Yesterday we took a look at the Elimination Finals, today it’s time to preview the big Qualifying Final match ups. Boy these are two juicy contests featuring the top four teams in the league.
Qualifying Final 1 – Cats (#1) v Pies (#4), Friday 6th September, 7:50pm, MCG
Last Four Games
Cats – LWLW
Loss v Dockers by 34 points (Away)
Win v Kangas by 55 points (Home)
Loss v Lions by 1 point (Away)
Loss v Blues by 68 points (Home)
Pies – WWWW
Win v Suns by 69 points (Home)
Win v Demons by 17 points (Away)
Win v Crows by 66 points (Away)
Win v Pies by 11 points (Home)
Last Met Round 1, Friday March 22, Cats def Pies by 7 points.
Cats – GONE FOR SEASON – Cunico / TEST – Fogarty / AVAILABLE – Kolodjashnij, Atkins / UNAVAILABLE – Clark
Pies – GONE FOR SEASON – Beams, Cox, Dunn, Kelly, Langdon, Murray / TEST – Aish, Scharenberg, Sidebottom, Sier / AVAILABLE – DeGoey, Moore / TBC (whatever that means) – Murphy, Quaynor, Reid, Thomas
Key Stats (Cats v Pies) (season averages)
Goals 13.2 v 12.5
Contested Possessions 150.2 v 147
Hit Outs 37.3 v 45.4
The BigFooty Take
I was going to start by saying it doesn’t get any bigger than this but a quick glance at tomorrow night’s match between the Tigers and Lions is just as tantalising.
You have to go all the way back to Round 1 for when these teams last met. Again it was a Friday night clash and while the Pies led for the majority of the night it was a see-sawing battle where the Cats eventually prevailed.
What will we see tonight? It’s a great question. The media have been placing the heat on the Cats. They’ve squandered four out of their last five Qualifying Final opportunities. Certainly they don’t come into this game in red-hot form like the Tigers or Lions. And while the Pies enter the finals on the back of a four game winning streak, their opposition hasn’t exactly been high quality.
What’s really exciting about this game is how close all of the stats are. Of course they are season averages but the similarity in numbers is scary. Cats ever so slightly higher on scoring but you wonder if that comes from their home ground advantage more than anything else. Over the past four weeks the Pies have been on average a two goal better team, but when you’re playing 17th, 18th, 8th and a tumbling Crows outfit, you’re going to get that.
So what’s the key to the game? In fact this game throws up so many questions we’re just itching to get to the first bounce. If Tim Kelly doesn’t fire, can the Cats win? Will Jordan DeGoey be too underdone? Can Darcy Moore’s hamstring get through the game? Can Rhys Stanley and Mark Blivacs do anything to quell Brodie Grundy’s ridiculous season to date? Will Nathan Buckley send Greenwood to Selwood as has happened on so many occasions previously – but interestingly, not in round 1 this year? How do the Pies stop Dangerfield and Ablett?
It shapes as an absolute classic battle at the home of football, the MCG. The MCC are predicting 95,000 people. The first bounce can’t come quick enough.
Our early tip was the Cats by 12. We’re going to stick with the favourites but trim that margin to a measly 5 points.
Qualifying Final 2 – Lions (#2) v Tigers (#3), Saturday 7th September, 7:25pm, Gabba
Last Four Games
Lions – WWWL
Win v Dogs by 18 points (Home)
Win v Suns by 91 points (Home)
Win v Cats by 1 point (Home)
Loss v Tigers by 27 (Away)
Tigers – WWWW
Win v Demons by 33 points (Away)
Win v Blues by 28 points (Home)
Win v Eagles by 6 points (Home)
Win v Lions by 27 points (Home)
Last Met Round 23, August 25th, Tigers def Lions by 27 points
No we’re not laughing at the players injured for the Lions and Tigers… we’re laughing at how ridiculous their injury lists are at this time of the year. Seriously 3 or 4 players… get out of town.
Hit Outs 43.2 v 30.8
Contested Possessions 147.7 v 137.6
Tackles inside 50 14.1 v 10
The BigFooty Take
What an amazing game of footy this promises to be? The surprise packets of the year, the Lions, taking on one of the premiership fancies, the Tigers.
In fact it feels like despite the Cats finishing on top of the ladder that most think/believe either the Lions or Tigers are more likely of holding the premiership cup in four weeks time.
We only have to look back two weeks for when these two last met. The Tigers blew the Lions away early but to the Lions credit they battled back for what would normally be referred to as a “respectable loss”. This time though their on their turf, in front of the rabbid Gabba crowd. With the weather this week I think the Tigers will be mighty glad this game is at night.
A look at the stats and surprisingly the Lions have the edge in almost every category. Harder at the ball, better in the ruck, higher scoring (perhaps only because of Richmond’s inaccuracy). But there’s one stat you can’t measure until you’re in the heat of battle – finals experience. This Lions outfit is almost entirely bereft of finals experience. Luke Hodge and Lachie Neale the obvious exceptions.
Compare that with Richmond who have a large chunk of their 2017 premiership winning team running on to the park. They won’t have Alex Rance, nor livewires Jack Higgins or Sydney Stack but they do have two man mountains in Jack Riewolt and Tom Lynch who will be creating plenty of headaches. And then there’s that bloke called Dusty Martin. Handy player that one.
But what about these Lions? They very nearly finished top of the ladder, leaping up the ladder from 15th last year and a mere five wins. This year they’ve been playing an exciting brand of footy and the buzz around them just continues to grow. Some thought the departure of Dayne Beams might stall their development but the arrival of Lachie Neale has more than offset that trade (never mind that they’ve got two first round picks for that trade so the good keeps coming). Dayne Zorko and Neale lead the Lions in player rankings (both top 10) and will need to continue their good form to stymie the Richmond midfield.
It should be an enthralling contest. Our tip, the Lions by 6 points. Enjoy everyone.