The second game of Week 2 of the finals is arguably a more interesting one than the first, with the Pies coming back from Perth to take on the Cats at the Gabba in what looms as a cracking contest. The Pies were simply sensational in their win against the Eagles in Perth, playing with a level of spirit and energy we haven’t seen from them for much of the year. In a lot of ways, they win last week was similar to the Giants from last year who went in to the finals in poor form, but found a spark as they entered the finals to eventually move through the Grand Final. For the Cats, well they were actually really good against the Power, but poor kicking for goal cost them in the end. Port were also harder at the contest for much of the game which was a key to them getting the win. These two teams have met a lot in finals over the last decade, and you have a feeling we are going to be in for a classic contest this time around.
How do the Cats win?
The Cats didn’t really do a heck of a lot wrong last week, and had Tom Hawkins converted his chances then they probably end up winning it. The Cats form of late has been poor, and they seem to have lost their ability to control a contest. Just a month ago they were, in many people’s eyes, the Premiership favorite and the genuinely looked to be the best team in it. They did that through precise disposal, controlling the tempo, and managing to get Tom Hawkins isolated up forward. They need to do that again to win against the Pies. Get the game on their terms. Take marks in defence, hit up their targets and when able, break in to space and deliver to their forwards.
What they want:
-Hawkins isolated, or the very least, not outnumbered. There are few defenders in the game that can handle Hawkins one on one. He’s too big and strong to consistently beat him one on one. Whilst Roughead is a good match-up for him, if he gets left alone, he’s in strife.
-Ablett to wind back the clock. He’s only got a few games left, he’s missed a lot of football this year, but if he can summon up just a few more games like he used to, then he can be the difference between winning and losing. He provides absolute class, a little magic and genuine footy smarts.
-Midfield pressure. They weren’t able to get pressure through the middle last week, and as a result, the Power were able to move the ball quickly into their Forward 50, making Harry Taylor look treacle slow. Their defenders got exposed one on one, they weren’t able to zone off and generally got beaten. If their midfielders and forwards can pressure the Pies, then it slows the entries and allows the Cats to set up properly.
What they don’t want:
-De Goey to go nuts. He kicked 5 against the Cats the last time they played and was the match-winner. He was ok last week, kicking a crucial late goal, but was generally well held. The Cats need to keep him down again or risk him sending them out in straight sets.
-Missed shots at goal. Profligacy in front of goal is like a cancer. Once it starts it’s hard to pull back. Hawkins for example, would want to nail his first couple of shots to just get rid of the little guy on the shoulder. Missed shots also suck the life out of a team, especially when it happens regularly.
How do the Pies win?
Run and gun footy, just like last week. They attacked the game; they were able to drop players back into the Eagles defence then break when they won the footy. They got one-on-one contests up forward, they won the hard ball and they played with passion and pride. If they can find that spirit again then who’s to say they won’t win this game too.
What they want:
-Belief of last week to hold. There is literally no reason for them to go in to this game with any doubt. They beat Geelong earlier this year, they have just come off a huge win over in the west and they know their best is good enough. Deliver what they did last week and they win for mine.
-Cox on fire. He played 5 really good minutes last week Mason Cox, and kicked 3 goals. Whilst he was serviceable for the rest of the game, that 5-minute patch in the first quarter gave the Pies belief. The best part about Cox is if he marks it inside 40, he rarely misses his set shot. If he can expose Henderson or Taylor early, it means the Cats have to change their plans and give the Pies a massive boost.
-Midfield dominance. These are two of the best midfields in the game. Both deep, both have a good mix of pace, class and hardness, both can win a lot of the footy. If they can win in the middle, then they can control the game. Grundy is huge here.
What they don’t want:
-A danger show. Dangerfield is to Geelong as De Goey is for Collingwood. He’s the genuine match-winner for the Cats. He’s one player who can put the team on his back and carry them to a win. They need to keep him under wraps, otherwise there is trouble.
-A dewy footy. The teams will be interesting, as if they go tall again, the dewy Queensland evening could be troublesome. The struggled with it recently at the Gabba against the Lions and if they go with Grundy, Cameron and Cox, with Mihocek to boot, then I have a feeling they might be too tall in the conditions.
-A finals letdown. After being up last week, could they suffer a letdown? After getting themselves up for the contest, what if they have burnt off all the emotional energy that got them the win?
Key Match ups:
Tom Hawkins V Jordan Roughead – Hawkins is the match-winner for the Cats, and Roughead will need to be at his best to knock off the Coleman medalist. If Roughead can stop Hawkins from kicking multiple goals, I just can’t see the Cats winning.
Mason Cox V Harry Taylor – It strangely looms as a critical contest in the game. Cox showed last week that he could beat quality defenders, whilst Taylor is one of the best positional defenders in the game. One good thing for Taylor is Cox lacks pace, and if they can manage to keep the pace off their forward thrusts, the Taylor can use his body and reading of the play to beat Cox.
Joel Selwood V Taylor Adams – Whilst Selwood is under a fitness cloud, if he plays, you can expect these two midfield bulls to go head to head for much of the game. Both win the hard footy, both spread well, and whilst Selwood has been doing it for a decade, Adams showed an ability to lift this side through sheer will numerous times this year. Huge battle
Levi Greenwood V Patrick Dangerfield – Greenwood is one of the games best stoppers, and the Pies will need him to limit the Cats key midfielder. If he can limit Dangerfield’s impact, it goes a long way to the Pies winning. Best thing for Greenwood is if Dangerfield goes forward, he can go with him into defence as well. Going to be a key battle all night
Mark Blicsavs V De Goey – Stopping De Goey is a key to the Pies, and he’s a ridiculously hard match up. He’s quick, he’s powerful and he’s strong overhead. If the Cats are looking for a match-up for De Goey, I reckon their best option is Blicsavs. Firstly, he’s a gun defender. He can match De Goey in the air and on the ground, he can go with him on the lead (as well as most can anyway), and he can go with him into the midfield when De Goey pushes up.
Mitch Duncan – He’s a key to the Cats team winning this game. Runs all game, really strong user of the footy and has plenty of experience now. Will likely go under the radar yet can cut sides to ribbons. If the Cats are to retain possession for long periods, he’s a key to do it.
Luke Dalhaus – Forward pressure if huge, and the Cats need Dalhaus to step up this part of his game. They also need him to hit the scoreboard to take the pressure off Hawkins and Rohan.
Tom Stewart – Was largely kept out of the game last week though the Power’s forwards spacing, and it limited the Cats rebound. He needs to be able to get free and support his talls. As one of the games best intercept marks and rebounding defenders, the Cats can’t afford him to be quiet again.
Scott Pendlebury – An easy option, but why not, the guy is a gun. He’s been one of the game premier mids for the past decade, he plays with a calm and surety that helps his teammates stay focused and is damaging when he gets the footy. Needs to lead from the front and you just know he will
Josh Daicos – He’s taken his game to a new level this year and is a key link man for the Pies this year. He’s got great footy smarts, he’s got that magic like his old man, has really lifted his ability to win his own footy and can hit the scoreboard.
Brodie Grundy – He’ll be up against Rhys Stanley and possibly Mark Blicsavs and after a down game last week, he’ll be chomping at the bit to set the record straight. When the game was in the balance, Darcy Cameron was preferred and that would have to annoy him. He’s got the ability to take the Cats rucks to the cleaners and needs to give his mids first use.
Unlike the Tigers/Saints game, this one is a really hard game to pick. The team that loses the qualifying final is usually written off, whilst the winner of the elimination final usually gets pumped up. The Cats were 4th for a reason, they are a bloody good side. They have one of the games best midfielders, have the Coleman medalist and a proven defence. The Pies though played a brand of footy that was absolutely superb. They burst from defence, moved the ball quickly and attacked throughout. If the Pies bring that level of footy again, then I reckon they win. The big question is, can they do it?? I’m going to back them in. I think they can match the Cats in the midfield, have the dominant ruck and their defence is well set to stop the Cats offence. Whilst I’ve been going back and forth on this one, I’m going with the Pies but only just.
Pies by 7pts