THE GRAND FINAL is many months away, but GEOFF POULTER has taken up the challenge to tip the two finalists and the winners:
ONLY 11 times in 121 seasons have the Grand Final teams gone around the following year for an encore. So stand by for a 12th repeat this season – but with fortunes swapped and Adelaide somehow overpowering Richmond.
Bold prediction perhaps – but you’ve got to have a crack. GWS is the obvious threat but it seems to be often unsettled and, without a truly developed soul and history of struggle, the Giants don’t appear to be any greater threat than their past two “thirds”.
In two of those 11 Grand Final repeats those pair of teams had a “threepeat”. So it seems the odds are stacked against my forecast exacta for September 29, 2018 – that is for dominant Richmond and fast-learning Adelaide to be back on stage for the play-off.
Collingwood beat Richmond in the 1927, 1928, and 1929 Grand Finals and Essendon reversed a 1983 thumping against Hawthorn with decisive victories in 1984 and 1985. In six of the other nine next year “replays” the results were reversed – so there is a pattern there if you are desperate for evidence.
For my idea of an Adelaide turnabout dream to became a reality a couple of significant things need to occur. The Crows will have to pare back a significant Grand Final margin (48 points) and adjust their style to prepare to play their best footy on the MCG – contrasting dimensions 161 x 138 compared to their narrow Adelaide Oval fortress, 167 x 123. The past five Grand Finals have been won by Melbourne teams against interstate rivals.
But the intangibles can swing in the Crows’ favour – greater hunger, a chance to reorganise their line-up to try to counter Richmond’s power, study their own mistakes and strive to atone. All this can work to give them an edge.
A coach noted his team had made 78 errors in a recent narrow loss in a knock-out final – he felt 10 fewer mistakes and they would have won. The Crows will require a greater turnaround but it’s achievable.
1. Adelaide, 2 Richmond, 3 GWS. What about the rest of the ladder?
Sydney look in pretty good shape and Gary Ablett should ensure Geelong retain a place in the eight. That leaves three spots and Melbourne, Essendon and Port Adelaide are all behaving like they are the entitled ones.
Melbourne looks solid all over the field; Essendon is quick and attacking and seems to have recruited well; Port Adelaide, already in the eight, have also picked up vital talent and depth.
And just outside the eight I have Western Bulldogs, Hawthorn, West Coast, St Kilda and Collingwood. You couldn’t imagine any of the other five making the finals. The Eagles new home ground is an unknown factor.
Fremantle and Carlton might improve a little but not enough to challenge the top eight. The Blues have lost their second and fourth placegetters in last season’s best and fairest which is telling.
The other three look to be in for a tough season. Gold Coast are away for the first 10 rounds; Spooner Brisbane improved overall last year but it’s a slow process. North is still getting used to releasing its three best ball users of recent years – Harvey, Wells and Dal Santo.
As Doc Baldock once told me: There is no point getting the ball if you don’t use it effectively. The game has changed a lot since Doc’s day but not so much that this simple message still doesn’t hold true.
So that’s my early season prognosis. But remember – the past two premiers came from nowhere – so you can take it all with a grain of salt.
GEOFF POULTER, 69, has spent 51 years in sports media. He was the last Melbourne Herald chief football writer. CV: Sports oracle, author, historian, impersonator, raconteur, poet, quiz whiz, philosopher, song-writer, intellectual scholar – and still employable!