It’s a cast-iron guarantee of AFL football – the two teams who have to make use of their double chance will inevitably spend their week being tipped to bow out in straight sets.
Is it fair? Perhaps. Does it come true? Not always.
But is the pressure real? Absolutely, and it is there for Geelong against Sydney and for GWS against West Coast this weekend.
Some teams have the confidence and ability to rediscover their best, others run into opponents in better form … and others will simply “hit the wall”.
Last year the Swans lost to GWS in week one but bounced back against the Crows. The Hawks lost to Geelong, then went out to the Bulldogs.
In 2015, Sydney went out in straight sets, but Hawthorn rebounded on the way to the flag. In 2014, Fremantle and Geelong both lost consecutive finals — that’s four out of a possible six teams out in week two in the last three years.
Between 2011 and 2013, all six teams who required the double chance won their sudden-death semi. None managed to make it to the grand final, however. So where does this leave us this weekend?
Geelong v Sydney
Geelong will need a faster start against the Swans than in their preliminary final loss at the MCG last September. (AAP Image: Tracey Nearmy)
Even though the game will be played at the MCG, the Swans will go in with confidence, having beaten Geelong in five out of their last six outings, including last year’s preliminary final at the same venue.
There are a few concerns for the Cats after their trouncing by the Tigers. The first, aside from the injury to midfielder Cam Guthrie, is whether Joel Selwood will be up to speed for the cut-throat semi.
Last five meetings: Cats-Swans
- 2017 Rd20 – Sydney beat Geelong by 46 pts (KP)
- 2016 PF – Sydney beat Geelong by 37 pts (MCG)
- 2016 Rd16 – Sydney beat Geelong by 38 pts (KP)
- 2015 Rd 19 – Geelong beat Sydney by 32 pts (KP)
- 2015 Rd 7 – Sydney beat Geelong by 43 pts (OS)
* PF = Preliminary final
KP = Kardinia Park
OS = Sydney’s Olympic stadium
The skipper had 19 disposals and five tackles in his return from injury but at times looked well off the pace.
Tom Hawkins worked hard in his new up-the-ground role, but his handball to Zach Tuohy when in scoring position was worrying. Surely Chris Scott will bring in Daniel Menzel to boost the attack.
The keys for Geelong are to get on top in the midfield and to score early and often, avoiding a repeat of last year’s preliminary final when the Cats kicked just two goals against Sydney in the first half.
Sydney’s defensive pressure is very similar to Richmond’s, so it will not be an easy task.
The other area Geelong was hammered in was marks inside 50. The Tigers took 18 grabs in their forward 50 compared to five for the Cats. Sydney managed 19 marks to Essendon’s five inside the arc.
For the Swans, a lot depends on the state of Lance Franklin’s right calf. He may have kicked four goals on one leg against Essendon, but he’s likely to have a stronger matchup than the Dons’ Patrick Ambrose this week.
If Sydney is to progress, the defence has to remain supreme. From rounds 18-23, the Swans conceded an average of 61, and their coverage was even better in the elimination final, allowing the Bombers a mere 56 points.
The Cats averaged 73.3 points against a game in rounds 18-23, before the Tigers scored 13.13 (91) on them.
Chris Scott’s men require a lift across the board — it’s not beyond them, but the challenge is sizeable going into Friday night.
GWS v West Coast
Matt Priddis was vital in West Coast’s stunning win over the Power — the Eagles will need him again. (AAP: David Mariuz)
There is plenty on the line on Saturday night for the Giants and coach Leon Cameron — it would be a step backwards to finish fourth and then bow out with consecutive losses, a year after finishing fourth and getting within a kick of a grand final spot.
The Giants will have to do without key forward Jeremy Cameron, and potentially without ruckman Shane Mumford.
Last week the big men Cameron (0.0), Jonathon Patton (0.2) and Rory Lobb (0.1) failed to provide even one goal between them for the Giants — Harrison Himmelberg (one goal) was the only tall who converted.
Last five meetings: Giants-Eagles
- 2017 Rd 22 – GWS beat West Coast by 21 pts (SS)
- 2017 Rd 10 – GWS beat West Coast by 8 pts (SO)
- 2016 Rd 21 – West Coast beat GWS by 1 pt (SS)
- 2015 Rd 5 – West Coast beat GWS by 87 pts (SO)
- 2014 Rd 8 – West Coast beat GWS by 111 pts (SO)
SS = Sydney Showgrounds
SO = Subiaco Oval
With Lobb potentially spending time in the ruck this week, GWS may bring in Steve Johnson for one more crack, and spread the scoring load with Patton and smalls like Toby Greene, Josh Kelly, Stephen Coniglio, Callan Ward.
Both teams will need to improve their inside 50s to goals ratio — in week one the Eagles managed a goal every 3.8 entries, while the Giants needed 8.7 trips inside 50 for every major.
West Coast will go in with momentum after their heart-stopping extra-time win over Port Adelaide.
The Eagles’ soon-to-be retiring midfield duo of Matt Priddis and Sam Mitchell starred against Port Adelaide with a combined 61 disposals, 10 tackles, 15 clearances, 10 inside 50s and a goal. Can they reproduce that against GWS?
Meanwhile Josh Kennedy kicked three against Port, though two of them came in extra-time. Those goals were clearly pivotal, but West Coast will need their star forward to hit the scoreboard on Saturday.
The other question is whether Simpson is willing to take a chance on rushing Nic Naitanui back for the semi-final.
At his best, Nic Nat would be a brilliant addition to the line-up. But when he hasn’t played in 13 months, he has to be a massive risk — the Eagles already have the functioning ruck partnership of Drew Petrie and Nathan Vardy.
Despite their week one loss, the Giants should still be favourites against the Eagles. It remains to be seen whether they can rediscover their best, and whether West Coast can lift again to seal a spot in the prelim.