Its funny how in a knockout final, where everything is at stake for both clubs, one side can seemingly be considered over the line, despite the opposing team’s recent blue chip credentials.
Yet that’s how this week’s impending Elimination Final is poised at the minute, with the match up between last year’s premiers in Geelong taking on Fremantle.
On most markets, Geelong are overwhelming favourites to come out victors. It’s almost enough to make you question why that is. Is it the general expectation of the Cats peaking in September, or rather the belief that they will cruise through, just like they have in previous finals since their watershed premiership of 2007?
To be of that opinion seriously underestimates the coaching and tactical prowess of Ross Lyon.
Simply put, Fremantle’s form in recent weeks is nothing short of outstanding.
The Dockers’ effort of recording nine victories in their last ten matches, while faltering only against the second-placed Crows at AAMI Stadium, has the Dockers seriously primed for September.
More concerning for the Cats was the Dockers’ Round 22 demolition of the Kangaroos at Etihad, storming home with a nine-goal last quarter, and their dismissal of the ludicrous tanking talk by cruising past the Demons in the last home and away round.
All of that comes from a side that struggled to kick 12 goals a game prior to Round 13.
The fact that the match up against the Cats is in Melbourne will not trouble this Docker outfit.
Geelong plays its best football at Simonds Stadium, and it will not have this luxury. On top of this, Fremantle has won four of its five matches in Melbourne this season, suffering only a creditable five-goal loss to Collingwood back in Round 13.
Since that game, the Dockers’ form has taken a complete turn. The main difference of their form, compared to that of a side like North Melbourne, is that they are peaking right on the doorstep of September.
Under Ross Lyon’s coaching, his former side St Kilda very nearly won a premiership against the Cats in 2009 and against the Magpies in 2010, and you can bet he and his coaching staff will have something very special planned in order to roll the mob from Kardinia Park.
One must recall that the Dockers were victorious in their only meeting so far in 2012, by a margin of 4 points way back in Round 1.
Granted, while the Cats are entitled to be considered slight favourites for this must-win final, it certainly will not be the fait accompli many are expecting. Should the Dockers cause an upset, it shouldn’t come as a huge surprise.