AFL - Semi Finals Preview - New Writer!
Australian Rules Football : AFL Finals - Geelong Cats Vs Sydney Swans
This weekend in Australian Rules Football (AFL), the game once described on ESPN as a ‘blend between rugby and mugging somebody’, we have round 2 of the 4 week finals in what many have remarked as being one of the best seasons in its 121 year history.
For those unfamiliar with AFL, there are a total of 18 clubs that play off each season to a 23 game (198 cumulative) home and away season. And yes, for those who specialise in complex mathematics, 17 opponents doesn’t fit nicely into a fair 23 (including bye) round season, so yes, there are inconsistencies and not everyone gets to play each opponent twice like within the Premier League, however it is just one of the many peculiarities of a very peculiar game! At the end of each season we have a 4 week finals system that pits the Top 8 clubs on the ladder against each other.
Last week the Essendon Bombers and Port Adelaide were knocked out, leaving six remaining. Tonight (10.50am GMT) at the famed Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) we have Geelong Cats up against Sydney Swans. It’s 2nd vs 6th, and yes, although this is a ‘Home’ game for the Cats and they finished 2nd, on current form it is the Swans who are raging favourites amongst fans and the bookies.
The Swans have had a season that was nothing short of disastrous 6 weeks in. They were 0-6, and the joke around the leagues was the Swannies having super strong shoulders, as they were carrying the other 17 clubs above them!
No team had ever made the finals before coming from so far back. In their next 16 games they lost twice, against the same team (Hawthorn) and both times by 1 goal (6 points). Incidentally Hawthorn didn’t make the finals so they are out of the equation, to the relief of a few clubs I am sure.
The games most exciting player in a generation, the talismanic Lance “Buddy” Franklin will be in his element. These are the games he plays for, and all eyes will be on him. For those unfamiliar with AFL I highly recommend educating yourself on this man’s feats. Some mortals wilt in these situations, some absorb the energy from the crowd and the moment and direct it to the field and teamplay. Buddy is that kind. He plays the position of Full Forward (like a Striker) and typically stays close to goal within the 50 metre arc. He is almost impossible to play on, standing at 6ft6, weighting 106kg and defying belief with his agility, hard running and skill level.
Below are some of Buddy’s highlights of the past 2 seasons, including this year’s which has been phenomenal.
The Cats come in after losing convincingly to the Adelaide Crows last week in a 1 vs 2 battle, though they have earned their double chance from another solid year. They were soundly beaten and their inspirational captain Joel Selwood was kept to a minimal influence (after returning within weeks from surgery and what looked a serious ankle injury). For mine it’s the Swans in a convincing win by 25+ points. Rain is expected in the evening, which might make it a slightly closer affair, but the cream still rises to the big occasions no matter the conditions. Expect a crowd of 85,000 people and a chance to playoff against the Crows in Adelaide the following week.
With a season like 2017 that has given us everything, I’m predicting some special moments coming some of the players aforementioned. Key match up will be the ever-dependable Tom Lonergan vs Buddy Franklin in what could be Tom Lonergan’s final ever game. A man so courageous he nearly died in hospital with a lacerated kidney 11 years ago and needed most of it removed (incident below.)
The city of Melbourne transmogrifies in September into one of excitement, anticipation and eternal hope among fans when finals are on, and as the proverbial quote goes, ‘it’s not a matter of life or death, it’s so much more than that’.