Friday, September 25, 2015, 8.20pm AEST, Domain Stadium, Watch on Seven Network, Fox Footy
Last five matches
HAWTHORN has been hammered in to warm favouritism to win the 2013 grand final rematch with Fremantle.
The Hawks won that game two year’s ago and they disposed of the Adelaide Crows in last week’s semi final in emphatic fashion, while the Dockers just limped over the line against a decimated Sydney side in the qualifying final on its home deck a fortnight ago.
CrownBet.com.au’s Rob Cumbrae-Stewart reports the bookie was unable to split the two sides before the weekend’s matches, both at $1.92.
“But, after Hawthorn’s domination on Friday night, they have shortened into clear favouritism at $1.60,” Cumbrae-Stewart said.
“The Dockers have blown out to $2.40.”
But don’t tell the Hawks that, speedster Isaac Smith claiming his side is the underdog in the clash.
“Freo are going to be tough opposition, they finished on top for a reason, they’re a good side and we’re definitely the underdog going into the game over there on their home ground,” Smith said.
“Preliminary finals, They’re just funny games to play in, they’re like no other because you’ve got the opportunity to go into the grand final the next week.
“Obviously, things are going through your head, excitement or fear.
“They’re a different game and the team you play against never seems to give up either, so you’re always a shot.
“It’d be nice to play one where you win by 10 goals.”
He refers, of course, to the fact the Hawks have won their last three preliminary finals, but they just squeaked over the line in each, with all of those decided by less than a goal.
The Hawks are sweating on the fitness of their leading goal kicker Jack Gunston, with club officials still unsure if he will take the field on Friday night.
Gunston suffered an ankle injury against West Coast in the Hawks’ qualifying final loss to the West Coast Eagles, but has not yet been cleared to play against the Dockers.
Hawthorn general manager of football operations Chris Fagan said Gunston was having a red hot crack.
“Jack’s making good, steady progress,” Fagan said.
“He’s had a couple of good running sessions over the last few days.
“Yesterday he was on the treadmill, today he had a good run on the oval, just straight line running and he came through that pretty well.
“We’ve got to step it up again a little bit tomorrow – increase the pace and add a little bit more change of direction – so still at the moment we would say we were uncertain as to whether he will be playing this weekend or not.
“We’ll have some more information in the next 24 hours.”
The 23 year old has booted 53 goals this season and will play a key role if he wins his race against time to be fit.
The Dockers, meanwhile, have their own injury worries, with gun defender – and former Hawk – Luke McPharlin struggling with a calf injury.
It’s unlikely that McPharlin will make it back against the Hawks, hence coach Ross Lyon’s deflection of questioning this week.
“I haven’t got the luxury of cuddling people on a 24 hour basis,” Lyon said when asked about McPharlin’s fitness.
“I give them a little cuddle and move on.
“The injury bobbed up out of nowhere.
“I asked him to give everything he can to get back as quickly as he can, and that’s all you can do.”
Lyon has another big decision to make, and it could make or break his side’s chances.
Bring back the Sam Mitchell stopper Ryan Crowley?
The tagger has not played a competitive game of football in over a year, but his 12 month ban for doping ends this week and he will be able to play against the Hawks.
But will he have the fitness and be match hardened enough to put a stop to the Hawk extractor’s dominance?
It’s hard to believe it will be possible, but Crowley is one of the fittest men in the AFL and if any one can do it, it will be him.
Lyon has form on this too. As coach of St Kilda, he brought back nagging tagger Steven Baker for the 2010 grand final, despite the fact he hadn’t played footy for 12 weeks.
And he played his typical games when asked if Crowley would play.
“He’s a chance isn’t he,” Lyon said.
“It’s been done before, it can be done again.
“It’s unlikely, but it’s a chance.
“We’ve had a few injuries around the edges.
“Does that open it up? Possibly.
“No one will know until the ball’s bounced, will they.”
The Dockers’ greatest ever player Matthew Pavlich is a certainty, despite his troublesome achilles and it could be his last game if Freo loses and the 334 game 668 goal legend calls time on his glittering career.
Just don’t tell him that after he took to Twitter to dispel rumours he would quit at season’s end.
“Haven’t read it, but contrary to reports no decision has been made on my playing future,” he wrote.
“We have more important things to focus on
“Some operate in a “soupiness of truth” reporting facts that they wish to be true as opposed to facts that are categorically known to be true.”
Any way, the Hawks were absolutely brutal on the Crows last week, booting eight goals to two to effectively end the contest at quarter time in the 21.9 (135) to 8.13 (61) win.
Luke Bruest booted six goals to lead the way, while Mitchell led the way once again with 33 disposals. Luke Hodge had a monster with 24 touches and four goals.
In week one, the Dockers just scraped over the line by nine points against an injury hit Swans side, 10.9 (69) to 7.18 (60).
The one two punch of Michael Walters and Hayden Ballantyne booted three goals and Brownlow Medal fancy Nathan Fyfe had 32 touches, along with rising young gun Lachie Neale.
Last time out, it was the Dockers who jumped the Hawks, 17.8 (110) to 13.13 (91) in Perth, but, before that, Hawthorn dismantled them by 58 points, 21.11 (137) to 11.13 (79).
And let’s not forget that grand final in 2013. The Dockers squandered chance after chance and the Hawks were just two polished in the 11.11 (77) to 8.14 (62).
Match result: Hawthorn Hawks win ($1.60 with CrownBet.com.au)
Line: Hawthorn Hawks -9.5 ($1.92 with CrownBet.com.au)
As we mentioned, the Hawks make preliminary finals and they just win them. But they always do it the hard way, winning by less than a goal in each of their last three. We think this one will be close too, but the Dockers are off the boil and we just can’t see them reanimating their corpse in the pressure cooker situation of a sudden death AFL preliminary final. We reckon the Hawks have caused some serious mental scars, despite the fact they did lose the last time they played the Dockers in Perth. And their is the question mark of their last trip, a whacking at the hands of a fired up West Coast. But it just feels like the reigning back to back Premier is putting every thing together on their way to another grand final appearance. The Hawks have won seven of their last eight against the Dockers, dating back to 2011. They are the highest scoring team in the AFL, averaging 110 points per game and have already torn apart the Dockers once this season. The finals hardened Hawthorn should have the arsenal to take down the best defence in the competition. Despite scoring 110 the last time they played the Hawks, Fremantle’s problem has always been its ability to kick a winning score. The problem is, the Hawks always kick a big score. Good luck keeping up. Expect a fast Hawks start again.
First goal scorer tips
Michael Walters ($11 with sportsbet.com.au)
The elusive forward has the ability to win a game off his own boot in the matter of minutes. Aside from Nat Fyle, he’s probably the Dockers’ most important player. We will call him the barometer – he tends to go as Fremantle goes and if he has a big one, it gives them a big chance. He kicked three goals a fortnight ago to lead the way against the Swans and he will start as a deep forward and look to put the Hawks defence under a lot of stress early. Close attention must be paid, if he gets off the chain early, it may get ugly.
Matthew Pavlich ($11 with sportsbet.com.au)
In what could be the big man’s last game, he’ll be sure to do everything he can to make sure it’s not. One of a very select few to be an All Australian in various positions, the ageing spiritual leader of the Dockers is still his side’s number one tall target. We reckon he will probably get James Frawley, who was one of the Hawks’s best last week, and that makes his day tough. But this contest really relies on how easily the Dockers can get to out of the middle and into the spearhead.
Luke Breust ($10 with sportsbet.com.au)
He was our tip for first goal last week and we can consider ourselves stiff. We also tipped him to have a big bounce back game and my, what a game it was. After going goal less in three straight, Breust wrecked the Crows, booting six goals, snaring 18 disposals and ripping down seven marks. He’s the tip of guy who rides god form, so we expect him to have another big one against the Dockers. If he goes off, the Hawks tend to win, so we’re backing him to boot both the first goal and a bag for the match to lead his side into yet another grand final.
Cyril Rioli ($11 with sportsbet.com.au)
The just named 2015 All Australian squad member is a man for the big occasion. Gets criticised for not finding the footy enough, but he doesn’t need to. Every time he touches it, the man is silk, either kicking goals for himself or creating for a team mate. Since he moved further up the ground, he has hovered around the 20 goal mark, but he has hit the score board in each of his last three games and with such a broad spread of goal scorers in the Hawks weaponry, Rioli sits above them as the most talented, and most dangerous when he gets near goal.
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