The mid-week review: Round 23

What got us talking: Worst time for injuries?

The last round of the season is more often than not the ‘nothing’ round.

This year’s top eight was locked in and raring to go while the bottom sides had only pride at stake. The finals-bound teams’ only goal was to make it through unscathed.

Fremantle and North Melbourne’s resting scheme assured their best would be fit for finals. And Richmond was fortunate enough to win without putting any players at risk.

But some teams weren’t so lucky. A litany of injuries spread through the top eight.

Fans cringed, commentators tried to reassure and coaches looked on in despair: finals chances seemed to be questioned.

But will these injuries actually be costly? Or will the finals atmosphere prove to be the best medicine?

The Swans seem to have received the worse blow: co-captain Kieren Jack damaged his medial ligament and is expected to miss three weeks. It looks likely he’ll take no part in this year’s finals.

And West Coast too looked like its finals campaign would have an unexpected hurdle, as midfielder Chris Masten was subbed out in the second term on the weekend after sustaining a hamstring injury.

But coach Adam Simpson has assured Masten will not be sidelined for long after Monday’s scans were “really good”.

“He’ll be touch-and-go this week,” Simpson said. “But if anything it’s a one-weeker from what I can gather.”

Their opponents Hawthorn might also be luckier than first thought, Gun wingman Isaac Smith is expected to make the trip over to Perth despite injuring his knee against the Blues in round 23.

“At this stage you’d have to say he’s a 50-50 chance to play,” Hawthorn’s general manager of football operations Chris Fagan said. “Really the next couple of days are going to tell the story.”

The Bulldogs’ first final in five years will be without some of their stars.

Coach Luke Beveridge conceded ruling out young guns Jordan Roughead and Jason Johannisen would be “two big losses” for the club.

But fortunately, forward Stewart Crameri believes he “should be fine” to play against the Crows after his round 23 injury proved just to be a corky.

The Dog’s opponent Adelaide also did not come away unscathed in the last round, with All-Australian defender Brodie Smith injuring his ankle in their loss to the Cats.

Despite spending the first half of this week in a moon boot, Smith is apparently still “highly likely” to play.

So maybe there isn’t too much to worry about.

Ultimately the team always comes first. None of these clubs will be jeopardising their finals chances on an injured player who can’t perform at their best.

But injuries around finals time are managed differently than those during the season.

So it won’t be costly. A little bit of breathing space, modern medicine and sheer will-power will be enough to get these players at the starting line this week.

What we learnt from round 23

– Resting provides lacklustre results

While North did show a bit of fight in the first half, the Tigers had little resistance in their win, as Port also demolished a depleted Freo. While it’s understood why these teams rested, it certainly made for two predictable and boring matches.

– Upsets, upsets, upsets!

In a round where it appeared all too predictable, the Lions and Cats upturned the favourable Dogs and Crows. Despite these unexpected results, the losses ultimately cancelled each other out and had little effect on the final ladder positions.

– And that’s all folks!

The 2015 home and away season is done and dusted. The bottom eight departed the comp looking towards the trade period and pre-season for redemption after the faults of this season.

What we can expect from the first week of finals

– Hawks finals’ class

While there’s no doubt the Eagles are a fearsome competitor, the Hawks’ experience will help them over the edge. The usually high-scoring teams will not find scoring easy when finals footy comes into play.

– Ross’ resting will be effective

The Swans will be missing some stars in Jack and Franklin while the Dockers will return with their best, rested and raring to go. It will be close but the Dockers will be too good at Domain Stadium.

– Richmond ready for respect

The well-rested North have something to prove after last year’s preliminary final loss. But the Tigers can continue on their momentum and carry that mental edge over the Roos this week. Could this be the year the Tigers break their finals’ hoodoo and earn back respect from the rest of the league?

– The pups’ first crack strong enough

The young Bulldogs might find the larger MCG a bit uncomfortable: in fact, their opponents the Crows have a 4-2 win-loss advantage over their opponents at the ‘G. Despite this, the Bulldogs’ enthusiasm and hometown advantage might be too much for the travelling Crows.

(First published on Bound For Glory News on the 10th September 2015)

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