2013 AFL PREMIERSHIP SEASONSATURDAY 7th SEPTEMBER 7.45PMMELBOURNE CRICKET GROUNDSECOND ELIMINATION FINALCOLLINGWOOD VS PORT ADELAIDE BROADCAST GUIDE;http://www.afl.com.au/tv-radio/broadcast-guide WEATHER; Forecast; http://www.bom.gov.au/vic/forecasts/melbourne.shtml Radar; http://www.bom.gov.au/products/IDR022.loop.shtml#skip TICKETING;http://premier.ticketek.com.au/shows/show.aspx?sh=QUALI0213#.UinKsdLs1n5 It's September, and in the world of AFL that means one thing, FINALS. This weekend the 2013 AFL Premiership final series begins in earnest with all four games being played in the state of Victoria. At the MCG on Saturday night sixth will play seventh in the second elimination final. The sixth placed team, Collingwood, earned the right to host a first week final with a 14 win and 8 loss record at the end of the home and away season. The Magpies were thought of as a premiership contender before the season started but injuries and other factors have left the Pies outside the top four heading into the finals. Their opponents this week, the seventh placed Port Adelaide Power have been the biggest improver’s' in the AFL this season moving up 14th position last season. Port have been one of the stories of 2013 as under new coach Ken Hinkley the South Australian team has risen back into the top eight for the first time since they lost the 2007 Grand Final. Of course, Port only had the 8th best win/loss record but with the removal of Essendon from the finals for bringing the game into disrepute via a drug use scandal, Port now find themselves facing the Pies instead of Richmond. These two sides met once in the regular season and in that round 14 matchup in Adelaide it was the Power who came away with a 35 point victory. It may well have been the best win of Port's season but more so it was the authoritative nature of the win that would give them confidence leading into this final. On that slippery night at AAMI Stadium the Power really did dominate for most of the match, taking the lead just before quarter time and never letting it slip. Port's forwards were very dangerous on the night with Schulz and Westhoff kicking 3 each and Monfries getting two of his own. It may well be a different looking Magpies outfit that the Power meet this week, and it's at the Pies home ground but they've done it once and Port will believe they can do it again. This will be the third finals meeting between the two side with the Pies winning both games in 2002 and 2003. The best thing about the finals is you know what you are going to get in terms of intensity, it will be on from the opening bounce and won't let up until one team has secured a safe enough lead to take victory. This one is a win or go home game as the name suggests (Elimination Final) so there really is no holding back for both teams this Saturday night. Strangely enough it will only be Port's second visit to the MCG this year, with their only match being way back in round 1 versus Melbourne. Whether that's a distinct advantage or not for the Magpies will be determined come 7.45pm on Saturday night. PREVIOUS FORM Since the round 13 win over the Magpies, Port Adelaide have struggled to really get back to the level of football they were playing before and during that game. They've only won 4 of their last 9 games and none of those victories came over top 8 sides with the highest credential win in that period being over fellow South Australians the Crows. Last weekend the Power looked back in form though as they built a massive lead over Carlton in their final home and away game, only to fade late as the desperate Carlton (who needed to win to book a finals berth) ran over the top and came away with a dramatic one point win. Port, not unlike Collingwood did the next day versus North Melbourne, didn't really need to win that game and you could see their intensity and effort drop off as the game went on. The positive for Port is that they came through the game with a clean bill of health and will look to regain several players that they rested or have been missing over the past few weeks. Collingwood's form is almost the complete opposite to the Powers' in that they are in season best form. The Magpies had won 4 of their last 5 games leading into last Sunday's glorified practice match versus North Melbourne but never looked to be going full pace during the loss to the Roos. With Nathan Brown already subbed off back up ruckman Quinten Lynch badly rolled his ankle and from then on you could see the Pies players shift into conservation mode for the finals. Even then the Pies found themselves with a lead close to 3 goals in the second half before North finally got over the top of the Pies by 11 points. There were positives to come out of even such a non defensive style of game though with Travis Cloke and Ben Reid combining for 10 goals and club champion Alan Didak looking back near his best with a performance than may well have secured him a place in the 22 this week. The Pies also go into this game pretty well off physically with those with got injured on the weekend likely to play and some other big names certain to return also. COLLINGWOOD PREVIEW It's been a somewhat frustrating year for the Collingwood Football Club but after all the trials and tribulations they have endured the Magpies find themselves hosting a home final. The positives this season for them have been the emergence of some absolute star youngsters and the improvement from some of their other players. Of course the negatives were the injuries to several key players with Dale Thomas, Alex Fasolo and Alan Toovey playing very little part in the season. All 3 of those players have been badly missed but in their place others have been given opportunity and thrived. It seems almost certain that Marley Williams, Lachlan Keeffe, Josh Thomas, Brodie Grundy, Jamie Elliott and Paul Seedsman will all line up this weekend and at the start of the season only a few of these young players would have been considered a chance of breaking into this strong Collingwood line up for the finals. Ever since Nathan Buckley took over the reigns as senior coach at the end of the 2011 season the club legend has been trying to put his own stamp on this side and you can see that only now is that coming to fruition. The Magpies are now league leaders in terms of disposals which is a marked difference from the side that played under Mick Malthouse for all those years. As we head into the 2013 final series there are a few areas where the Magpies have to improve though if they are to go deep into September. All season the Pies have struggled in the ruck but the emergence of first year player Brodie Grundy has seemed to cover that in the past 7 games. Collingwood also sits well down the ladder for centre clearances although one could easily link that to their ruck struggles before the phenom that is Grundy came along. That statistic has also come about because of the absence of Dale Thomas, Luke Ball and Dayne Beams for a lot of the season although Beams and Ball will be part of the midfield this weekend. Collingwood's forward line seems to have turned a corner recently with the move of Ben Reid up forward taking a lot of pressure of Travis Cloke who previously, and you can use the last time the Pies played Port as a prime example, had been ganged up on by 2-3 defenders at a time. Cloke missed out on the Coleman medal on the weekend by 2 goals but there's little doubt he is one of the biggest threats to Port Adelaide this weekend. At selection this week there weren't too many surprises with Harry O'Brien and Luke Ball returning while Jordan Russell and first year player Ben Kennedy were omitted. Some were shocked that small forward Jamie Elliott wasn't named, but he is an emergency so he may yet take his place in the final 22. OPPOSITION ANALYSIS It's been a sensational season for the Port Adelaide Football Club, rising from 14th last season to now be a part of the 2013 finals series. Most have praised the youth at Port as the major reason for their resurgence but there's more to it than just that, as first year coach Ken Hinkley has also rejuvenated the careers of some of Port's older players with Kane Cornes being a great example of that. Yes the Power have had an easier draw than most in the 8 but there's no one out there who would argue that they don't deserve to be in the finals. While it may be a great achievement by the Power just to make the finals you can bet that all week Hinkley will be drilling into them that this is an opportunity they have to grab with both hands because you never know if, or when you'll be back again. The Power have become a far more defensive minded team under their new coach than in previous years as shown by them being ranked third for total tackles throughout the home and away rounds. Port isn't coming to Melbourne this week just to make up the numbers and when you look at the talent they possess they could be a real threat to the Magpies this weekend. The Port Adelaide midfield is a grossly under rated area of the ground. Cornes, Boak, Ebert and Cassisi are the experience that lead the way and they have all had very good seasons. It's been the youth though that has taken this midfield grouping to another level with Oliver Wines and Chad Wingard enabling this side to rotate even more players through the midfield than was probably first planned. If there is a weakness it is in the ruck with Matthew Lobbe taking most of the ruck contests and that is likely to be the approach this week also. Like the Pies youngster Grundy, Lobbe is entrusted with enduring for the majority of the game and the matchup between the two young rucks should be enthralling in itself. Of course the Pies have a very strong midfield with Pendlebury, Ball, Beams and Swan at the core but Port defeated a similar midfield back in round 14 (No Beams) and will be confident of at least matching it with them this week. The Port defense is a very stable grouping who has worked very effectively together in season 2013. Led by the two talls of Alipate Carlile and Jackson Trengove it hasn't really conceded a heap of goals to any one player and was really restrictive last time the two sides met. The Power's medium defenders include Broadbent, Hombsch, O'Shea, Jonas and Broadbent and together they provide a good mix of both defensive ability and run out of the defensive half. The main difference Port will face this week in defense is matchup up on Ben Reid, who back in round 14 wasn't even playing against them let alone playing as a very scary forward. Reid and Cloke booted 10 goals between them last week and if that wasn't ominous enough small forward Jamie Elliott, Collingwood's second leader goal kicker, is likely to return also this weekend. Port will back themselves to be able to restrict the dangerous Pies forwards enough to keep them in the game. The Power's forward line in 2013 has been very dangerous and has been led by four main players for the majority of the season. Jay Schulz, Chad Wingard, Justin Westhoff and Angus Monfries have all had very good seasons up forward and on their day any one of them is capable of kicking a bag of goals. The probable return of Robbie Gray this week adds just another dimension to a forward line that worried Collingwood significantly back in round 14. The Collingwood backline has improved since that last meeting though with Lachlan Keeffe and Marley Williams really making an impact down back. Nathan Brown's form has also stayed consistently strong and he is likely to get first crack at Schulz on Saturday night. If Port can get the ball inside their forward 50 and deliver it cleanly their forwards are more than capable of putting a score on the board that can worry the Pies. Port Adelaide go into this game with a good bill of health considering we've just completed a 23 week, 22 round AFL home and away season. They are boosted by the return of Hartlett, Gray and Carlile which returns their side to a level which is more suitable for a final. The unlucky three this week who went out were Hombsch, Renouf and Stevenson. The Power have been one of, if not the revelation of season 2013 and you sense they won't be gun shy against the Pies this weekend. Coach Ken Hinkley will implore his team to stick to the “no limits” theme that has taken them so far and I fully expect we'll see a better Port outfit than we've seen in recent weeks. It's a big game for the Port Adelaide football club but they will perform admirably and if the Magpies are just slightly off their game the Power may cause a big upset here. TEAMS TIP Finals are unpredictable but at the same time some of the aspects of the game are predictable. You know each team is going to play with a high intensity, you know they are both going to leave everything on the field and you also know that it will be a highly contested and physical game. Of course there are questions over whether the younger players in both teams will be able to handle their first taste of finals action but you get the feeling that they will handle it quite well. The Power come into the game with a respectively shorter injury list than the Pies and this gives them a chance of at least being competitive for large periods of the game. The media is talking up Collingwood as the one side from outside the top four who could make a premiership run this September but first and foremost every Collingwood player, and Port player too, will be focussed on bringing their “A game” this weekend. The Pies haven't been in better form all year and although the Power have the extra days rest I think it's the team in black and white that will win here and advances to week two of the finals. MAGPIES BY 19 POINTS. John McCarthy It's fitting that almost 12 months to the day after ex Collingwood and Port Adelaide player John McCarthy lost his life in an accident in Las Vegas that his two former sides meet in a final. There's sure to be some emotional thoughts at times about J-Mac from his mates at both clubs. R.I.P. J-Mac.