AFTER an AFL season like no other, the finals are just around the corner and several teams have some issues going into the 2015 finals series.
The Swans will be without two of their best players, the Dogs looked tired against the Lions and will need to lift, but their opponents the Crows did not perform much better.
The two teams in the West are flying and will host the two qualifying finals while the Tigers and the Kangaroos will lock horns for the second week in a row – this time for real.
Plenty of action to review so let’s take a look at the teams that are in the hunt.
Round 23 review – and then there were eight
After 23 rounds of football, here is the order of the top eight teams that have made the 2015 finals series:
- West Coast
- Western Bulldogs
- North Melbourne
This is how the next four weeks of football will shape up – your 2015 AFL finals guide:
What form will each team bring in? Round 23 could hold some answers.
The round kicked off on Friday night with the Tigers getting a handy psychological advantage over the Kangaroos during a comfortable 41-point victory at Etihad Stadium.
North Melbourne left out over half of their best 22 for the final game of the home and away season and, despite a hot start, was unable to maintain its lead and fell away badly in the second half to a much more experienced line-up.
Both teams will take something out of the match going into their elimination final match up on Sunday at the MCG with the Kangaroos banking on the added rest to aid their stars.
The Tigers will be hoping the game time that their superstars got in on Friday night will be more beneficial than a potential rest.
Only time will tell what methodology will prove successful.
North Melbourne will be confident they took the right route with some of their veterans, including Nick Dal Santo and Brownlow medal hopeful Todd Goldstein, amongst the players taking advantage of North’s resting policy.
The Kangaroos are $2.30 outsiders with Sportsbet to progress past the Tigers in Sunday’s elimination final.
Saturday saw a missed opportunity for the travelling Adelaide Crows, with the South Australian side falling to Geelong at Simonds Stadium by 39-points.
The Cats sent departing veterans Steve Johnson, Matthew Stokes and James Kelly off in style with a classy victory that will leave the fans thinking ‘what if?’ after failing to make the finals for the first time in nine years.
Adelaide captain Taylor Walker will be keen to atone after a poor showing, with the man they call ‘Tex’ held to just one goal.
With a weakened Western Bulldogs back line, the Crows captain will be looking to make a statement early.
Sportsbet is offering $7.00 on Walker to boot the first major of the match against the Dogs.
The loss cost the Crows a home final, with the loss against the Cats – who had only pride to play for – ensuring Adelaide must travel to Melbourne to face the Western Bulldogs at the MCG.
Despite their lacklustre showing against the Cats, and the fact that they need to travel back to Victoria twice in two weeks, the punters still have confidence the Crows can progress through to week two of the finals.
Adelaide are $2.00 with William Hill to defeat the Dogs on Saturday night.
Saturday afternoon at the GABBA saw one of the upsets of the season with the Lions shocking the Dogs at home to record an eight point victory to close out their year.
The Lions climbed up off the bottom of the ladder with the win – but the concern will be just how poorly the Dogs performed, with the young Pups looking slow and lethargic in the hot Brisbane sun.
Time will tell if the hot conditions will have a significant impact on their chances this weekend.
The game could have had significant finals implications, but, with the Crows failing to beat the Cats down in Geelong, the Dogs were saved the indignity of travelling to Adelaide.
With a host of stars to return, including current captain Robert Murphy and former skipper Matthew Boyd, the Dogs are slight favourites going into the cut-throat match up against the Crows at the MCG.
The Western Bulldogs are $1.85 favourites to defeat the Crows and advance to the semi-finals.
Saturday night saw the Swans consolidate their position inside the top-four with a resounding 63-point win over the Gold Coast Suns in Sydney.
The win came at a cost for the home side, with captain Kieran Jack ruled out for potentially the remainder of the finals series with a knee injury sustained early in the match.
The Swans will also be without superstar full forward Lance Franklin for at least the first qualifying final against Fremantle after Sydney officials confirmed their marquee player will not be available for selection.
The loss of Franklin and Jack will have a significant impact on Sydney’s ability to mount a challenge in Perth against Fremantle, with last year’s Grand Finalists at the longest odds of the weekend to win in the first week of the finals.
Sportsbet have the Swans as $3.25 outsiders to earn a week off and a home preliminary final.
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