What History Says – AFL Finals Week 1
After a remarkable 23 rounds of footy and a grueling week off, the AFL Finals are finally upon us.
September is a whole new season and if there’s a year anyone can win it from any position, it’s this season.
The Bulldogs won from seventh in 2016 in what was a spectacular football story, proving that the top four finish isn’t any more a necessity.
And unlike last season, we didn’t know how the final eight would look until the final siren of the final home-and-away match of the year. It was a fitting end to an unpredictable season.
But will this year’s finals series play out the same way? Once again, let’s take a look at the past and see what history says about the first week of the finals.
First Qualifying Final – Adelaide v GWS (Adelaide Oval)
The Crows and the Giants face off on Thursday night in the first qualifying final in what is going to be a fierce contest. These sides haven’t met since the opening round of 2017 and on that day it was the Crows who were victorious by 56 points.
Naturally, you’d expect the Giants to front up better than they did in Round 1, and given they’ve never lost a qualifying final – having only played in one – the Crows should expect a much more robust Giants outfit.
GWS have only ever beaten Adelaide once in their short history and have an average losing margin against the Crows at Adelaide Oval of almost 48 points. It’s not a great statistic for the Giants who have for much of the season been the premiership-fancy, with only one South Australian win from seven encounters.
Why this highly anticipated match-up is exciting and why there is such an unknown, is because the past isn’t showing anything too glamorous about the Crows either. Since 1998, Adelaide has played in five qualifying finals and has lost four of them. Their one win came against Fremantle in 2006, which was then played at Football Park.
Given the Crows’ poor qualifying finals results of the past, history might be kind to GWS in this one, despite the Giants being a newly established team with little history.
Second Qualifying Final – Geelong v Richmond (MCG)
If there’s one thing that everyone already knows about Richmond’s Septembers in the 21st century, it’s that they’ve not had any success.
Everyone is familiar with Geelong’s record against the Tigers, having won 20 of their past 21 matches head-to-head, but are they as familiar with Richmond’s record against Geelong in the finals?
While some may say it’s somewhat insignificant given these sides last met in the finals 22 years ago (when the McIntyre system was in place), these stats will give Tiger fans the optimism that will be the envy of other opposition supports during the finals campaign.
The Tigers have won seven of the nine finals matches played between these sides and six of their past seven, dating all the way back to 1921.
For an extra bit of glimmer to give the Tigers a bit of premature hope, Richmond’s last flag came in 1980. They finished third that season too.
Second Elimination Final – Sydney v Essendon (SCG)
No team has ever made the finals starting the season winless after six rounds. No team except Sydney.
Essendon’s effort to rise from a wooden spoon to seventh on the ladder after the regular season fixture is also an extraordinary effort.
This match-up forms with two teams who are out to continue their strong form that led them to September and we could be set for another thrilling SCG classic.
The Swans were victorious after Gary Rohan’s heroics in Round 14, stealing the improbable win with a goal after the siren.
These two sides have met at the SCG in a final before. Again it was the Swans who saluted by a solitary behind in 1996.
It would seem Sydne has the upper hand in this contest, as they are 5-1 in finals that have been played at the SCG, while they also have a 4-2 record in specifically elimination finals since the turn of the century, and have won their past three elimination finals.
Essendon, however, isn’t the biggest fan of the SCG. They’ve lost their past five matches there – albeit the Round 14 encounter this year where they deserved a win.
One thing keeping Bomber hopes alive is that anything can happen. While history is on Sydney’s side in this one, the Doggies managed to claim premiership glory from seventh in 2016, unexpectedly winning away from home week after week.
First Elimination Final – Port Adelaide v West Coast (Adelaide Oval)
These two teams are good enough to be playing in September, but both have similar issues. The Eagles are flat track bullies, while the Power has been the best team in the competition at beating sides that are below them on the ladder.
But at their respective best, either side can cause damage.
Port Adelaide will thrive having the home ground advantage and, in essence, will be bolstered having won every elimination final they have qualified for. But is that enough for history to be on their side?
While that’s a 100 per cent record, the Power are also 7-4 in total finals they have played with the home ground advantage.
But here’s where it gets messy…
Most people think West Coast are just making up the numbers and will, therefore, bow out of finals. The Eagles have beaten Port Adelaide in the last three encounters between these two sides at Adelaide Oval.
Is that enough to suggest the Power’s elimination final crown will come to an end? While the Eagles have the edge over the Power in recent times, their elimination final record is far cry from the home side. The Eagles are 1-4 since 2002 in elimination finals, and 1-3 in any finals played in South Australia. The last time these sides met in any final was in 2007, where the Power were victorious by a slender three points. This match up looks more like a toss of the coin than what we might have first thought.