North Melbourne Kangaroos
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Saturday, September 26, 2015, 7.45pm AEST, Domain Stadlum, Watch on Seven Network, Fox Footy
West Coast Eagles: Second
North Melbourne Kangaroos: Eighth
West Coast Eagles: 16-5-1
North Melbourne Kangaroos: 13-9-0
Last five matches
West Coast Eagles: WWLWW
North Melbourne Kangaroos: WLLWW
FUN fact: North Melbourne has lost the past three preliminary finals it has made by 50, 87 and 71 points.
That’s on the cards again as they head to Perth to take on the second-placed side in the competition.
The Roos’ run from eighth has been very impressive, but it’s hard to see them going any further.
The Eagles booked their place in the final four with a superb 32 point win in the first week of finals, 14.12 (96) to 9.10 (64).
And one punter will be hoping like hell the Eagles are the sure thing every one thinks they are.
He dumped $150,000 on the Eagles to beat the Roos at $1.22 with sportsbet.com.au, for a collect of $183,000.
“Incredibly, it’s the same punter that successfully had $100,000 on Hawthorn to defeat Adelaide in last week’s semi final for a $31,000 profit,” the bookie’s Christian Jantzen said.
“West Coast have been trimmed from $1.22 into $1.20 since the big bet, while the Kangaroos are out from $4.50 to $4.85.
“The big punters are coming out for the big games and it’s only Wednesday.”
CrownBet.com.au’s man Rob Cumbrae-Stewart reports the Eagles have been backed from $1.28 into $1.21, while the Kangaroos are out to $4.50 from $3.70.
The Eagles gunned down the Hawks without without Brownlow Medallist Matthew Priddis, who was a late withdrawal with a strained calf.
He’s had two weeks to rest that ailment and has declared himself a certainty to make it back for the clash with the Kangaroos.
“I’m 100 per cent ready to go,” Priddis said.
“I would have played last week if I had to, so going really well.
“Rehab’s been great.
“Looking forward to a full training session Thursday night.”
Chris Masten and Luke Shuey are also expected to play, fighting off hamstring and foot injuries, while the Plasticine Man Jeremy McGovern will play, despite copping a heavy knock against the Hawks.
The match up with North throws up an interesting conundrum for Eagles’ coach Adam Simpson, who played 306 games for the Kangaroos, many of those as captain.
And Priddis says Simpson deserves a lot of credit for the club’s meteoric rise.
“I think Simpson deserves all the credit, you know he’s almost two years in the job now, but his first 12 months were all about education,” Priddis said.
“We had a rocky start this year, but the belief was there and now we’re just playing on instinct, and that’s come from the amount of work that he’s put in with his coaching staff.
“He’s just a fantastic educator.
“As you can see with the results we’re getting, you know you’re playing for your coach.”
The rest for not only Priddis, but the rest of the Eagles’ squad is bad news for a Roos side that first had to make it past Richmond and then probably outdid itself by travelling to Sydney and defeating the Swans, 11.11 (71) to 7.9 (51).
Robbie Tarrant and Robin Nahas were late withdrawals against the Swans, replaced in the side by Luke McDonald and Kayne Turner.
The latter pair performed well, while the former two are available for selection, leaving coach Brad Scott with a selection headache.
We’ve mentioned the Roos horrible recent record in prelims, but, if you believe utility Sam Gibson, the Roos can defy history, after they became the first team to make it to the final four from eight spot.
“While history’s not on our side and no team has ever won it (the premiership) outside that top four … sooner or later that’s going to be broken, given the evenness of the competition and how competitive it’s getting,” Gibson said on radio this week.
“There’s no reason that can’t be us.
“The crowd was deafening when we last played a final in Perth, so we sort of know what we’re up against.
“The easiest way is to try and silence them early and get a few goals on the board and get a run of it early and hopefully that shuts them up.
“That’s just one of the challenges of playing interstate … we’re not too concerned with that.
The man who might have the biggest say on whether the Roos are competitive – let alone win – is in form forward Jarryd Waite.
This bloke is enhancing his reputation as a big game player, bagging four goals against Richmond and then three last week against Sydney.
Newspaper reports reveal Waite’s conversion over his five finals appearances is 74 per cent.
The Kangaroos will be buoyed by the memory of their round 14 win and the last time they played them at Domain, whacking them 12.10 (82) to 6.8 (44).
Just in case the lure of the most unlikely Grand Final berth in AFL history is not enough motivation, North will also be celebrating the 300th game of Saints recruit Nick Dal Santo.
These two teams have squared off in the finals four times previously, splitting them with two wins each. The worry is that the last time they played each other in a final, the Weagles won by a lazy 96 points in 2012.
Match result: West Coast Eagles win ($1.20 with CrownBet.com.au)
Line: West Coast Eagles -31.5 ($1.92 with CrownBet.com.au)
Congratulations on making history by getting through to the preliminary final from eighth, North Melbourne. We underestimated you. But did you see what the Eagles did to the Hawks in the qualifying final? Yep, the joy ride will be over about 10.30pm on Saturday night. The Roos can be proud of their run, but Waite, Drew Petrie, Boomer Harvey and co simply aren’t up to the class, skill and pressure of this rabid West Coast Eagles side. They choked the life out of the Hawks and if the pressure they brought in that game is even close to similar, they’ll win by 10 goals. With Priddis back and a host of key players fit and firing, this one has all the makings of a good old fashioned blood bath.
First goal scorer tips
West Coast Eagles
Josh Kennedy ($7 with sportsbet.com.au)
How can we go past the Coleman Medalist, the AFL’s leading goal kicker and newly crowned All Australian full forward? After having the week off Kennedy will be rested fit, and ready to tear this game apart. Who do the Kangaroos send to him? There just doesn’t seem to be a match up for the superstar spearhead – a problem about 10 other clubs have when they play the Eagles. In front of a packed out Perth crowd it’s impossible to look past the obvious choice of the big fella. He kicked three goals and took nine marks against the Hawks and, at odds of $7, you feel he is almost overs, considering the way the Eagles’ mids always look to hit him. Their goal scoring starts and ends with Kennedy. A captain’s pick.
Jack Darling ($11 with sportsbet.com.au)
While Kennedy is the spearhead, Darling is another big bloke for West Coast who we believe will be pushed deep in an attempt to stretch the Kangaroos’ defence. With Kennedy probably being taken by Thompson we feel there’s a huge chance for Darling to take the game on and be a match winner. This will have to happen from the first bounce and if he does get on a roll, he will be near impossible to stop. A man mountain with the ability to break a game open, Darling is a huge chance to snag the first. He’s $11 to do so and we love that he’s double figures, due to the Kennedy factor.
North Melbourne Kangaroos
Brent Harvey ($15 with sportsbet.com.au)
We feel like a broken record with Harvey, but he is the one bloke at North Melbourne that finds space where no one else can. Harvey, he of the more than 400 games experience, is the little master. He’s played in more finals series than most blokes have seasons and will need every bit of experience as he helps plot to attempt to knock over the heavily backed favourites in West Coast. We think the number one tag will go to Harvey, but we also think he’ll break the shackles early and, with the help of a few mates, we’re backing to snag the first at very juicy odds.
Jarryd Waite ($9 with sportsbet.com.au)
We’ve already spoken about Waite’s impact in finals, but he’s been arguably the best player in this year’s finals series so far. If he can produce a performance similar to the previous two, it would be hard to go past him as recruit of the year. Waite has been so good he has over shadowed Kangaroos’ key big man Drew Petrie and risen when required. He must start well and capitalise on opportunity as the Eagles won’t give him many. A very good set shot for goal who will again, be isolated and will look for a very early involvement. Get on and ride his hot form.
AND then there were four.
After one of the best opening weekends of finals football in years, the follow-up was not as fulfilling, but just as enlightening with the two remaining Victorian teams flying the flag for the state.
The Hawks roared back into premiership reckoning with a resounding victory, while the Roos defied the odds yet again to find their way back to a preliminary final for the second year running.
We are getting to the business end of the finals so let’s take a look at the semi-finals and how the two winners progressed.
Semi-final weekend – The Roos roll on while the Hawks slip into top gear
Week two of the 2015 finals series began on Friday night at the MCG with the Hawks making an emphatic statement, hammering the Crows by 74 points.
Hawthorn shrugged off any doubt that their premiership defence was over in a blistering first quarter, kicking eight goals to two to creat a 38-point lead at quarter time.
The Hawks ended up with 21 goals for the game in a brutal display which helped ease the fears of Hawthorn supporters that the three-peat may be outside of their grasp.
The manner in which Hawthorn dismantled the Crows will give coach Alistair Clarkson huge confidence going into Friday night’s preliminary final against Fremantle, with several key players finding their top form at the right time of the season.
Luke Breust was instrumental up forward, booting six goals, James Frawley was terrific on Taylor Walker, limiting the Adelaide captain to just one goal while Hawthorn captain Luke Hodge’s four goal, best on ground performance reminded everyone just how damaging he can be.
In further positive news for the Hawks, injured forward Jack Gunston is set to return for Friday night’s massive clash after sustaining an ankle injury in the qualifying final loss to the Eagles.
As a consequence of their dominant win, Sportsbet have moved the Hawks into second favourite for the flag at $2.60 – only ten cents shy of favourites the West Coast Eagles.
They also travel to Perth as strong favourites to defeat the Dockers on Friday night, with Crownbet keeping the reigning premiers very strong at the $1.60 mark.
Saturday night in Sydney saw the Kangaroos become the first team in AFL history to progress through to a preliminary final from eighth position after defeating the Swans by 26-points.
The Roos will play in back-to-back preliminary finals against all odds after grinding out the win against the injury-hit Sydney Swans, who were depleted through the middle and up forward.
Nick Dal Santo and Ben Cunnington dominated through the middle, while hard-nosed on-baller was fantastic for the visitors, ending the game with 25 disposals and eight tackles.
With captain Kieran Jack and Luke Parker missing through injury for the Swans the home side struggled to match the Roos through the middle; especially with prolific ball winner Daniel Hannebery limited to just 20 touches.
The Roos led at every change and will take great confidence going over to Perth, even though the red-hot Eagles await.
North Melbourne coach Brad Scott was pleased with his side’s September response after struggling at times through the regular season.
“I’m really proud. A great ex-coach of mine once said it’s not about the qualifying period of 22 rounds, it’s about the best team in September,” he said.
“We’ve been working really hard on producing our best at this time of year and we feel we’re pretty close to it.
“We’re going there (to Perth) with a method that we think stacks up in the heat of September and we’re really looking forward to the challenge.”
Despite spirited performances against the Tigers and the Swans, the Kangaroos are the only team in double figures in the premiership market, with Sportsbet placing the Roos at $15 to win the 2015 flag.
Brad Scott’s men also head into the match against West Coast on Saturday night as $4.65 outsiders with Crownbet, with flag favourites the Eagles the favoured bet of the weekend at $1.20.
West Coast: Positive news on the injury front for the Eagles heading into their home final on Saturday night, with Matt Priddis and Chris Masten both declared fit to play against the Kangaroos.
Jeremy McGovern and Luke Shuey trained strongly on Monday, allaying concerns raised over the weekend that the duo will be unavailable.
Fremantle: Mixed news for the Dockers with superstar midfielder and Brownlow medal favourite Nat Fyfe fit to play against the Hawks Friday night.
There were fears a lower leg injury would keep the 24-year old out of Friday night’s preliminary final, but Fremantle are confident their stud on-baller will be good to go.
A calf injury has ruled important defender Luke McPharlin out of the match with the Dockers toying with the idea of bringing back Ryan Crowley after his ASADA suspension ended this week.
Hawthorn: While he is yet to be confirmed as a definite starter, versatile forward Jack Gunston looks set to at least travel with the team across to Perth.
Gunston missed last week’s match with a twisted ankle, but the Hawks are confident it was only a one week injury and he will be free to line up against the Dockers.
Norm Smith medallist Brian Lake will be given up until the bounce to prove his fitness after sustaining an abdomen injury, but the reigning premiers are expecting the veteran defender to play.
North Melbourne: In what would be a huge boost for the Roos, coach Brad Scott has declared dashing midfielder Daniel Wells ‘a chance’ to make a shock return against the Eagles.
Wells has not played since injuring his Achilles tendon back in round two.
There are two key concerns for North Melbourne heading into Saturday night however, with key forward Drew Petrie and defender Robbie Tarrant both in doubt.
Petrie landed awkwardly on his knee in Saturday night’s win over the Swans, but played out the match after the incident early in the third quarter.
Petrie was cleared of any structural damage in the aftermath, and while he might be restricted in his full range of motion, the important forward is expected to play.
Robbie Tarrant, who was a late withdrawal last week with a slight abductor tear is an outside chance to play dependent on an incident-free week.
The injury occurred on the kicking side of his body, which could prove problematic, but the strongly built defender is still a good chance of playing Saturday night.