The 2012 AFL finals are shaping up as a two horse race between Hawthorn… and the Rest. But it’s not all signed, sealed, and delivered. The Hawks defence has been questioned and then there is that seeming inability to get their shit together when they front up against the Cats, but there seems to be few other chinks in their armor. We take a look at the pros and cons and detail why you’ll be glued to your TV this September.

Pedestrian’s Guide To The AFL Finals

HAWTHORN HAWKS

WHY THEY’LL WIN:
The Hawks began the season as the team to beat and not much has changed. If anything, their form has improved in the leadup to the finals. Lance Franklin slotted back into the team after a six week lay off like it ain’t no thang, booting 8 goals in 2 weeks and this week sees the return of Cyril Riolli who has shown fine glimpses of form this season. Jack Gunston has declared himself in a big way while Jarryd Roughead and Luke Hodge have both stood up when needed, particularly in Buddy’s absence. Their supposed reliance on Buddy is a bit of a myth as there is no shortage of players who can snatch a bag if opposition defences focus all their attention on the big man.

WHY THEY WON’T:

Brent Guerra is a big loss in the backline. Josh Gibson, the league’s top spoiler, has been magnificent this year but will have to lift again to cover Guerra’s absence. There is every chance they will have to come across their bogey side, Geelong, on their way to a possible flag. Having lost 9 from 9 against last year’s premiers, the Hawks would head into such a clash with a lot of unwanted mental baggage.

KEY PLAYER – Ryan Shoenmakers

Hawthorn’s ability to score points is well documented but it’s their defence that will mean the difference between winning and losing the flag. After enduring a pretty horrid finals series last year, Shoenmakers comes back a much better player and will most likely take the key match-ups starting with Travis Cloke on Friday night. If Shoenmakers can baton down the backline, the Hawks will be unbeatable.

CENTER BET ODDS
Premiership: $2.2
Pedestrian Top Tip: Hawthorn vs Collingwood – First Goal Scorer & Winning Margin Double – Lance Franklin & Hawthorn by 1-39 at $14.00

Pedestrian’s Guide To The AFL Finals

ADELAIDE CROWS

WHY THEY’LL WIN:
With Taylor Walker returning, the Crows are at full strength. Along with Walker, the Crows boast some dynamic midfield/forward line combinations with Rory Sloan and Kurt Tippet capable of blowing the game wide open in a very short amount of time. Their soft run into the finals has been a major talking point but they can use this to their advantage as they are injury free, fresh, and full of confidence.

WHY THEY WON’T:
This season has seen a massive improvement from the Crows but it’s a little hard to gauge where they sit considering they haven’t played a Top 4 team since the round 9 loss to the Pies in Adelaide. With little time to adjust to the speed and intensity of finals football, the Crows lack of big match practice has the real possibility of stiffing their home ground advantage against the Swans. Daniel Talia has had an impressive year but should the finals be too great a leap than cracks will rapidly appear in their backline.

KEY PLAYER – Patrick Dangerfield
Dangerfied is a tough nut and will thrive on Semi-final intensity. He loves to get physical and will fearlessly lead the charge into contested ball. Dangerfield’s strength is his versatility. Dangerfield loves to get in tight and physical but if he’s given some space he’s equally at home pushing forward and can be a real chance of bagging a bunch of goals.

CENTER BET ODDS
Premiership: $6.00
Pedestrian Top Tip: Adelaide vs Sydney – Most Disposals Group A – Patrick Dangerfield at $4.25

Pedestrian’s Guide To The AFL Finals

SYDNEY SWANS

WHY THEY’LL WIN:
The Swans are a finals team. They thrive on close games and can scrap it out with the best of them. As the comp’s top tacklers, the Swans will be aiming to starve their opposition of goal scoring opportunities with Ted Richards excelling in his role of backline general. Adam Goddes’ form has been in question for the most part of the season but his experience will not only rub off on a few of the younger guys in the club but he will know how and where he has to lift for these big games.

WHY THEY WON’T:
Sure the Swannies had a tough run home but have the losses against Hawthorn, Geelong, and Collingwood within the last four weeks simply alluded to the fact that this year’s squad is not in the same league as the other teams in the Top 4? Putting points on the board is going to be Sydney’s worry. Michael Pyke has had an impact at times but there are no real stand-outs in the Swans forward line that scream game-breaker.

KEY PLAYER – Josh Kennedy
The Swans are the best contested football side in the competition and Josh Kennedy has been a mid-field star for them this season. Kennedy can get in there and really choke an opposition’s flow of possession which has been effective in limiting teams charge into the forward line.

CENTER BET ODDS
Premiership: $6.50
Pedestrian Top Tip: Adelaide vs Sydney – Quarter by Quarter Leaders – Adelaide/Adelaide/Sydney/Sydney at $21

Pedestrian’s Guide To The AFL Finals

COLLINGWOOD MAGPIES

WHY THEY’LL WIN:

The Pies have a star studded midfield and extensive finals experience across the ground. Dale Thomas, Steele Sidebottom, Darren Jolly, Scott Pendlebury, and Dane Swan are all proven big game players and form the nucleus of a team that we know will lift a couple of gears just because it’s finals time. If they can defeat the flag favorites this weekend, they will blow the competition wide open in the process.

WHY THEY WON’T:
Jolly aside, The Pies have been struggling in the rucking department all year which has created massive problems when the big man needs a breather on the pine. The obvious answer is full forward Chris Dawes but his season-long form slump and inability to effectively coexist with other key forward Travis Cloke should be very worrying for coach Nathan Buckley.

KEY PLAYER – Dayne Beams
Collingwood have an experienced and talented squad that are attuned to success but it is Dayne Beams that looms as most likely to pull a big series of plays from his arse should the Pies be in need of some inspiration. With a lot of the focus on containing Swan and Pendlebury, expect Beams to find some space and create some opportunities to cap off what has been a certain All Australian caliber year for the 22 year old midfielder.

CENTER BET ODDS
Premiership: $6.50
Pedestrian Top Tip: Hawthorn vs Collingwood – Most Goals for Travis Cloke at $7.00

Pedestrian’s Guide To The AFL Finals

WEST COAST EAGLES

WHY THEY’LL WIN:
Despite a horror run of injuries, West Coast were still a real chance of a top four finish up until the final rounds. Last year they smashed expectations going from spoon to top 4 and this is set to further pay dividends as the Eagles enter this year’s finals as a mentally stronger team. Luke Shuey offers penetration from the midfield and defensively the Eagles are very impressive. Last week’s first quarter against the Hawks will be dismissed as a slip up, and if Eric McKenzie makes it back to partner Darren Glass in the backline, they will push opposition teams to really earn their points.

WHY THEY WON’T:
Traveling hasn’t been a problem for classic West Coasts teams of the past but this year the Eagles only have a 50% win rate out of WA. Provided they account for North Melbourne this week, they would then need to win 3 in a row on the road. The Eagles probably have the strongest big men in the competition but their young midfield is not quite at that flag winning level. They will be next year though.

KEY PLAYER – Nic Naitanui
The Hawks contained Nic Nat, the most marketable man in the West and as a result the team struggled. If Naitanui can dominate up front and in the rucks than the Eagles can build unrelenting pressure with a zippy midfield given plenty of targets to hit.

CENTER BET ODDS
Premiership: $13.00
Pedestrian Top Tip: West Coast vs North Melbourne – 60 Point Winning Margin – West Coast 60 Points or More at
$5.10

Pedestrian’s Guide To The AFL Finals

GEELONG CATS

WHY THEY’LL WIN:
They have the experience and form on their side. After copping a mid-season write off they have stormed back into calculations winning six of their final seven. Hawthorn are the clear favorites in this finals series but if any side looms as their bogey team it’s the Cats with a winning streak over the Hawks that now stretches to nine. Geelong are strong all over the ground. Watch for big contributions from Matthew Scarlett and Jimmy Bartel who are both playing in their 21st finals match together.

WHY THEY WON’T:
No one is doubting Geelong’s finals credentials but do they have enough stamina to maintain their form for another month? As we saw with their mid-season woes, the Cats don’t don’t have a huge amount of depth and struggle if they need to adjust their game on the run. Season long inconsistency in the ruck has also emerged as a weakness and is not the kind of issue you want to be patching up in the finals.

KEY PLAYER – Tom Hawkins
In an ominous sign for the other teams, Hawkins’ form has seen a massive improvement in the last month or so of the regular season bagging 6 goals against favorites Hawthorn and the Saints, and snagging four goal hauls against the Bulldogs and the Swans. He is a genuine match winner who can put the game out of reach if you ease up on him for only a moment.

CENTER BET ODDS
Premiership: $7.00
Pedestrian Top Tip: Geelong vs Fremantle – First Goal Scorer & Winning Margin Double – Tom Hawkins & Geelong 25+ at $13.00

Pedestrian’s Guide To The AFL Finals

FREMANTLE DOCKERS

WHY THEY’LL WIN:
Dockers coach Ross Lyon seems to be the clubs most valuable asset as they enter the finals for only the second time since 2006. Lyon has extensive September experience and will need to impart every ounce of knowledge on his improving squad. The Dockers are heading to Geelong with some impressive form with Aaron Sandilands primed to dominate the Geelong ruck and Michael Barlow, Stephen Hill and Nathan Fyfe, providing genuine class in the midfield.

WHY THEY WON’T:
The team has exceeded expectations this year but probably don’t have the toughness to mix it with the competitions best over four weeks. Losing Luke McPharlin was probably the nail in the coffin as his presence in the defensive line will be to hard to replace. As a unit, the Dockers are just too young and inexperienced to mix it with the heavyweights.

KEY PLAYER – Mathew Pavlich
Pavlich has been hampered by shoulder problems this year but needs to be in career best form if they are any chance of overcoming the imposing Cats outfit.

CENTER BET ODDS
Premiership: $41.00
Pedestrian Top Tip: Geelong vs Fremantle – First Goal Scorer – $9.00

Pedestrian’s Guide To The AFL Finals

NORTH MELBOURNE KANGAROOS

WHY THEY’LL WIN:
The capitulation of some big teams who were still expected to be hanging around well into September has allowed for a team like North to sneak into the 8. As rank outsiders, the Kangaroos are expected to be bounced out in the first week but they enter the finals with 10 wins from their last 12, claiming the scalps of the Cats, Crows, and Collingwood throughout the season. They are full of confidence and have nothing to lose. Nathan Grima returning from injury will tighten their defence.

WHY THEY WON’T: It’s been a fantastic couple of months for the Kangaroos but they will probably look back on the Rd 21 win over the Pies as the peak of their season. They simply don’t have the names or experience to compete with the Eagles in Perth. Their best hope is to compete hard and use that game as a learning experience for next season.

KEY PLAYER: Daniel Wells
The extent to which the electric midfielder can offer his forward line quick and clean ball could dictate how far the Kangaroos travel into September. If he is allowed to run, expect a Drew Petrie led forward line to keep the scoreboard ticking over.

CENTER BET ODDS
Premiership: $101.00
Pedestrian Top Tip: West Coast vs North Melbourne – Quarter by Quarter Leaders – West Coast / West Coast / West Coast / North Melbourne at $31.00

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