AFL writer Nick Davis breaks down the first Elimination Final featuring Adelaide vs North Melbourne in his latest edition of AFL Predictions
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We really saw Adelaide come out of their shell an absolutely dominate the league in the second half of their season, as they won almost every contest they were faced with. Furthermore, their club is in white-hot form, and everyone knows exactly what they have to do to travel further this September. Although they lost their last contest in round 23 to the West Coast Eagles, don’t expect the young Crows to be phased. We should see an extremely hungry 22 boys this Saturday as they look to put away the Kangaroos at home.
Unfortunately for the Kangaroos, they’ve seen an extremely disappointing finish to the season, dropping from 1st place at the halfway point of the regular season all the way down to 8th spot. Furthermore, their form has been lacking lift and composure, as they’ve looked tired and slow for the last 10 or so rounds. It definitely doesn’t help that they’re matched up against the red-hot Crows down in Adelaide in a do-or-die situation this Saturday. Nevertheless, every finals contest has two extremely hungry teams willing to do anything for that win, so expect a contest.
Meetings This Year
Round 1 – Etihad Stadium: North Melbourne by 10
Round 14 – Adelaide Oval: Adelaide by 33
So far this season, these two teams have met twice in fairly close affairs. North had the first say when they put away the Crows by 10 points in Melbourne, but Adelaide hit back in round 14 as they won by 33 points. Round 14 was around the point in the season when North started to struggle and Adelaide began their rampage into the top 8. So, it can only be appropriate to look to the most recent matchup to predict the form this week. Key performances in these games ranged from Jarrad Waite’s 20 disposal and 3 goal game in round one all the way to Rory Sloane’s 30 disposal and 13 tackle game in round 14. However, something both of these teams had in common was their ability to play excellent defence and prevent any big totals on the scoreboard. When considering Adelaide’s late season scoreboard totals, some of which amassed up to 150 points, this can be seen as one advantage to North, as they obviously know the equation to keep Adelaide off the scoreboard and in the ruck.
I’ve loved key Adelaide midfielder Rory Sloane all season, as he’s stepped up after Patrick Dangerfield leaving and proven to be the one to lead Adelaide into September. He doesn’t get very many kicks and marks when he’s in the contest, but his ability to move the ball through his hands 15-20 times per game and create an open, efficient kick up forward is exquisite and extremely necessary. His matchup could either be Jack Ziebell or Andrew Swallow, both capable of playing extraordinary on-ball defence on whoever they match up against. Only time will tell, but look for all three of these players to make a big impact on Saturday.
All year, North ruckman Todd Goldstein has dominated the contest against almost every team they’ve played, and this week he comes up against big man Sam Jacobs for the Crows. Two huge ruckmen looking to make an impact straight up should prove to be one of, if not the most influential matchup of the game. If Goldstein can grab the upper hand on Jacobs early, then North may just be able to jump out of their bad form of recent rounds and look to move the ball up forward and through to their big three key goal kickers.
The final key matchup should be All-Australian defender Scott Thompson attempting to hold off big Kangaroos forward Ben Brown in the best season of his career. As I’ve mentioned all season, Brown is one of my favourite players to take the field in 2016, and his influence in the first half of the season for the Kangaroos was extraordinary. Although his form dropped off towards the end of the season, expect a revitalised Brown to come back after the bye round and try to hit back hard. WHEN this happens, expect Scotty Thompson to give the game attendees a show.
Where the Match will be Won
Let’s just get this out in the clear before we start answering this question – Adelaide will be winning this matchup. There’s no way the form of the Crows will fall short to such a struggling side like the Kangaroos, and the Adelaide Oval has been an absolute fortress all season for Don Pyke’s 22-men. It is because of this form that I believe the Crows will win this matchup at half-forward, as I anticipate key Adelaide forward Tex Walker to kick 5 or more goals in a big victory. I wouldn’t be surprised if Todd Goldstein wins every tip for the Kangaroos, but the ruck roving and efficiency of the Adelaide midfielders will move the ball swiftly and surely up to half-forward, where it’s up to the composure we’ve seen all year from Adelaide half-forwards to either kick goals or deliver further towards the square.
I absolutely love the Crows in this matchup. This is the sort of team they would have torn to shreds in this final part of the season, as they feed on the slowness and inefficient movement through the middle and counteract accordingly. North will come out early and give the Crows a run for their money, but three more bye weeks couldn’t have prepared the Kangaroos for a matchup like this. Whether the margin be huge or miniscule, the Crows will come away with the win here and look to play Greater Western Sydney the week after.
Adelaide by 41