Ladies and gentlemen, IT. IS. TIME! That’s right, finals time. Today we’re going to take a look at the two Elimination Finals. We’ve already given a bit of an insight into our thoughts on these two in our story It’s Finals Time – The Most Wonderful Time of Year. But now it’s time to delve a little deeper.

First up, Elimination Final 1 – Eagles (5th) vs Bombers (8th), Thursday 5th September, 8:10pm AEST, Optus Stadium

In our mega early take we said we expected this to be an annihilation. Upon reflection we can see reasons why it might not be.

Last Four Rounds

Eagles – WWLL
Win v Blues by 24 points (Away)
Win v Crows by 10 points (Home)
Loss v Tigers by 6 points (Away)
Loss v Hawks by 38 points (Home)

Bombers – LLWL
Loss v Power by 58 points (Away)
Loss v Dogs by 104 points (Home)
Win v Dockers by 32 points (Away)
Loss v Pies by 11 points (Away)

Last Meeting – Round 14, Thursday June 20, Eagles def Bombers by 35 points (Optus Stadium)

Eagles – GONE FOR SEASON – Brander & Venables / AVAILABLE – Hurn, Naitanui
Bombers – GONE FOR SEASON – Daniher, Draper, Gown, Guelfi, Mosquito, Mutch, Smith, Stewart / TEST – Clarke, Hurley / AVAILABLE – Fantasia, Francis, Hooker, Heppell, Stringer / UNAVAILABLE – Gleeson, Zaharakis

Key Stats (Eagles v Bombers) (All stats are season averages)

  • Contested Possessions – 136 v 144
  • Clangers – 53 v 57
  • Goals – 12.8 vs 11.2
  • Inside 50s – 50 v 50.6
  • Tackles Inside 50 – 9.4 v 9.3

The BigFooty Take

On face value this looks like an David & Goliath battle – mainly due to injuries. The defending Premiers have suffered a barrage of criticism for their finish to their 2019 Home & Away campaign but on their home ground fortress Optus Stadium, against what can only be described as a beat up Essendon outfit, at a glance it seems one sided.

But a look at the stats suggests this game will be much much closer than many think. Essendon has made five changes to the team that lost to Collingwood in Round 23 with Michael Hurley surprisingly remaining in the side (will there be a late change?). This will be a much stronger Essendon outfit than we’ve seen recently. With a week off they will be much fresher too. Personally not a fan of turning over about a quarter of your team, particularly for finals matches, but you can’t ignore the quality coming back.

The Eagles barely have an injury to speak of. Sure Naitanui is a pretty big name to have on the injury list but even he has been named to return and to have only four players mentioned at this time of year is ridiculous. Normally it would mean you’re cherry ripe for a tilt at the flag but this year’s Eagles are a very very different outfit to last year’s. Perhaps not so much in personnel but their form has been inconsistent and they certainly don’t have an air of invincibility about them like last year.

For mine, the key here is the start. If the Eagles get away to a flyer – and that’s very possible with names like Kennedy, Darling, Rioli, Ryan and Cripps up forward – then look out Bombers. If the Bombers are without Hurley, it’s hard to see how the they can contain that forward line – unless the black and red midfielders play a blinder and ensure the ball never gets down there.

A look at the stats suggests the Bombers will be able to get enough of the ball forward to mount a challenge. They’re a mere one and a bit goals less on average over the course of the season but have averaged a meager 63 points over the last month of the season. The Eagles have been just under a four goal better team over that time.

The only two stats where there is any real difference is your contested possessions and clangers which the teams sharing the spoils in those categories. The Bombers have been slightly harder at the ball than the Eagles but also coughed up the pill much more often. The Eagles ball movement when it gets going is a sight to behold. Mind you the Bomber’s first quarter against the Pies was pretty breathtaking with many end-to-end handball chains getting the fans up and about.

Despite the closeness of the stats we’re sticking with our original prediction – a shellacking to start week 1 of the finals. We think the Eagles will get off to a flyer in the first quarter and will coast home to a 10 goal win, or thereabouts.

Elimination Final 2 – Giants (6th) v Dogs (7th), Saturday 7th September, 3:20pm AEST, Giants Stadium

Last four rounds

Giants – WLLW
Win v Swans by 2 points (Away)
Loss v Hawks by 56 points (Home)
Loss v Dogs by 61 points (Home)
Win v Suns by 72 points (Away)

Loss v Lions by 18 points (Away)
Win v Bombers by 104 points (Away)
Win v Giants by 61 points (Away)
Win v Crows by 34 points (Home)

Last Meeting – Round 22 – Dogs defeated Giants by 61 points. Giants missing Mumford & Cameron (players to return for finals). Dogs were missing players but none that will return for the final.

Giants – SEASON – Flynn, Patton, Ward / TEST – Haynes / AVAILABLE – Deledio, Greene, Hopper / UNAVAILABLE – Coniglio, Langdon
Dogs – SEASON – Greene, Wallis, Liberatore / TEST – Dickson, Jong / UNAVAILABLE – Daniel

Key Stats (Giants v Dogs) (All stats are season averages)

  • Hit Outs – 41 v 24
  • Contested Possessions – 144 v 142
  • Clangers – 56 v 50
  • Goals – 12.9 v 12.7
  • Inside 50s – 51 v 56
  • Disposal Efficiency – 71.5% v 74.2%

The BigFooty Take

Hard to resist the Dogs bandwagon isn’t it? They’re come home with a wet sail with even their solitary loss in the last four rounds an impressive display against the all conquering Lions. It’s also hard not to only look back as far as three weeks ago to the last time these two met for an idea of what might transpire this Saturday. While Jeremy Cameron was obviously missing for the Giants in that last clash I doubt it would have made a difference with the Giants registering only 39 inside 50s for the whole game. In fact their -24 in that stat would rank among the worst differentials for the year. The Dogs were electric. They are hunting in packs and there is a real belief they can do some serious damage this finals series – perhaps even go the whole way.

The Giants will be mighty glad this game is at Giants Stadium. At least that’s one thing going their way. At one point this year the Giants looked like they were the team to beat but their back half of the year has been unimpressive. A huge injury list certainly hasn’t helped.

Hard not to think they will need to get off to a flyer to stop the Dogs juggernaut. The Dogs kicked 18 goals in Round 23, with a great spread of goalkickers, despite Bailey Dale kicking 5. Hit outs are about the only area where the Giants have a clear advantage over the Dogs but as many clubs with dominant ruckman have found this year, the Dogs don’t seem at all bothered with having to shark the opposition ruckman’s taps, rather than their own. Mind you Tim English is developing quite nicely and you can’t help but feel he will become a dominant force down the track – once he puts a but more weight on.

Unlike Elimination Final 1 we’re changing our early take here. We think the Dogs will get home, but it won’t be as easy as some might think. Dogs by 15 points for us.