Crikey’s AFL Hot Form Chart
The fatalists will think it was always going to come to this, and — for the good of the football public — it has. Despite glimpses from the Bulldogs in the early days, Hawthorn and Geelong have clearly been the best two teams in 2008. Their fierce round 17 meeting, plus the romance of the last Hawks-Cats grand final in 1989, has anticipation for a classic match-up sky high — particularly after a what has been a wholly lopsided finals series.
The Hawks were ruthless in dispatching St Kilda last week, showing that they can turn it on with or without a heavy contribution from the superstar in the forward line. Indications are that the gap to Geelong is closing, but is it being bridged quickly enough?
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|119.7||Av. pts for||111.6|
|73.5||Av. pts against||82.8|
|Jimmy Bartel to kick the first goal: $13||Value GF bet||Chance Bateman for Norm Smith Medal: $17|
The three keys for Geelong:
- Ablett. The Brownlow medal favourite was genuinely disappointed to not be taking Charlie home, but back-to-back flags and a Norm Smith medal might dull the pain a tad. The Hawks will have several plans laid for the little champ but his strength, speed and skill are hard to combat across four quarters. The best player in an unbelievably good midfield.
- Harley. Scarlett, Milburn and the rest are all very well, but one of the reasons the Cats defence looks so good is their captain’s ability to read play, zone of his man and offer back up when the ball comes into the danger zone. If Hawthorn can keep Harley’s hands full with a clever match-up, Geelong’s fabled half-back rebound may well dry up.
- Chapman. Geelong’s forward line is the one chink in an otherwise impenetrable armour, which is why Bomber Thompson was so keen to have the tough, goal-savvy Chapman to strengthen it up. But how fit is fit enough to actually play?
The three keys for Hawthorn:
- Hodge. The running half-back has become almost the embodiment of this contemporary Hawthorn outfit: tough, skilled, committed. But if any team will find out a player who is not 100 per cent ready to go, it is Geelong. Such is his importance that Hawthorn’s fate may well reside in the bones of Hodge’s ribcage.
- Franklin. Of course he is a key, how could he not be? Buddy was quiet against the Saints and spent some time off with an injured wrist. The Hawks were remarkable without his usual input, but it is fair to say that should its brightest star manage just one goal tomorrow, Hawthorn cannot win. Needs to have a big one and present Geelong’s much vaunted defence with a grand final sized problem.
- Bateman. When the game was there to be taken against St Kilda, Bateman put his hands out and clawed it to within an inch of its life. He is the zip in Hawthorn’s tough midfield brigade, and can hurt oppositions with or without the ball due to his hard running.
And the winner is… the Hawks are closing, but aren’t quite there yet. There is a reason the Cats have lost only one match all season and it is their even excellence across the park.
Geelong by 11 points.
Crikey’s NRL Hot Form Chart
Whether intentionally or not, an agenda has been set. And its victim (whether intentionally or not) is the Melbourne Storm. The ugly mug of grapple tackle has the defending premiers, already woozy, clutching the ropes for dear life. Can the Sharks wind up a fatal right hook? Meanwhile, Manly and the Warriors have been going about their business without too many distractions. Can the Kiwis fly into the grand final?
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|19.53||Av. pts for||23.7|
|15.8||Av. pts against||12.1|
Why/Why not? The Sharks have had a week to soothe their aching bones and contemplate their opponents fall from grace and unbackable favouritism. Without Hoffman and the Smiths, star-studded backline will have to fire, and Cooper Cronk turn on a dominant display for Melbourne to make its third straight grand final.
And the winner is … Melbourne by four points.
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|27.3||Av. pts for||21.2|
|13.6||Av. pts against||22.9|
Why/Why not? New Zealand is a team that Manly regularly enjoys beating. This time around it has the home-town advantage and a week’s break in its favour as well. But it is also a knock-out final and the Kiwis are hot and heavy. The Sea Eagles best will be enough, but anything less and we could see a boilover.
And the winner is … Manly by 18 points.