I’ve decided to go a different way with my final preview of the season. After issuing a statistical dossier on each of St Kilda’s opponents throughout 2014, such an exercise is needless heading into the last game.
The match against Adelaide ultimately boils down to this: if Adelaide is still in contention for the final spot in the eight – the Crows will either know for sure or have an idea depending on West Coast’s progress on the Gold Coast – then it should either qualify or go really close to snaffling the finals berth.
Adelaide’s position is reminiscent of St Kilda’s heading into the final round in 2008. The Saints were already assured of a finals place, but in playing the last game of the round and with a top-four spot still a possibility, they had an enormous incentive going into the game and knew exactly what was required to jump from seventh into the eight’s upper tier.
Playing against an Essendon side with nothing to play for, the Saints extended their advantage at every change and ultimately ran out 108-point victors. Crucially, St Kilda also catapulted three sides, including Adelaide, incidentally, to finish fourth.
However, the abiding memory from the Bombers game was the Etihad Stadium scoreboard, which throughout the last quarter featured a live ladder, with each Saints goal edging the team closer to the top four.
Of course, a Richmond victory against the Swans would snuff out the Crows’ finals push, rendering the above scenario irrelevant. However, if other results are in their favour and Crows enter the Saints game with a realistic shot of playing in September, it would be difficult to bet against them with such a massive incentive on the line. And yes, their reward would also likely be a thrashing at the hands of either Fremantle or cross-town rival Port Adelaide.
Two changes for the Saints, with James Gwilt and Dylan Roberton replacing the injured Sam Gilbert and omitted Tom Curren. Gwilt could be playing his last game for the Saints, and the defender may even call the Adelaide Oval his home ground next season, if reports in the News Corp papers, and discussed on Reddit, are to be believed. As for Roberton, his has been an immensely disappointing campaign after showing such promise in his first season with the Saints. Injuries have cruelled him to some degree, but more than anything Roberton has appeared bereft of confidence. Here’s hoping he at least finishes the season with a positive performance.
The Crows have made four changes, with David Mackay, Brent Reilly, Matt Crouch and Sam Kerridge recalled. They replace the concussed Rory Laird and dropped Charlie Cameron, Luke Thompson and Matthew Wright.
There are some players you just want to play forever. Lenny Hayes stands out as one of the few truly unforgettable players I’ve had the pleasure of watching over the past 16 seasons, and it will immensely sad to watch him trudge off an AFL field for the final time. The Saints will surely lift for their spiritual leader against Adelaide, but it is unlikely to be enough to threaten an unlikely victory. Even if the Crows have been eliminated from finals contention, they will still have far too much firepower all over the field to account for the Saints.
It will be interesting to see how Spencer White performs in his second game. He ultimately finished with three goals despite looking awfully nervous early in his debut last week, but hopefully he’s left the early jitters behind.
Beyond that, I’m sure the players, as much as many of the supporters, are looking forward to the final siren to close this miserable season.
Crows by 50.
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