Thu, Sep 8, 5:50pm by Kevin Pitstock
When and Where:
7.20pm at Etihad Stadium
St Kilda – 76
Sydney Swans – 125
Draws – 3
Last Time They Met:
Sydney Swans 10.23 (83) defeated St Kilda 10.8 (68), Round 22, 2011 at ANZ Stadium
St Kilda – WWWLL
Three weeks into this season, St Kilda seemed shot. Eight weeks in, St Kilda was shot. Now, St Kilda is far from shot and is about play off in an elimination final. Amazing.
You’ve got to admire what the Saints have achieved this season. They won 11 of their past 14 home-and-away games to finish in sixth position and earned themselves a home final. Their 20-point win over Carlton was impressive as they suffocated and denied the Blues of any time and space, particularly in their forward line. Also, in a somewhat positive sign, the Saints won the match without big contributions from Nick Riewoldt and Nick Dal Santo.
Sydney Swans – WWLLW
Sydney’s another team that comes into the final with good form and supreme confidence.
The Swans’ humiliating loss to Richmond in Round 20 was perhaps the loss they needed to have. Since then, they’ve won their past three matches, Geelong, Brisbane and, most importantly, St Kilda. There has been a distinct change in the Swans’ game plan over recent weeks, reverting back to old-fashioned one-on-one footy, rather than guarding space. Adam Goodes, Shane Mumford and Rhyce Shaw have all stepped over the past three weeks too.
Final Ladder Positions:
St Kilda – 6th (12-1-9)
Sydney Swans – 7th (12-1-9)
Pundits have been very harsh on Nick Riewoldt when it comes to grading his finals performances. Many believe the 28-year-old struggles to cope with the pressure of September – but this is far from the truth. Over the Saints’ past three finals campaigns, Riewoldt has averaged 2.7 goals, 17 disposals and 8.6 marks per game – phenomenal numbers. Unfortunately, two substandard performances in two Grand Finals are more prevalent in the minds of many. They don’t think of the St Kilda skipper’s five-goal haul against Collingwood in 2008, or his match-winning four-goal haul against Western Bulldogs in 2009, or his telling marks in the first Grand Final in 2010. Saturday night is the perfect opportunity for Riewoldt to reconfirm to the footy community that he can handle the pressure of September.
He’s been one of the Swans’ most experienced and durable campaigners, yet Jude Bolton will be as pivotal as ever on Saturday night. The 31-year-old has had a solid 2011 campaign, averaging 20 disposals, five clearances and a goal per game. Bolton has also averaged seven tackles per match this season, ranked seventh in the competition. If the Swans want to deny St Kilda of easy uncontested possessions and marks, Bolton needs to be at his absolute tackling best to make sure there’s as many stoppages as possible.
St Kilda Team Changes:
IN – David Armitage
OUT – Michael Gardiner
Sydney Swans Team Changes:
IN – Lewis Roberts-Thomson and Sam Reid
OUT – Nick Malceski and Lewis Jetta
Want to witness two in-form teams go head-to-head? Want to see finals footy at its best? Want to get out of Melbourne’s cold weather and watch a game under a roof? Then look no further than Etihad Stadium on Saturday night.
The common perception is that these two teams have plenty in common. In reality, they don’t.
Out of the entire competition, St Kilda is ranked fifth for disposals, while Sydney is ranked 16th. But the Swans average the most contested possessions per game, whereas the Saints average the least. St Kilda is ranked fifth for marks and the Swans are ranked last. However Sydney averages the most clearances and St Kilda averages the least.
Most believe Goodes and Mumford are the keys to Sydney winning this game. But perhaps its biggest wildcard on Saturday night will be Gary Rohan. The 20-year-old has been in terrific touch over the past fortnight, booting five goals from 12 and 16 touches respectively. With electric pace and a large trick bag, Rohan seems like he’s born for September.
But the Saints have their own wildcard. Last weekend, Stephen Milne showed why opposition teams can’t afford to give him a lot of space. The small forward only had nine touches, but three of them were goals. Milne’s record in finals is appalling. It’s time to stand up ‘tip rat’!
Sydney will have plenty of motivation to win this game. In last year’s semi-final, the Swans surrendered a five-goal lead to the Bulldogs and wasted golden opportunity to go through to the next round. That loss hurt the club – and it wants revenge.
However it’s hard to ignore the home ground advantage here. The Saints will thrive at Etihad Stadium, the ground they play better than any other team in the competition.
Best Head-To-Head Bet:
St Kilda by 1-24 ($3.45 – Centrebet)
Also Sportingbet Australia is doing a first goal scorer special on the AFL, on top of the usual first goal scorer payout. If your first goal scorer bet scores the second goal, the guys at Sportingbet will pay you out as well! If he kicks the first two, they will pay you double! Get on!
Other Suggested Bets:
First Goal Scorer – Nick Riewoldt on Sportingbet
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