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AFL Finals Recap – Week 1

The tagline that the AFL have been using for the finals series is “This Is Greatness”. It’s been overused on the Channel Seven coverage, the promos, the websites…but going by the first week of the 2012 AFL Finals series, maybe the AFL marketing department have got it right.

We kicked off on Friday night with a match that had footy fans across the country salivating. The stakes were high for both the Hawks and the Magpies – the winner would cruise straight into a preliminary final, from which point they would be one win away from booking a ticket to the last Saturday in September. For the loser, a semi-final that serves as an unneeded obstacle in the way of obtaining ultimate glory.

We had a brilliant contest on our hands. Neither team would give the other an inch, but it was Hawthorn who found themselves in front at the first change, holding a fifteen-point lead. However it came at a cost, with the Hawks losing Brendan Whitecross just five minutes into the game.

The Pies countered in the second, managing to snare a slender lead with seven minutes left to play in the quarter, before goals from Isaac Smith, David Hale and Lance Franklin handed Hawthorn a 18-point lead at the long break.

The third term was much of the same, with neither side managing to string more than two goals together before intervention by the other team. Cloke slammed on three goals in the quarter, but was countered at the other end by a combined effort between Buddy, Rioli and Gunston to have Hawthorn leading by 24 at the final change.

Collingwood needed to burst out of the blocks in the final quarter to keep their hopes alive, but four consecutive goals from Ellis, Roughead, Hodge and Franklin slammed the last nails in the coffin. Hawthorn were 38-point victors.

Saturday afternoon was a different ball game entirely. Despite having the home ground advantage and the confidence of beating the Swans in round six, the Adelaide Crows were just never on.

Brenton Sanderson’s men never led in what ended up a low-scoring affair, with Sydney 29-point winners, 42 to 71.

Adelaide were torn apart by the Swan midfield, led by Ryan O’Keefe, who notched 37 disposals, Josh P. Kennedy, who amassed 35 of his own and kicked a goal, and Adam Goodes, who popped up for three majors and 22 touches.

By comparison, the Crows lacked the explosive play that had characterised their year. Brownlow Medal smokey Patrick Dangerfield had a quiet game by his standards, collecting just 21 disposals, nine below his average of the past six matches. The Crows also had no multiple goalkickers, with Taylor Walker wasteful in front of goal (one goal, three behinds), while Kurt Tippett didn’t trouble the scorers at all.

With Hawthorn and Sydney cementing home preliminary finals, the final two matches of the round were to decide who would play off against Collingwood and Adelaide in week two, and who would be making early departures from the 2012 finals campaign.

No one gave the Dockers much hope on Saturday night. Playing at the MCG, a venue which they’d only played at twice in the season, and up against a never-say-die Geelong outfit, everyone expected to see the Cats go through, albeit not easily.

What we saw couldn’t have been imagined.

The Cats were goalless until midway through the second quarter. Up until then, the Dockers were running riot, with Matthew Pavlich snaring three goals in the first term.

It wasn’t until Andrew Mackie finally broke through at the 18-minute mark of the second term when the Cats finally motored into action, with goals from Joel Selwood and Mitch Duncan following in quick succession. The Dockers led by 34 at half-time.

Geelong finally started to look like the Geelong of old to kick off the third term, with Stokes and Christensen both goaling before Matthew Pavlich slammed on his fourth and fifth majors, getting some assistance from Michael Walters and Hayden Ballantyne.

With a 38-point deficit to make up, the Cats gave it their best effort in the last term, piling on five goals to two in the quarter, but with Pavlich’s sixth solidifying the lead at 23 points, there wasn’t a whole lot more for Geelong to do than to wait for the final siren.

And as if we hadn’t had enough excitement already, on Sunday afternoon we were treated to one of the finest performances of the Cox-Nic Nat show we’ve ever seen.

Going up against the Kangaroos’ Todd Goldstein (who is no slouch in the ruck department), the Eagles’ one-two combo blew North Melbourne out of the water, finishing the hit-out count at 62-29.

The Eagles were obviously watching the Geelong-Fremantle clash the night before, and then decided to go one better, keeping North Melbourne goalless in the first quarter while slamming on seven majors of their own. Poor accuracy in front of goal cost the Kangaroos, while the West Coast forward line did as they pleased.

Jack Darling, Josh J. Kennedy and Andrew Embley all finished with four goals, with “The Big Q” Quinten Lynch chiming in with three of his own. The Roos were never in it.

And now the second week of finals has been set. With Geelong and North Melbourne saying premature goodbyes, and Hawthorn and Sydney to enjoy a well-earned week off, week two of the finals will see Adelaide taking on Fremantle at AAMI Stadium on Friday night, and the Pies will play host to the Eagles at the ‘G on Saturday night.

We’ve certainly had a big week to start off the 2012 finals series. We’ve seen star forwards Travis Cloke and Matthew Pavlich boot the bags we know that they can, we’ve seen stars such as Ryan O’Keefe and Sam Mitchell lead their teams to great victories.

This really is greatness.

 

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