The three toughest words for anybody – especially a journalist – to utter are: I was wrong. So while it’s a little difficult for me to admit it, unfortunately I was wrong. Well, technically half wrong!
On Friday night, the slick and classy Western Bulldogs easily accounted for Brisbane to the tune of 51 points at the MCG. In front of a small crowd, Brisbane struggled to cope with the Bulldogs’ intensity and defensive pressure. The Bulldogs had almost twice the number of disposals as Brisbane, and through the brilliant performances from Matthew Boyd, Nathan Eagleton and Daniel Cross in the midfield, they claimed victory to book a spot in next week’s preliminary final against St Kilda.
That was the prediction I got right. However, it was a totally different story for the other match, which lived up to everyone’s expectations.
The 70,000-strong crowd at the MCG on Saturday night bore witness to one of the most heart-stopping encounters ever seen in an AFL finals match. With a nest of players missing from their best side and backs against the wall, Collingwood grasped victory from nowhere, defeating a shattered Adelaide by just five points.
Adelaide led by 29 points after dominating through the first quarter. However, Collingwood worked their way back into the game in a thrilling six-goal third quarter. Thanks to inspirational performances by first year player Steele Sidebottom and captain Nick Maxwell, Collingwood hit the front and led by ten points at the three-quarter time break.
The final quarter was perhaps one of the most spectacular in the history of the game, with the lead changing hand five times. The last 60 seconds was breaktaking, to say the least, when, with his side down by one point, John Anthony was awarded a free kick for Collingwood. From 45 metres out, he calmly went back and slotted the goal under enormous pressure to put Collingwood back in front. They were able to hold off Adelaide until the final siren and booked a date with Geelong next Saturday night.
So what happens now?
On Friday night the tough and rugged St Kilda side take on the elegant Western Bulldogs. For the second year in a row, the Bulldogs have made it to the second-last week in September and have been super impressive right through the whole season. However, they now run into the best side in the competition. St Kilda has redefined defensive football and thoroughly deserve their flag favoritism. Their defence will be the difference and they will expose the lack of Bulldog tall forwards. My tip: St Kilda by 30 points.
The other game, however, will be a lot closer than most think. Over the past four years, Collingwood have been a bogey side for Geelong. The Cats would have been barracking hard for Adelaide to beat Collingwood. But Collingwood will test Geelong all over the ground and will force Geelong to make rushed and poor decisions with the ball. Even though I am a mad and passionate Geelong supporter, I appreciate that Collingwood’s time is now and after such a dominant display over the last three years, Geelong’s time is up. My tip: Collingwood by ten points (in a thriller of a game!).
And so it looks like a Collingwood and St Kilda grand final.
Ben Waterworth is a first-year Journalism student at La Trobe University. He is writing about the AFL Finals series for upstart.
Is Ben right? Or will Geelong and/or the Bulldogs make it to the last Saturday in September?
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