Matthew Pavlich marks in front of Andrew Mackie during Fremantle's elimination final win over Geelong
Photo: Getty Images
There's a reason why the big names are big names
Having watched their heroics during the regular season, it was no surprise to see Lance Franklin and Matthew Pavlich produce the goods in their respective finals at the MCG. The same couldn't be said for Travis Cloke and Andrew Embley, who both played their finest games of the season when their teams needed it most. Cloke's form woes have been chronicled ad nauseam this year but he was superb against Hawthorn, his six goals keeping Collingwood in the game far longer than they deserved. Meanwhile, the West Coast veteran was superb in the Eagles' hammering of North Melbourne with classic wingman's numbers of 22 kicks, 11 marks, four goals. Neither Cloke nor Embley have been anywhere near their best in 2012 but they delivered in spades at the weekend. Some other 'big names' - including Dale Thomas - still have some way to go.
This time, the Cats really are finished
It has been a very long time since any team made Geelong look second-rate in a final but Fremantle managed it on Saturday night. That's as much a hat-tip to Ross Lyon's new, relentless Dockers as it is to the remarkable longevity of the Cats side built by Mark Thompson and cajoled into one last triumph by Chris Scott last year. However, the ride is now officially over. The Cats were caught out in defence by Pavlich, Chris Mayne and Michael Walters; they fumbled repeatedly through the midfield under the Dockers' incessant pressure and their forwards misfired as a result. Geelong won't collapse like, say, Port Adelaide did after 2007 - Jimmy Bartel, Tom Hawkins and Joel Selwood will see to that - but they're done as premiership contenders for the immediate future.
The Crows have paid for their soft draw
Adelaide's top-two finish looked good on paper but as many expected, it was a premiership tilt built on shaky foundations. Only five of the Crows' 17 wins came against teams that finished in the top eight, and only one came against a top-four rival - against Sydney at the SCG. None of that is Adelaide's fault - they can only play (and beat) whoever they're fixtured against - but their soft draw artificially inflated their ladder position. The Swans are vastly different to the great teams of 2005-06 but they still boast finals experience in Adam Goodes, Jude Bolton, Ryan O'Keefe and Lewis Roberts-Thomson that the Crows can only dream of. You only need to look at Goodes' fantastic first half compared to the limp efforts of his Adelaide counterparts Kurt Tippett and Taylor Walker to see the difference it makes.
Don't write off the Eagles just yet
On the form they displayed against North Melbourne on Sunday West Coast will give Collingwood an almighty shake in their MCG semi-final and they could even go in at level pegging with the bookies. With Daniel Kerr, Dean Cox, Andrew Embley and Darren Glass all on song, casual onlookers could be forgiven for mistaking the Eagles for the premiership squad of 2006. But the 2012 team is a very different beast - they've got a good key forward (Josh Kennedy) this time around and a wildcard in the form of Nic Naitanui who will give the Pies coach Nathan Buckley some serious headaches.
In contrast, Collingwood are still battling to find a backup ruck option for a battling Darren Jolly, while they could find themselves without two key defenders in Chris Tarrant and Nick Maxwell, who will both face the match review panel's scrutiny on Monday. The Pies still have Dane Swan, Scott Pendlebury and Cloke in decent nick but on exposed form, that might not be enough.
- With apologies to Mark Harvey, Ross Lyon is worth every bit of the PR nightmare (and the reported $1m salary) Freo took on when they poached him from the Saints.
- North Melbourne's claim they were building a brand of football that will stand up in finals looked shaky during an inconsistent season. It's completely collapsed now.
- The brutal first half of Hawthorn-Collingwood served to show the bottom six sides in the comp just how far off the pace they are.
- In less than two hours, Hawthorn's Shane Savage went from being a non-playing emergency to kicking one of the goals of the season from the pocket at the Punt Road end. Footy's a funny game.
- Four goals from limited opportunities against the Hawks show Andrew Krakouer's arduous return from a knee reco was worth the effort.
- The Friday night prelim in Sydney is going to be a belter. The Swans will either face a team they haven't beaten in 11 attempts over seven years, or the team with which they share one of the great modern finals rivalries. Stirring stuff.
- It was a bad weekend for those with first names beginning with B after Brendan Whitecross, Beau Waters and Ben McGlynn's suffered injuries that will likely end their finals campaigns. Meanwhile, Hawthorn breathe a sigh of relief that their full-forward's real mane is Lance.
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