There are only eight teams left in the Premier League and Saturday night sees the end of the season for two more clubs.
It’s all on the line for Richmond, Brisbane, Fremantle and the Western Bulldogs in the two elimination matches.
For Geelong, Melbourne, Sydney and Collingwood, they can book themselves a pre-final berth with a win in week one.
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Fox Footy’s Leigh Montagna vs. David King preview of this weekend’s win and loss.
Brisbane v Richmond
6th v 7th, Thursday night, Gabba
The Lions and Tigers will clash in the final between the tournament’s top two scoring teams.
But Montagna warned that the game will not be the playoff that many are predicting.
“The rumor that this game was shot is not very true. Only one game in the last five Finals has two teams score 80 points or more, he said.
The stats show that both Brisbane and Richmond are struggling defensively, with the Lions 11th in opposition defensive 50 to 50 and the Tigers 12th.
Per-entry opposition scores see Brisbane 12th and Richmond 13th.
“Both numbers are really weak for both finals,” Montagna lamented.
“We know these two teams can score goals in attack, but in the end, who will stand up defensively?
“The game is a place where you win and lose.
The game is won by the team that can kneel down on defense and score goals.
“The only way I think Brisbane can really handle Richmond is to assert their dominance.”
The last time the two teams met, the Tigers shot more than 60 percent of the time inside the 50 in the second half.
King said the Lions have been struggling to stop opposition scores — and it’s an ongoing issue.
“Their back six is struggling. They’re 18th in defensive 50 over the last six weeks.
“Richmond now dominates the front 50 at Brisbane’s D50 – no doubt.”
Melbourne V Sydney
2nd v 3rd, Friday night, MCG
The stats show Melbourne and Sydney are at the top of the midfield competition and their qualifying and competition numbers for the past six weeks have been off the charts.
But ominously, the king says it’s a place where demons have issues.
“They are broken offensively. They didn’t get a single spot in the top six (in attack),” he said.
“I think the way the Swans defend will make it very difficult for Melbourne to move the ball.”
King was full of praise for not only Sydney’s back six but their entire defensive set-up. The vision of their midfield to set up the defense showed how much they had changed when it came to locking down the ball in the front half.
“They are honest swans,” King said.
“It’s like getting blood from a stone or blood from a swan.
“They stay on the defensive against their opponents… it’s all about how they defend – they don’t give an inch.
“They stop you at the pass. They give you no choice.
“Until Max (Gown, the last time the two teams met) it was the length of the line – I think Sydney’s defensive game is underrated and undersold.
“They’re so honest, it’s scary.”
Montagna predicted the weekend would turn into a “low-scoring arm wrestle” for the second final.
Geelong v Collingwood
1st v 4th, Saturday, MCG
The second qualifier will see two contrasting styles of play come together at the MCG.
But the Cats will be under huge pressure in their recent finals appearance without any silverware.
Montagna said the final would pit a fast-starting Cats outfit against a fast-finishing Magpies team.
“Collingwood should match the Cats at quarter time,” he said.
“(Geelong) are playing faster at the start. They are holding the opposition to an average of over 30 points in the first quarter.
“They are two opposite styles.”
Statistics show that when teams lead at quarter time, they win an average of two out of three games.
Compared to the AFL’s average win rate of 67.5 per cent, the Cats sat at 87.5 per cent when they took the lead at the first change.
“Geelong have 16 first quarter wins – only Melbourne have more than them with 17 (for the year),” Montagna said.
“This is a different Geelong team this year.
They have won 15 of their last 17 first quarter games. They are a very fast starting team.
Collingwood have won 63.7 per cent of games at 3 quarter time in an impressive finish to the tournament – better than the competition average of 17.3 per cent.
“We all know they’re fast finishers — what they’ve done is off the charts,” Montagna said.
“They’ve gone eleven times and won seven out of 11 – it’s ridiculous.
“The worry? Since 2020, Geelong is 43-4 when leading at three quarters.
“You can’t be fooled.”
Fremant v Western Bulldogs
5th v 8th, Saturday night, Optus Stadium
The Bulldogs may have slipped into the eight with 0.6 per cent, but the Dockers are far from certain at home in 2022, with major injury concerns heading into the finals.
“It’s clear to see these two teams really battle it out,” King said.
While Freio is trying to consolidate the forward line, the Bulldogs are battling to lose Tom Liberatore, a top-six midfielder for the 2022 campaign.
King said one of Bailey Smith, Josh Dunkley or Adam Traylor could play as cover.
“They had to get their hands dirty,” he warned.
The last time the two teams met, it was the Dockers who opened the match in their chip-kick game.
Despite the Bulldogs having +29 contested possessions and +7 clearances, it was Fremantle who came out on top.
But King warned Fremantle could not get away with the same game plan in the finals.
“Qualifying and competitive play really favored the dogs. “If they get the chance – Fremantle are a defensive unit, but if those numbers are repeated they will win,” he said.
“They did not protect the dogs after the race.
“(Fremantle) kicked the ball out of the defense and scored six goals. It was almost like half court basketball.
“It was crazy.
“The Bulldogs of the West didn’t want to work.”
King Docker says he doesn’t expect Rory Lobb to repeat his performance and says Fremantle must start quickly if they want to stay in the hunt for the finals.
They have won three of their last 12 first quarter games. “And they won only four times in the war,” he said.