Qualifying Final 1: GEELONG FALCONS vs. CALDER CANNONS
Saturday August 31st
Win-loss ratio: 14-3
For: 1426 (3rd)
Against: 948 (1st)
FB: Darcy Gardiner – Jye Cross – Samuel Russell
HB: Alex Hickey – Fraser Fort – Jacob Sharp
C: Nic Bourke – Darcy Cameron – Teia Miles
HF: Billy Beardsell – Patrick McCartin – Marcus Thompson
F: Doug Bond – Hugh Goddard – Scott Dixon
R: Luke Davis – James Tsitas – Reid Adams
INT: Joe Maishman – Jackson Nelson – Nick Dixon – Aaron Christensen – Willis Flanders – Zaine Cordy – Tom Batarilo – Meyrick Buchanan
Easily the most settled backline in the league. Ridiculously primed with depth and talent, the Falcons have Fort, Gardiner and Goddard who can rotate through that defence and up forward. Jye Cross is the one permanent defender and even though he’s considered that “fourth in line” in terms of ability by outside sources, he is unbelievably good and would be the best defender in most sides. He’s highly underrated and takes a dozen intercept marks a match. Alex Hickey and Jacob Sharp provide great run out of defence and after arguably his best game for the year last week, Sam Russell is also primed for a big effort, possibly on Calder goal sneak Josh Cauchi.
Despite missing Lewis Taylor from that midfield group, they still have plenty of depth. It is however the one area that Calder will try to exploit and back their hardened midfielders in. Darcy Cameron is in fantastic form, Reid Adams goes about his business unassumingly and then there’s Joe Maishman and Jackson Nelson who still have a whole year to prove themselves. Maishman and Bourke were amongst the best last week and Bourke in particular must be quelled if they are to be stopped simply because he reads the play incredibly well and positions himself accordingly.
When you’ve got the two best forwards of next year’s draft as your key posts, there’s not too much you can do wrong. Hugh Goddard can also drift back and help out the defence, but as a good kick for goal, he’s more suited up forward. Aaron Christensen is hitting some fantastic form and just makes things happen while Marcus Thompson must be one of the most underrated forwards in the competition, booting three goals last week as he snuck under the radar. Scott Dixon is a legitimate third key option if Calder manage to somehow hold Goddard and McCartin.
Luke Davis had a season-best game last week and that will have relieved the Falcons considering his task this week. Up against Peter Wright and Mark Kovacevic who are the most dangerous combination in the league, he will want to replicate his form again in the final. With deceptive agility, he might be able to beat his opponents on the overlap and ensure they have to run both ways.
WHY THEY CAN WIN:
Geelong Falcons have been the premier side all season. Aside from a glitch against Eastern Ranges, they have only lost two games by the narrowest of margins. They have assembled a team not only of genuine top draft chances but a lot of very solid role players who assist the team. James Tsitas wins so much ball on the inside and with Lewis Taylor out due to a foot injury, he becomes so much more important. The thing about the Falcons is that they have so much depth that you simply can’t stop them all. Nick Bourke, Darcy Gardiner, Patrick McCartin, Hugh Goddard as well as Tsitas are just the AIS boys let alone the next tier of stars.
Win-loss ratio: 10-7
For: 1417 (4th)
Against: 1190 (4th)
B: Anthony Prestia – Daniel Thompson – Mitch Jensen
HB: Jack James – Jake Lever – Nathan Blair
C: Paul Ahern – Jedd Clothier – Aaron Christensen
HF: Jake Owen – Peter Wright – Errol McConnell
F: Victor Carboni – Reilly O’Brien – Josh Cauchi
R: Mark Kovacevic – Tom Donoghue – Matt Merlo
INT: Ben Allan – Jason Cooke – Xavier Dimasi – Tanner Nilsson – Jarryd Bonello – Tristan Davies – Ricky Schraven – Charlie Van Der Byl
Calder’s back line has one elite star in Jake Lever who will be able to do the job on one of Patrick McCartin or Hugh Goddard, but he’ll need help from his teammates to try and control the mighty Falcons forward line. Anthony Prestia is a tenacious midfielder who plays in defence given his hunger for defensive efforts and helping his team out. Guys such as Aaron Christensen and Nathan Blair are also able to chip in back there and help them out but it will be a huge task to try and stop all the fire power that Geelong has. If they can nullify the impact and work as a team back there, they are every chance to drive the ball forward and rebound Geelong’s forward thrusts.
This is the one area along with the rucks where they can beat Geelong. A combination of Matt Merlo, Jedd Clothier, Aaron Christensen, Tom Donoghue and Paul Ahern is every bit as good as the one that the Falcons have put out on the park. It will come down to belief, but without Lewis Taylor, the Cannons have one less gun to occupy. Last week Ahern snuck forward and booted three goals and no doubt they’ll be keen to get goals out of their midfielders considering the likes of Jake Owen and Jason Cooke who can provide those bigger bodies around the clearances. If they win the midfield battle, they go a long way to winning the match.
The Cannons forward line raises the most questions. This isn’t to say they can’t score because they certainly can, but they don’t have a set six every week like other teams do. Josh Cauchi is a goal sneak but seems to have tired the last month while Peter Wright is starting to heat up in form. He will rotate with Kovacevic through the ruck although they also have Reilly O’Brien which makes their side incredibly tall. Geelong will be wary of the influence Victor Carboni can have because he can sneak under the radar and wreak havoc for opposition defenders. If Calder can kick 15 goals, they should win.
This is the area in which Calder can really try and exploit the Falcons. Luke Davis was superb last week but with the triple team of Wright, Kovacevic and O’Brien, he will have his work cut out for him. Calder will be keen to work him over and make sure the three tall timbers are rotated to keep them fresh and get first hands to the ball for the midfield to operate efficiently. This is a battle which could very well have Calder on the front foot early.
WHY CALDER CAN WIN:
Calder are one of only three teams to defeat the Falcons this season, so they’ll take confidence in that. Some could argue Geelong had the cue in the rack by that stage, but nonetheless, Calder will have the belief they can do it. If they are to win, the ruck trio must win the hitouts and give silver service to the likes of Merlo, Clothier, Ahern and Donoghue because they can beat the Falcons one-on-one in there. If they can nullify the big key forwards and reduce the likes of Nic Bourke’s impact as a loose man on the game, then they will be in with a fantastic shot.
PREDICTION: Geelong by 25 points.
This isn’t an indictment on Calder at all, Geelong are the premier team in the competition and they just have a bit too much firepower. There is a reason they finished on top and while Calder should challenge them for most of the day, the Falcons should be able to get the win and earn a nice week’s break. In saying this, expect Calder to also be playing off in a preliminary final in a couple of weeks.