Best rise higher in AFL finals 1st week - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Best rise higher in AFL finals 1st week

By Adam Cooper 06/09/2009 08:12:46 PM Comments (0)

Forget August. St Kilda and Geelong emerged the big winners from the first weekend of September, reminding all the AFL finals are another campaign.

The Cats and Saints posted handsome wins in qualifying finals to earn a precious weekend off and the knowledge they are one win away from the grand final.

A day after Geelong beat the Western Bulldogs by 14 points, St Kilda comprehensively beat Collingwood at the MCG, 12.8 (80) to 7.10 (52).

In the sort of performance needed in coming weeks, the minor premiers overcame an early deficit, dominated possession, harassed and tackled, and controlled the game after half-time.

Skipper Nick Riewoldt dispelled any lingering doubts over his ability in big finals, with a superb five-goal game.

Riewoldt overcame an early scare when he jarred his knee to boot three goals in the decisive second quarter, when the Saints wrestled control, and one on the run in the last that secured victory.

Geelong were also emphatic when needed, their six goals to one in the first quarter was the difference in the 14.12 (96) to 12.10 (82) win.

Their victories mean they have next weekend off while the four remaining teams enter sudden-death semi-finals.

The Bulldogs play the Brisbane Lions on Friday night and the Magpies play Adelaide on Saturday night.

The Crows obliterated Essendon by 96 points last Friday night at AAMI Stadium, while the Lions stormed back from 30 points down to beat Carlton by seven points at the Gabba on Saturday night.

The performances of the Cats and Saints underlined why they were the stand-out teams for 80 per cent of the home and away season.

They were guaranteed top-two finishes from round 19, which meant the last four rounds were effectively dead rubbers.

Both dropped two of their last four games like they were waiting for something bigger, while many followers jumped on the Bulldogs and Magpies.

But St Kilda coach Ross Lyon saw how Geelong came to life on Saturday and said his men were determined to follow.

"To see Geelong probably be in the same boat and they were able to flick their intensity on and their hardness," Lyon said.

"We tend to learn some lessons from other teams that played before us."

With no major injury concerns in either camp, St Kilda and Geelong are well placed to make it a third year straight when the top two teams play off in the big one.

Geelong played in both the 2007 (won) and 2008 (lost) deciders and their focus this week will be preparing for a better performance in the preliminary final, having been below par in that match the past two years.

St Kilda's challenge will also be mapping out a training schedule, but Lyon was confident they could strike the right balance.

Lyon was also confident his players could handle the expectation of St Kilda supporters, who believe this year will yield the club's second premiership and first since 1966.

"We're pretty focused on what we need to do," Lyon said.

"At the end of the game it was round 23, we just won round 23 and we get to advance to the next round.

"We're a pretty level, mature group that's been to three prelims (in 2004-05 and 2008)."

Of the four teams playing next week, Collingwood face the biggest hurdle, as they will concede the Crows two days extra recovery and will be without midfielder Scott Pendlebury (suspected broken leg) and most likely forward Anthony Rocca (ankle).

But Magpies coach Mick Malthouse refused to feel hard done by.

"Is life fair? I wake up tomorrow morning, I have breakfast. Half of Africa won't. Is that fair?" he said.

"So let's not caught up in how many days off we've got."

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