don’t wanna go interstate!”

Cast your minds back to the year 2009, the last time the Lions played a final at the Gabba, as Kevin Rudd showed up to watch Johnathan Thurston and the boys kick a few tries and beat the Blues in a memorable comeback.

Just look at Mike Fitzpatrick slowly die inside

Nowadays, Lions fans prefer a different spectacled leader presiding over Woolloongabba, leading the Kings of the Jungle on the Big Ride back to the edge of the very same promised land that the likes of finals specialists Michael Voss, Aker, Simon Black, Shaun Hart and Clark Keating reached in the early 2000s.

But of course, there’s one big yellowsash coloured road block standing in their way, which defeated them at the MCG and abducted Charlie Cameron a fortnight ago.

After sitting in their beloved 9th position after Round 14, the Tigers have roared to life and become the team they threatened to become with the addition of Tom Lynch up forward, and even without Alex Rance, Bachar Houli and ‘Grimey’ stepped up beautifully and filled the hole, and thus, the Tigers once again come in to the Finals as a deserved Premiership favourite.

If it weren’t for that 2017 flag, the Tiger Army would probably be shitting bricks and thinking Murphy’s Law was going to kick in and claim them again.

In fact, after Mason Cox last year, they probably still are.

If there is one big thing the Lions have on their side, it’s that this is at the Gabba and not the MCG, because the ‘Gabbatoir’ factor intensifies twelvefold (Is that a word?) in the finals- The Lions (And Bears) are a combined 12-0 in finals at home, while Richmond have never won a final interstate.

On the flip side, the Tigers haven’t lost in Brisbane since 2004, and the BOM have Saturday’s forecast in Brisvegas at 29 degrees and humid as hell, which would make conditions for a game under lights as good as one in wet weather, which would conceivably favour the team informally known as ‘Rainmond’.

In the end though, Lions fans can only do the one thing they’ve done all season- TRUST THE PROCESS.


2002: Brisbane beat Geelong in the second-last game and finish 2nd, Collingwood finish 4th.

2019: Brisbane beat Geelong in the second-last game and finish 2nd, Collingwood finish 4th.

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