Harmsy's Handle - AFL Round 19

Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/Herald Sun
Harmsy's tipping the Hawks to claim McClelland Trophby. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/Herald Sun

Cold here in Melbourne. Wet and snowing, and trees-falling-over on a windy Friday. Great for sitting in front of the footy and working out what is going to happen in this traffic-jam season.

I was chatting with Col Huthinson – AFL historian and statistician – during the week. He is an experienced campaigner who has not missed a Geelong game since the early 1960s (live at the ground), which is a phenomenal record. He can’t remember such a concertina-ed top of the table at this stage of a season. And he doesn’t forget.

Given how tight it all is, really, we’ve begun the finals - although nothing catastrophic can happen to the contenders throughout August. They can just give away the opportunity to play a home final. The beauty is that some of those contenders clash over the remaining rounds – and that should make for desperate (and entertaining) footy.

In Round 19, just completed, Freo did their best to muck up their premiership prospects. But they snuck home against a brave, but ultimately disappointing Carlton. The Dockers are flat at the moment. The Swans did enough against the Bombers.

The Geelong-North game was huge for the Cats, who'd just done enough to win over the last month, all against the less-credentialed teams. Lose this, and there would be big doubts; win this well, and they were back in the mix, and ready to bewilder the experts.

Having watched Fitzroy lose to St Kevin’s in the ammos at the wonderful Brunswick Street Oval in Fitzroy (while the Crows got rolled in Adelaide), I jumped on the tram to the Waterside Hotel to have too much nachos, not enough beer, and a sharp discussion of the Cats’ prospects. The very best minds there – all sitting beneath mops of greying hair – could reach no consensus on the prospects of Geelong on the night, or for the season.

Indeed, some views changed mid-conversation.

We ventured into the cold. I was wearing gloves for the first time since it was a daily necessity on the Malvern Star in school days back in frosty Oakey (now that was really cold). And I was very glad to have them.

North made us feel even colder, winning the Sherrin and running in waves. They looked the better side early. Yet somehow the Cats hung in there. The Kangas missed, they dropped their bundle, the Cats lifted, the pressure went on, and North fell apart. Nice performances from Duncan and Motlop, and the return to form of Bundy Christensen helped the Cats outplay an ill-disciplined North outfit.

It really was a very important win for the Cats. A very, very, very important win we decided, while standing frigid on the Etihad footbridge.

Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/Michael Dodge

Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au/Michael Dodge

The Pies also had a crucial win, with Port Adelaide now destined to finish in the bottom half of the eight.

So the finals start now with Round 20.

Forget, for a minute, the scrap which is occurring to get into the eight, and concentrate on the argument for the top four.

Here are the key matches:
Round 20: Port Adelaide v Sydney; Geelong v Fremantle
Round 21: Fremantle v Hawthorn
Round 22: Hawthorn v Geelong
Round 23: Hawthorn v Collingwood; Fremantle v Port Adelaide.

It’s a big month for Hawthorn, but they’ll handle it. It’s a big month for Geelong. And for Freo. Actually, it’s just a big footy month. Add the end-of-term free-spiritedness of some of the battlers, and you could have other upsets at the hands of Richmond, West Coast and even the Bulldogs and Lions (at a stretch).

Don’t forget St Kilda beat Freo two weekends ago.

I’ve had a bit of a look, and I reckon the Freo-Port game in Perth in the final round will decide fourth spot. I reckon the Hawks will retain top spot as long as they beat Geelong, which becomes a huge match.

The Cats will be desperate to avoid the Swans in Sydney in the first week of the finals. To do that, they will need to keep winning, but especially that match against Hawthorn in Round 22.

Picture: Anthony Reginato/dailytelegraph.com.au

Picture: Anthony Reginato/dailytelegraph.com.au

Meanwhile, the Swans will just keep smoking their pipe – as long as they can get past Port this coming weekend. If they do, the pressure will be on them to finish top by building their percentage against their weaker opponents in an effort to leap-frog the Hawks. While watching the Hawks ward off the challengers. This may also have ramifications. Easy August for the Swans; tough August for the Hawks.

It’s all happening.

But on my beer-in-hand predictions, I’ve got the final eight looking like this:
Port Adelaide
North Melbourne

So you can assume that won’t be happening!

Loving the footy.

And, as I sit here in front of the heater, sunshine streaming through the window onto my desk, I’m loving the weather as well.


John Harms, Editor of footyalmanac.com.au


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