AFL previews for week one of finals
CROWS V GIANTS
Adelaide Oval, 7.50pm (AEST)
Recent record: Adel 7 GWS 1.
Last time: R1 2017: Adel 22.15 (147) d GWS 14.7 (91) in Adelaide.
IT'S a blockbuster start to the playoffs with a home preliminary final on the line. Two imposing attacks face off in what could be another shootout, with Taylor Walker, Eddie Betts and co up one end and Jeremy Cameron and Toby Greene among others (but maybe not Steve Johnson) up the other. Betts (four goals) and Josh Jenkins (three) starred in the season-opener, while Cameron kicked four of his own. But whether Rory Sloane (appendix) is part of the Crows' midfield will be crucial. If not, the Crouch brothers (Brad and Matt) could be overpowered by the Giants' onball brigade of Callan Ward, Dylan Shiel and Josh Kelly. The Giants' form away from home doesn't inspire though. They've won four, lost five and drawn one of their interstate games.
CATS V TIGERS
Melbourne Cricket Ground, 7.50pm
Recent record: Geel 10 Rich 0.
Last time: R21 2017: Geel 11.14 (80) d Rich 9.12 (66) in Geelong.
RICHMOND will be running out with 23 tomorrow night. The 22 players and the monkey on their back. Actually there may be two of them. First, we've got the fact the Tigers will be back searching for their first finals win since 2001, having recently lost three straight eliminators (2013-15). Then there's the little matter of not having beaten Geelong in 13 attempts, dating back to 2006. The Tigers won't have to travel to Kardinia Park, but instead play in front of tens of thousands of fans at the MCG. Talk about pressure. It may just be too much for them. Joel Selwood, Tom Hawkins and Mitch Duncan all come into the Cats side that beat the Tigers a month ago. Most eyes though will be on arguably the two best players in the game strutting their stuff in the midfield - last year's Brownlow Medallist, Patrick Dangerfield, and this year's, Dustin Martin.
SWANS V BOMBERS
Sydney Cricket Ground, 4.20pm
Recent record: Syd 9 Ess 1.
Last time: R14 2017: Syd 11.20 (86) d Ess 12.13 (85) in Sydney.
IT'S hard to see Sydney being bundled out in the first week of the finals after fighting back from being 0-6 to win 14 of its past 16 games. But that is a possibility having to take on an Essendon side with a real attacking edge, with Joe Daniher, Cale Hooker and James Sewart up front. Of course, the Swans' trump card is the man down the other end, Lance Franklin, who is coming off a 10-goal haul, and loves playing the Bombers, averaging five a match against them (though slotted 0.6 in round 14). The Bombers will load up two Michaels on him, Hartley and Hurley. Essendon hasn't beaten Sydney since 2011, and hasn't won a final since 2004. Significantly, the Swans head into the finals with 267 games of finals experience. The Bombers have 85.
POWER V EAGLES
Adelaide Oval, 7.50pm (AEST)
Recent record: Port 4 WC 6.
Last time: R16 2017: PA 18.12 (120) d WC 13.10 (88) in Perth.
YOU could understand if Port Adelaide had its fingers crossed West Coast didn't sneak into the final eight. Instead of playing Melbourne, they now host a cut-throat final against a team that has enjoyed so much success at the Adelaide Oval. The Eagles have won five of their past six games there. Paddy Ryder looms as the key for the Power in the ruck against Nathan Vardy (unless Nic Naitanui is stunningly called up ... and wouldn't that be a titanic battle), giving his midfielders - and in turn forwards such as Charlie Dixon and Robbie Gray - the edge. If the visitors get on top, Josh Kennedy could get enough supply to be the match-winner. With Tom Jonas (suspended) and Jack Hombsch (hip) out, Tom Clurey could have a big job in an undersized Port defence.