It’s cutthroat semi final time for four teams – with only two going on to face Geelong and Sydney in the preliminary finals.
On AFL360 Fox Footy analysts David King and Leigh Montagna uncover the key for the four semi finalists to stay alive in season 2022.
And for Melbourne, it might mean sacrificing a star this weekend in a bid to face the Cats with their strongest possible line up.
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The key: Send Dev Robertson to Clayton Oliver
With Melbourne star Christian Petracca hampered by a hairline fracture to his leg and a corked calf, Leigh Montagna believes now is the time for the Lions to shift focus to Clayton Oliver.
In the Dees’ two matches against Brisbane, Oliver has racked up 35 and 30 disposals respectively, with a combined 25 clearances in the two games.
“(Brisbane’s) clearance game is the greatest strength – when they win the clearance differential battle, they are 12-1 (win-loss for 2022),” Montagna explained.
“Winning clearance for them is crucial.
“The concern against Melbourne in both times they’ve played this year, they’ve lost the clearance differential and they’ve been heavily scored against from clearance – it’s going to be a massive factor.
“If you look at Clayton Oliver’s numbers the last two times they’ve played … Clayton Oliver owns the Brisbane Lions.
“This is the opportunity with Christian Petracca a little banged up, do they tag Clayton Oliver? I think they have to.
“Deven Robertson went to (Richmond’s Dion) Prestia, comes into the team, (was) critical last week.
“If he can try and nullify Clayton Oliver, and we know Lachie Neale is going to try his hardest, but it’s hard to do it single-handedly.”
The key: Rest Petracca to win the flag; not the semi
It’s no secret Christian Petracca is in a race to prove his fitness for this Friday’s semi final at the MCG.
Scans revealed the midfield star sustained a hairline fracture to his tibia and a corked calf in a heavy collision with Swan Lance Franklin early in their qualifying final.
Fox Footy’s David King believes the key to Melbourne’s premiership push is getting Petracca right for Geelong – and not Brisbane.
“At some point you’ve got to beat Geelong to win this premiership,” he said.
“They can’t beat Geelong with Christian Petracca not near his best.
“In my eyes, you take the risk on this game – you’ve got other soldiers there. You’ve got (Clayton) Oliver, (Angus) Brayshaw, (James) Harmes, (Jack) Viney, the two rucks we constantly talk about. You’ve got enough weapons in the midfield to get this job done.
“I don’t want him going through this game at 80 per cent and then still being banged up and sore next week, and impacted and playing at 80 per cent next week.
“Get him as close to right as you can now – take the risk on the semi final to win the grand final.”
King warned if Petracca opted to push ahead, after doctors said he didn’t risk further injury to the fracture, other issues could pop up.
“You change your gait, you run in a different manner, you’re not as explosive – you stress other parts of your body,” he said.
“Often when you’ve got a calf like this, you do a hamstring because you change the way you run.
“I would just get him right – if this is in anyway impacting him. not the fracture but the calf, I wouldn’t take the risk.
“It’s not about beating Brisbane – it’s about winning a flag. I think they can beat Brisbane without him.”
The key: Finish your chances
Collingwood have endured a fairytale 2022 season, with remarkable final quarter feats lifting them into the top four.
But there’s one part of their game where they have struggled – converting their chances inside 50.
The Pies are ranked 13th in the competition for scores per inside 50 – going at just 42 per cent for the home and away season.
Against the Cats in their qualifying loss, the Magpies scored from just 39 per cent of entries.
“They had so many opportunities to hit the scoreboard more than they did,” Leigh Montagna said.
“The amount of times players were out and they didn’t capitalise.
“It’s been an issue for Collingwood for the majority of the year. It’s that final play where they probably lack a bit of class compared to other teams in the competition.”
Montagna warned Collingwood needed to convert against Fremantle’s “stingy” defence if they are to march on in 2022.
“They’ll get good looks because of the way they play, but they’ve got to finish.”
The key: Slow it down
Fremantle’s breakneck pace in the front half got them back into the contest against the Dogs, despite being 41 points down in their elimination final.
But that style of play won’t hold up against Collingwood, David King has warned.
“It’s the control game for Fremantle – we saw Sydney do it against Collingwood a few weeks ago,” he said
“Don’t play at breakneck speed – control. If you are unsure, find an uncontested mark.”
Statistics show Fremantle are yet to lose a game in 2022 when they take 100+ marks for the match – they are 11 wins and a draw this season.
“What it does, it allows the patient build up to get their defence set behind the ball,” King said.
“They don’t bleed on turnover. The don’t leak scores.
“If they can control the tempo, build the ball slowly; they’ll be tougher at clearance and tougher at contest. It can come together. It’s the perfect match up for them, if they can get their game going.”
King said the Dockers needed to avoid the “ugly”, “unstructured” style of game, seen the last time the two teams met in the wet in Perth, as it suits Collingwood.