YOUR WEEKLY LOOK AT LAST WEEKENDS ROUND OF AFL FOOTBALL…
Across the first weekend of finals, upwards of 250,000 fans saw four cracking games of finals football, with two matches decided by slim margins.
COLLINGWOOD vs MELBOURNE
In the first qualifying final match on Thursday evening, Collingwood got out of the bocks quickly and then survived a last quarter charge by the Demons to win by seven points.
Amazingly Melbourne had 32 more inside 50 entries, but their forward line looked dysfunctional, as they only kicked 7.11 (53) to the Magpies 9.6 (60).
Collingwood were 20 points up at quarter time, along with kicking five of the first six goals of the match.
In a dramatic start to the game, Magpie defender Brayden Maynard jumped to spoil Angus Brayshaw, who was breaking from an early centre stoppage.
As he landed Maynard shoulder collecting Brayshaw’s head, with the Dee knocked out cold before being taken from the ground on a stretcher.
Steele Sidebottom and Jack Crisp were the best for Collingwood, following by Isaac Quaynor and three-goal small forward Bobby Hill.
Captain Darcy Moore was strong in his return game while Jordan De Goey won plenty of ball from stoppage.
For the Melbourne Demons captain Max Gawn was their best in ruck and with his work around the ground.
The midfield trio of Christian Petracca, Clayton Oliver and Jack Viney found their share of the ball, while Kozzie Pickett was a live wire.
CARLTON vs SYDNEY
In their first final in a decade, Carlton held on against a fast-finishing Sydney to proceed to week two of the finals by a single straight kick.
Like Collingwood the previous evening at the same venue, the Blues were out of the blocks quickly, kicking seven goals to two in the first half.
Not able to put the Swans away in the second half, Carlton held on to win their first final since 2013, booking a semi-final with Melbourne after closing out the game – 11.8 (74) to 9.14 (68) – in front of a bumper crowd of 92,026.
This game also had its dramas as Harry McKay wore at heavy knock and was taken off the ground in the hands of the trainers, receiving concussion from the incident.
For the Blues Sam Walsh, Blake Acres, Adam Cerra and the George Hewett found plenty of the ball around the stoppages.
Surprise packet Matt Cottrell kicked a couple of important opportunist goals up forward, while
Adam Saad and Nic Newman gave plenty of drive from defence.
For Sydney All-Australia Errol Gulden was outstanding, while Hayden McLean and Tom McCartin were constrictive.
Callum Mills, the relentless Luke Parker, Nick Blakey rebounding from defence and Jake Lloyd were other strong performers for the vanquished.
GWS GIANTS vs St KILDA
Adam Kingsley’s Giants late season run continued with a healthy 24-point win over the St Kilda in a third game in three days at the MCG.
Named the Orange Tsunami my first-year coach Adam Kingsley, GWS delivered a relentless mix of grit and flair to see off several challenges from the Saints, winning 15.11 (101) to 11.11 (77).
This continued an excellent record for the Giants, which has won at least one final in all its five finals campaigns.
The experienced pair of former number one pick Lachie Whitfield (AFL draft 2012), with 31 disposals and seven inside 50s and Josh Kelly collecting 27 touches and kicking two goals, were outstanding, while young midfielder Tom Green (36 and nine inside 50s) produced a stunning finals performance.
Defender Lachie Ash, ruckman Kieran Briggs and small forward Toby Bedford – who finally beat his tribunal charge in the middle of last week – along with Connor Idun all produced telling efforts.
Jake Riccardi kicked three goals in the Giants win, while Max King also kicked a trio for the Saints.
For St Kilda in Ross Lyon’s return season Jack Steele with a game high 38 possessions, Cooper Sharman, ruckman Rowan Marshall, precious second year talent Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera and former Hawthorn premiership player Bradley Hill all fought gallantly.
BRISBANE vs PORT ADELAIDE
An eight goal third quarter blitz set up the Lions handsome qualifying final win over Port Adelaide at the Gabba, which completed round one of the 2023 finals series.
The hosts had all the answers in a 19.9 (123) to 11.9 (75) win, getting home in front of a parochial home crowd by 48 points.
Former Essendon talent Joe Daniher was brilliant in attack for the Lions, with Hugh McCluggage, Cam Rayner and Josh Dunkley all excelling around the ball.
Rookie Jaspa Fletcher and ruckman Oscar McInerney also had big games.
Best on ground Daniher kicked five goals, while Rayner and Fletcher both finished with three, with the excitement machine Charlie Cameron in his milestone 200th AFL game chimed in with a brace.
Port Adelaide, who have the lead at one point in the second term were again well served by Conner Rozee and fellow young gun Zak Butters.
The classy Dan Houston, Aliir Aliir and returning ruck Scott Lycett were solid against the odds.
Mutliple goal kickers for the black, white and teal were young Ollie Lord (four), Todd Marshall (two) and Sam Powell-Pepper (two)
WEEK TWO FINALS PREVIEWS
Melbourne vs Carlton (MCG) Friday, September 15
The Dees need to quickly regroup, find structure forward of the ball and replace Brayshaw for their clash with traditional rivals, Carlton, who have their own injury issues.
They will be without Jack Martin due to suspension, and Harry McKay will need to be replaced due to concussion protocols.
Melbourne is under the real pressure of departing in straight sets with a semi-final loss for a second successive year.
The Blues need to find two goal kicking options of their own and expect to bring third generation player Jack Silvagni back.
Port Adelaide vs. GWS Giants (Adelaide Oval) Saturday, September 16
Having won at 11 different AFL venues so far in 2023, former Port Adelaide premiership player and now coach of the Giants, Adam Kingsley returns to Adelaide for a blockbuster clash with the Power.
Key members of the GWS running brigade, Whitfield, Tom Green and Josh Kelly were all at the top of their game in week one, while they have strong options in attack, with skipper Toby Greene and Jesse Hogan expected to test the Power’s injury riddled defence.
The emerged young talents in Port’s midfield – Jason Horne-Francis, Rozee and Butters – along with Brownlow Medallist Ollie Wines and Dan Houston will be pivotal around the ball, Sam Power-Pepper is a bull across half forward for the Power and needs to hit the scoreboard.