It’s easy to say in retrospect but it was always going to come down to this. Geelong have been the most dominant home and away team since Essendon in 2000 and now have the chance to cap off a magnificent season in the only way acceptable: with a flag.

But Port are young, fast and free from the dreadful weight of expectation. They were the last team to beat (an admittedly under-strength) Geelong and are capable of scoring fast — a potentially decisive trait in grand finals when three quick goals can cause consternation, if not panic.

So are the Power a chance? Do Geelong deserve their strong favouritism? And, most importantly, can neutrals make any money out of the 2008 Grand Final? Crikey’s Hot Form Chart is here to help …



Port Adelaide


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The Odds


1. Bartell

Brownlow medallists can have a hard time in Grand Finals so Jim Bartell will be under the microscope this week. While the Cats have midfield talent to burn, keeping Bartell quiet will be a significant battle for Port if they have any chance of winning the war.

The three keys

1. Ruck

In Lade and Brogan, the Power have the best ruck division in the game. Even if Brad Ottens continues his outstanding form Port will be a threat in the ruck. Which is why the most crucial GF moment may have come before the ball is even bounced: King for Blake.

2. Mooney

Think of the Premiers over the last 20 years. Now think of who was playing Centre Half Forward. More often than not, he was big, imposing, angry and performed up to billing on the big stage. If Mooney does the same, the Cats will be almost impossible to stop.

2. Cornes

The Cornes boys bring intensity to their performances every match. They also bring a pretty useful talent for finding the footy with both in the AFL’s top 5 for possessions. If the brothers can find it and use it on Saturday, expect the Cats to be under the pump.

3. Scarlett

It isn’t just Matthew Scarlett’s ability to take a key opposition forward out of the game that is so important for Geelong, it’s his ability to set up play from half back. If Scarlett picks up possessions and starts running the ball out defence, Port will be in serious trouble.

3. Experience

Aren’t the Cats supposed to be the seasoned ones? Finals experience is what it’s all about and Port bring 10 Premiership players into the game. Add to that the mystique of the Port Adelaide club when it comes to grand final success and you have a team who knows how to turn it on when required.

Paul Chapman at $15 for the Norm Smith medal.

Value GF bet

Danyle Pearce at $31 to score the first goal.

And the winner is… with no small amount of trepidation, Port Adelaide by 2 points.


Crikey’s NRL Hot Form Chart: Grand Final Edition

Daylight was the only thing close enough to stop Melbourne and Manly from facing off in this year’s NRL Grand Final and apart from a brief showing in Townsville, it didn’t turn up for the finals.

The Storm were here this time last year, once again after a less than convincing preliminary final win. Manly supporters will be hoping it’s deja vu all over again and that the Sea Eagles can deny the minor premiers for the second year in a row.

With grapples, decoys, crushers and rippers, referee Tony Archer has a lot on his mind going into Sunday’s big game. Let’s hope he doesn’t forget about the old favourites like offside and delaying the play the ball.

So, who will win and why? We’re glad you asked. After all, that’s sort of what the Hot Form Chart is all about …



Sea Eagles


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The Odds


1. Inglis

Last year’s teen sensation had a quiet GF in 2006 and has been relatively inconspicuous this year since being moved to 5/8. But he’s still the best mover in the game and oozes class with the ball in hand. Crikey predicts a big game from Inglis. It it comes, the Storm will win.

The three keys

1. Orford

No surprises here. The Sea Eagles general has already sunk his old team once this year and if he can get the ball with his team moving forward. Orford will put Melbourne under enormous pressure. The duel with Cronk may shape the match.

2. Smith, C.

Storm’s captain and the game’s premier rake is possibly the smartest operator in the NRL. Smith has it all: a running game, a superb tactical kick and surprising strength in defence. Will run the game from dummy-half and his influence must be curbed for Manly to win.

2. Monaghan

The battle of the halves is one thing, the battle of the hookers is something else. Michael Monaghan’s creativity around the ruck will need to be watched by a Melbourne team who looked susceptible around the fringes against the Eels.

3. Bellamy

Apologies to Cronk, Hoffman et el. but the biggest influence on the GF may come from off the field. Since losing the corresponding game last year, Bellamy and his staff have devoted themselves to developing a game plan to bring them to this moment. Expect the best coached team in the NRL to be very well prepared.

3. Second row

Watmough and Stewart are the Sea Eagles go forward men, with both in the NRL’s top 5 for hit ups. Even more dangerous for the Storm is are the pair’s ability to offload. If their second rowers can go forward and slip passes, the foundations for a Manly victory will be set.

Greg Inglis at $21 for first try scorer.

Value GF bet

A Manly victory by 1 point at $23

And the winner is… The Storm by 6 points