FIRST PRELIMINARY FINAL - MELBOURNE V GEELONG
Date: Friday 10 September, 7:50pm
Venue: Optus Stadium
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In: M. Hibberd
Out: J. Smith (injured), J. Jordon (medical sub)
Last week's sub: J. Jordon (replaced J. Smith)
B: C.Salem, S.May, J.Lever
HB: J.Bowey, H.Petty, T.Rivers
C: T.Sparrow, C.Petracca, E.Langdon
HF: B.Fritsch, T.McDonald, J.Viney
F: A.Neal-Bullen, B.Brown, C.Spargo
FOLL: M.Gawn, C.Oliver, A.Brayshaw
I/C: J.Harmes, L.Jackson, M.Hibberd, K.Pickett
EMG: N.Jones, J.Melksham, J.Jordon, K.Chandler
Out: B Parfitt (injured)
Last week's sub: Z. Guthrie (replaced B. Parfitt)
B: J.Henry, L.Henderson, Z.Tuohy
HB: J.Kolodjashnij, M.Blicavs, J.Bews
C: M.Duncan, C.Guthrie, I.Smith
HF: E.Ratugolea, J.Cameron, G.Rohan
F: S.Menegola, T.Hawkins, G.Miers
FOLL: R.Stanley, J.Selwood, P.Dangerfield
I/C: T.Atkins, Z.Guthrie, M.Holmes, B.Close
EMG: L.Dahlhaus, S.Simpson, D.Fort, S.Higgins
Not much to report here for either side with just one change apiece. Veteran Michael Hibberd returns for the injured Joel Smith for the Demons while last week's sub Zach Guthrie will come into the 22 for speedster Brandon Parfitt. Expect the Cats to select one of Sam Simpson or Luke Dahlhaus for the medical sub role with veteran Shaun Higgins also an outside chance to be given the vest should coach Chris Scott want to inject more experience into the line-up.
Steven May v Tom Hawkins
The battle of two 2021 All-Australians should be one of the matches most important. May has had a terrific 2021 season, averaging 18.1 disposals, 5.7 marks and 5.9 spoils in what has been a career best season teaming with fellow defender Jake Lever. May will no doubt take the match-up of Hawkins who has also had a stellar season, kicking 61 goals for the season including a bag of five against the Giants last week.
Bayley Fritsch v Jake Kolodjashnij
Demons forward Bayley Fritsch has proven he can hit the scoreboard when let off the chain in 2021. He's kicked 51 goals at an average of 2.3 a game and you'd expect Cats defender Jake Kolodjashnij to get the matchup at Optus Stadium. He often takes the oppositions best forward in a lock-down role so expect coach Chris Scott to send him to Fritsch first but if he's not able to contain the goal sneak, they have back-up options in Zach Guthrie or Jed Bews.
Max Gawn v Rhys Stanley
Rhys Stanley will have to play the game of his life against Dee's skipper Max Gawn if the Cats are any chance of an upset. It'll be a super task for the journeyman who's been in solid form across the finals, breaking even with GWS ruckman Shane Mumford in the hit-outs last week (35 apiece) and winning the battle with Scott Lycett against Port two weeks ago (20-16). He'll likely receive a chop-out from Esava Ratugolea - while Gawn should also get support from Luke Jackson - but if he's to stop the All-Australian ruckman from leading his side into a grand final next week, Stanley will have to continue his strong form tonight.
SECOND PRELIMINARY FINAL - PORT ADELAIDE V WESTERN BULLDOGS
Date: Saturday 11 September, 7:40pm
Venue: Adelaide Oval
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Out: S. Powell-Pepper (sub)
QF sub: S. Powell-Pepper (replaced O. Fantasia)
B: R.Burton, T.McKenzie, A.Aliir
HB: M.Bergman, T.Jonas, D.Byrne-Jones
C: X.Duursma, O.Wines, D.Houston
HF: K.Amon, T.Marshall, Z.Butters
F: R.Gray, C.Dixon, C.Rozee
FOLL: S.Lycett, T.Boak, W.Drew
I/C: S.Motlop, R.Bonner, O.Fantasia, P.Ladhams
EMG: S.Powell-Pepper, S.Mayes, J.Lienert, T.Clurey
In: Z. Cordy, S. Martin
Out: C. Weightman (concussion), A. Keath (injured), Le. Young (omitted)
Last week's sub: J. Johnannisen (replaced C. Weightman)
B: E.Wood, R.Gardner, B.Williams
HB: C.Daniel, Z.Cordy, B.Dale
C: B.Smith, J.Dunkley, L.Hunter
HF: L.Vandermeer, A.Naughton, A.Treloar
F: J.Schache, T.English, M.Hannan
FOLL: S.Martin, J.Macrae, M.Bontempelli
I/C: J.Johannisen, T.Liberatore, T.Duryea, R.Smith
EMG: A.Scott, Le.Young, M.Wallis, E.Richards
A lot to dissect with this one. The Power go in unchanged from their Qualifying Final line-up, meaning Orazio Fantasia has been declared fit after being subbed out with a knee complaint two weeks ago. Fellow forward Mitch Georgiades hasn't recovered from a hamstring injury suffered in round 23 and will miss while Sam Powell-Pepper could again be named as the medical sub after not cracking into the starting 22. For the Dogs, they've elected to roll the dice and name experienced ruckman Stefan Martin despite only playing one game in 134 days due to injury with the big man trusted with the ruck duties, replacing the omitted Lewis Young. Important defender Alex Keath will miss with a hamstring injury, replaced by Zaine Cordy while forward Cody Weightman will also miss after suffering a concussion and entering the AFL's 12-day concussion protocols with Jason Johnannisen coming into the starting 22 for Weightman. Skipper Marcus Bontempelli has been named despite speculation he wouldn't be fit following a knee injury in the dying stages of last week's semi-final win.
Scott Lycett v Stefan Martin
Lycett monstered the Dogs in round 23, finishing with 40 hit-outs, 22 disposals and five clearances so it's clear to see why Dogs coach Luke Beveridge has rolled the dice and brought in Stefan Martin. Martin has struggled with injury throughout his first season in red, white, and blue but expect the former Lion to curtail the influence of Lycett from the side's last match-up with this battle the most important of the match.
Robbie Gray v Taylor Duryea
Duryea was excellent when sent to Lion's star Charlie Cameron in last week's semi-final win, shown by his one-on-one win in the dying stages of the fourth quarter. It was a contest that could have decided the game so expect the former Hawk to get the job on the Power's most experienced and talented small forward in Robbie Gray. While we expect him to start on Gray, don't be surprised if he also pays close attention to Connor Rozee or Zak Butters should either of the Power's two young stars start hitting the scoreboard when the ball is inside 50.
Featured Image Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons
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