Crikey’s NRL Hot Form Chart
As Mr Lucas might say on the shop floor of Grace Bros: “Ye Gods!” Week one of the finals certainly threw the starving lion amongst the pigeons. Newcastle’s exit was expected but Manly’s will feel like the Swiss cheese theory of disaster occurrence to its fans — all the nasty little holes lined up in the worst possible fashion.
On the flip side, the Storm have thundered into premiership contention and await the winner of the Brisbane-Dragons clash with their attacking mojo restored. Their likely opposition appears to be the Broncos, who have form and home ground advantage in their favour. For the Dragons, it would be an inglorious exit, but one that can be avoided if their style of the home and away games can be rediscovered.
And nobody believes the Eels — who completed a 50-point turnaround against St George last week — will not be the team lining up against the Bulldogs in a week’s time. The question is whether Jarryd Hayne’s incredible form can stretch long enough to propel Parramatta into a grand final. If it does, the Eels could prove the slipperiest of opponents.
*Form over the past five games
Crikey’s Hot Form Tips for finals, round 2 are:
Last week: 2/4
Crikey’s AFL Hot Form Chart
The philosophies of football are often tautological and so it is in preliminary finals week: the top four is the top four. But will the top two be the top two? Read on, Macduff…
|St Kilda||Team||Western Bulldogs|
|L-L-W-W-W||Last 5 games||W-W-W-L-W|
|D-L-L-W-W||Last 5 head to head||W-W-D-L-L|
|L-W-L-W-W||Last five at venue||W-W-W-L-W|
|99||Av. pts for||106.9|
|63.6||Av. pts against||87.1|
|$1.35||TAB Sportsbet odds||$3.20|
The three keys:
- The Saints defence. Look at that: 63.6 points against; a mere 10-and-a-half goals. St Kilda’s miserliness this season has been game-changing and built on individuals’ subservience to the team goal. The Hot Form Chart has called the Saints the ant army more than once this season because they swarm like jungle ants on the march. It requires plenty of intensity and fitness, but 21 wins from 23 games shows that it is almost impossible to break down.
- The Dogs attack. The Bulldogs’ challenge will of course be to burst through that famed St Kilda defence and at a glance they appear capable of doing it. Their run and carry style has brought them more points than any other team in the competition, after all. But two meetings earlier in the season have already shown how tough it is to take on the Saints’ forward press and prosper. The Doggies will have to be sharper and cleaner than ever before.
- Nick Riewoldt. The most important player in the game, the most important player in the competition. The Saints have plenty of other weapons but the Bulldogs will go a long way to an upset if they can nullify the champion half-forward. If, on the other hand, Riewoldt gets his hands on the footy a lot, Saints fans can start lining up for grand final tickets.
Prediction: The Dogs can win, but the Hot Form Chart doesn’t think they will. Even when the Saints are not using the ball well they are hard to tumble simply because of how effectively they negate opposing teams. If St Kilda is off tonight, the Dogs will bite them but the chances of that happening are slim.
Saints by 21 points.
|W-L-W-W-W||Last 5 games||W-W-L-L-W|
|L-W-W-L-W||Last 5 head to head||W-L-L-W-L|
|W-W-W-L-W||Last five at venue||W-W-W-L-W|
|104.7||Av. pts for||96.2|
|82.4||Av. pts against||80.6|
|$1.40||TAB Sportsbet odds||$2.95|
The three keys:
- Psychology. Mick Malthouse has been at it all week, trying to heap the pressure on Geelong and his counterpart at the Cattery Mark Thompson. What does it mean? Maybe that the Magpies are insecure about their chances; maybe they reckon the Cats are flaky. Depending on the result, the approach will be idiocy or genius.
- Geelong’s fade-outs. Many words have been written about the subtle differences between Geelong mark 2009 and the almost unbeatable outfit of seasons past. But perhaps the biggest factor is the Cats’ inability to string four high-quality quarters together. If the trend continues in finals football, Geelong may pay the ultimate price.
- Class. The Cats simply have more of it. Collingwood is even and committed, but lack the Geelong’s matchwinners. It will be a telling difference.
Prediction: Collingwood cause the Cats more consternation than most but, even though Geelong is more pregnable than in the past, it is hard to see the Pies quelling the opposition’s star power. Geelong has shown a tendency to switch off during 2009 — a mistake it will not make tomorrow night.
Cats by 30 points.