AFL Finals: Week 1

23 rounds of the home and away season have rushed by like a bullet train on steroids.  Now, we’re at the crunch end of the season.

Hawthorn v Collingwood: the hot favourites and minor premiers will be chewing at the bit.  Collingwood’s storming second half of the season kept them in top four contention, while Hawthorn have been sublime all season.  Power forward Lance Franklin has come back after injury and will provide the Hawks with depth up forward.  Sam Mitchell, Cyril Rioli, Grant Birchall and Jack Gunston have had excellent seasons and will be instrumental in providing run from defence to attack.  Captain Luke Hodge and coach Alastair Clarkson, speaking on Fox Footy on Monday,  were only looking ahead to the Collingwood match.

“We know that Collingwood’s best is good enough to beat anyone in the competition. And if we manage to produce our best we know that ours is as well.”

Collingwood will be looking for Dane Swan, Dayne Beams, forward Travis Cloke and Sharrad Wellingham, who has shone in recent weeks, to be at their best.

Prediction: Hawthorn

Adelaide v Sydney: While the Crows seemed to have the easy run to the finals, Sydney are no easy-beats, and under coach John Longmire this season, were one of the most consistent and impressive teams without being fancy.  The Crows have a huge arsenal of players up their sleeve: Patrick Dangerfield, captain Nathan Van Berlo, Bernie Vince and youngster Daniel Talia are just a few.  Dangerfield has been in fine form all season, and I expect him to keep this run in the finals.  For Sydney, the likes of Jude Bolton, Adam Goodes, ruckman Shane Mumford and stellar midfielder Kieran Jack will need to give it their all.

At home, Adelaide should pull off the victory and earn a week off.

Geelong v Fremantle: Everything points to Geelong at Simonds Stadium.  However, do not discount the possibility of the Dockers pushing the game to the end.  Hayden Ballantyne, Matthew Pavlich, Stephen Hill and Aaron Sandilands all have the ability to match it with the Geelong players.  And although Geelong has dropped down the ladder, Jimmy Bartel, Joel Selwood, James Kelly, James Podsiadly and Matthew Scarlett are still showing they’re not gone just yet.

The Dockers have been the dark horse of this season, and under new coach Ross Lyon, have shown enormous potential, eclipsing their 2011 efforts.

Prediction: Geelong

West Coast v North Melbourne: The West is a fortress-and it will be once again.  Eagles ruck giants Dean Cox and Nic Natanui are versatile enough to play ruck or up forward, and this will be a key part in quelling North’s chances.  Drew Petrie will be a big target for the Kangaroos, and Scott Thompson, coming off a career best performance last round, will be hoping to stop Quentin Lynch from getting a bag.  After scraping home with a horror run of injuries, the Eagles would be hoping to deal with North Melbourne and advance to the semi-finals.

Prediction: West Coast

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