Sydney Swans: Fourth
North Melbourne Kangaroos: Eighth
Sydney Swans: 16-6-0
North Melbourne Kangaroos: 13-9-0
Last five matches
Sydney Swans: WWWWL
North Melbourne Kangaroos: WWLLW
NORTH Melbourne will feel it has every chance of taking a big scalp when it heads to Sydney for a clash with the wounded Swans.
But the Swans ($1.57 with CrownBet.com.au) are experts at finding something when their backs are against the wall.
The Roos will be wary, but confident after destroying the souls of Richmond supporters with a 17 point win in last weekend’s elimination final, 15.15 (105) to 14.4 (88).
North bounced the Tigers out of the finals in the first week for the third time in three years, coming back from two points down early in the last term to take it out.
The ferocious Roos whacked the Tigers around the packs and won the contested ball 149-115, the work of unheralded stopper Ben Jacobs a feature, holding Richmond captain Trent Cotchin to just nine disposals – the equal fewest of his career.
The ageless Brent Harvey was the difference for the Roos, cleaning up with 31 disposals – eight more than the next best player on the field Jack Ziebell (23) – to go with two goals.
Jarrad Waite went some way to vindicating his often criticised recruitment with four goals from his 16 disposals and eight marks and big men Drew Petrie and Ben Brown bagged two each.
Defender Jamie Macmillan was the only casualty from the clash, but North’s director of football Geoff Walsh said the 23 year old was all but certain to take his place against the Swans.
“Jamie will be monitored throughout the week, but we are expecting him to train fully with the rest of the squad and will be available to travel to Sydney,” Walsh told NMFC.com.au.
Exciting rookie Kayne Turner will stick his hand up after being given the all clear by the doctors, despite missing the elimination final after copping a heavy knock against the Tigers in round 23.
But the big news is that veteran spark plug Daniel Wells could be a shock selection.
The gun midfielder hasn’t played a game of AFL footy in five months, but will be given the chance to prove his fitness.
Captain Andrew Swallow says he’d like to see the silky midfielder in the side.
“He’s an exceptional player and the perfect guy to be able to come in and maybe play that sub role and come on in the second half and maybe turn the game,” Swallow said.
Swallow’s men have not beaten the Swans since 2007 and they will need to turn around the 71 point belting they copped in last year’s preliminary final in Sydney.
It’s been a fortnight of turmoil for the Swans, with first the revelation that multi million dollar superstar forward Lance Franklin was suffering from mental illness and then later the news that he would miss the entire finals series.
But, despite the turmoil and being beaten by minor premier Fremantle, they won plenty of fans for their effort in a tight match on the road in Perth, 10.9 (69) to 7.18 (60).
Really, they should have won.
The had more inside 50s and more tackles, but poor kicking in front of goal killed them.
They had eight set shots in the first half, the result – 1.7.
They were all over the Dockers in the last quarter, kicking the last four scores of the match – all of them behinds, when the game was there to be won.
Midfield dynamo Josh Kennedy had a monster with 39 possessions, his 11th straight game over the 30 mark, an AFL record, Brownlow Medal fancy Dan Hannebery had 34 and accumulator Tom Mitchell picked up 29 touches.
But Adam Goodes put a season of controversy behind him with a brilliant 25 disposal effort and monstrous key forward Kurt Tippett played perhaps one of his best matches in a Swans’ jersey, booting three goals from 15 disposals, with six marks, six tackles, six frees for and 12 hit outs pinch hitting in the ruck.
If the Swans are going to get past the Roos, they will have to do it without key men Luke Parker, Sam Reid and, in all likelihood, co-captain Kieren Jack.
The last time these two teams played, Buddy booted four goals – and five in the preliminary – and Parker had 33 touches – that’s a big dint to fill.
But the Swans did win that round 11 clash by 16 points, 14.7 (91) to 10.15 (75).
They did hold a 29 point lead at one point, but the Roos pegged it back in a tight affair that should make this one similarly hard fought.
Jarrad McVeigh had 28 and Kennedy 27, while Goodes kicked three.
The possession count was low for the Roos, led by Ben Cunnington with 23 and Harvey with 22. Robin Nahas, Shaun Higgins and Lindsay Thomas booted two goals each, but Todd Goldstein had a field day with 17 disposals, seven marks, six tackles and 37 hit outs.
He will be a key figure in this one, after finishing second in the AFL Most Valuable Player award to Brownlow Medal favourite Nat Fyfe.
As far as the bookies go, sportsbet.com.au’s Richard Hummerston says punters reckon the Swans could be staring down the barrel of a straight sets exit from the finals.
“After opening at $1.38, news of Buddy Franklin and Sam Reid missing Saturday night’s clash has caused the punters to stay well away from the depleted Swans,” Hummerston said.
“Sportsbet has taken five times the amount of money on the Kangaroos, causing the Swans’ price to drift out to $1.54.
“The absence of Franklin and Reid has also seen the Swans premiership odds take a dive, they’re now paying $15 to lift up the premiership cup while West Coast are favourites to be crowned champions at $2.60 after their comfortable win over Hawthorn.
“Without Reid and Franklin playing, Tippett has a mountain of work to do up forward and the punters aren’t convinced he can get the job done.”
Match result: Sydney Swans win ($1.57 with CrownBet.com.au)
Line: North Melbourne Kangaroos +10.5 ($1.92 with CrownBet.com.au)
We’ve been tossing and turning on this match since the final siren blew on the first week of the finals. First we though North had the momentum to get the job done. Then we were on the Sydney experience bandwagon. We worried about the Swans’ injury list and then had concerns over the Roos’ travel. What that all amounted to was a vision of an inspiring Sydney win by less than 10 points in a low scoring, but brutal contest that we’re expecting to be a war of attrition against two sides who pride themselves on winning the hard ball and pressuring their opponents. We reckon this match has thriller written all over it. The injuries and absentees bring the Swans back to the Roos level. It’s going to be a case of who wants it more. For all that Shinboner spirit, we reckon that edge lay with the wounded Swans and we’re backing them in to just make it over the line against a side many think over achieved in winning even the first final.
First goal scorer tips
Kurt Tippett ($7 with sportsbet.com.au)
Just a tower and an absolute handful for any defender in the game. We feel sorry for whoever goes to the former Crow in this one, because he is playing his best footy since crossing to the Swans three years ago. Has 42 goals for the year, with 13 of those coming in his last month of football. And he’s getting on his bike two. That four weeks of footy features two games of 20 or more disposals – something he had never done in a Swans jersey. If the Swans want to win this game, Tippett simply must step up to fill the Buddy void. The gun, who won’t play again in the finals, kicked 47 goals in just 17 games this year and leaves perhaps a bigger hole than any other player in the AFL.
Adam Goodes ($11 with sportsbet.com.au)
Forget about the boos, Goodes wound back the clock on the weekend. The 309 game superstar had done it all in this league. But he still obviously has the hunger, after churning out his second highest possession count of the season. His highest came just a month ago and his form lines over the past month really mirror Tippett’s in the way he has lifted his footy to another level. Has 23 goals for the season and is more than capable of sending the first one through at double figure odds.
North Melbourne Kangaroos
Drew Petrie ($9 with sportsbet.com.au)
is Drew Petrie the most under rated tall forward in the game? We say yes. It feels like he’s well respected, but never seems to be mentioned up there with the big boys like Tom Hawkins and Travis Cloke. And test he hasn’t kicked less than 40 goals since his injury hit 2010 season when he only played two games. You feel like the Roos have more goal kicking options than the Swans, so it’s not all on his shoulders, like it is with Tippett, but we still feel he is the man the Roos midfielders aim their kicking boots at, above all others.
Shaun Higgins ($17 with sportsbet.com.au)
Higgins was somewhat an enigma at the Western Bulldogs. Uber talented, but oft injured, he played just 129 games in nine seasons at the Dogs. But the move to the Roos has reinvigorated the goal sneak, playing in 22 games in 2015. And he has rewarded the faith, booting 37 goals, the most of his career. This guys is just so silky with the footy and has at least open goal in each of his last six games. Let’s hope he slots the first one in this match.
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