AFL News for the week ending September 10, 2023: Pies and Blues grind out wins, Lions sails through Port Power and the Giants climb the Saint-stalk
So, with the first week of the finals done and dusted, we had four games that lined up as two sets of similar outcomes
The first were the hold-on for-grim life wins that Collingwood had against Melbourne and Carlton against Sydney.
In both games, the sides that eventually won - the Pies and Blues - dominated early and, to be fair, always looked like winning.
However, their opponents - the Demons and Swans respectively - may have both looked down and out during parts of the game (at least according to the scoreline) but never really gave up, with both coming home in a rush.
Another few minutes of play in either game and the results could have easily flipped.
Melbourne and the Blues will meet next week, both needing to fill holes left by injury and reports. Melbourne will play without Angus Brayshaw after his collision with Collingwood's Braydon Maynard, who may also leave a gap in Collingwood's game plan given he has been sent straight to the tribunal for the incident.
And the Blues go into the game without key forward Harry McKay and one of the stars of their game against Sydney, Jack Martin, who has been offered a two-match ban for striking Sydney’s Nick Blakey. Carlton will probably appeal the ban and, at best, might get it reduced, although it being completely overturned looks less likely.
In the other games, both the Giants and Brisbane kept their respective opponents mostly at arm's length, albeit at times with the Saints and Ports paring back larger leads to challenge.
The Saints went in missing star Tim Membery, out for personal health reasons, but this out was matched by a massive one for the Giants in Stephen Coniglio. This ended up being far more consequential for the Saints as Giants such as Lachie Whitfield, Tom Green and an on-fire Josh Kelly all rose to the occasion - if Coniglio had played, the win might have been even bigger.
And, up at the Gabbatoir, the Lions proved yet again how hard they are to beat on their home turf. Joe Daniher starred with five goals and 16 touches, always seeming to be somewhere not too far from the action, and Charlie Cameron got to belt out "Country Road" twice in quick succession when he snagged two goals in the third quarter. Maybe as a sign of there being greater things to come for the Lions, Lachie Neale was heavily tagged so had a quietish game, so will be set for a big one after a week off.
The Giants will head to Adelaide next week to play Port at home feeling some sense of invincibility and not fearing that the massively home-supporting crowd will put them off their game: they're used to travelling and will brush off almost any issues with this.
But they will come up against a wound-licking Power ripe for redemption and keen not to go out in straight sets.
Whichever way next week's games go, the winning sides both face the huge task of upsetting the Pies and Lions at grounds that will favour the two rested teams, meaning at this stage a Grand Final meet up for these two sides is looking more and more likely, something Lions fans have rightly been expecting for several years and you could say deserve for their patience.
However, footy is a fickle game, and there could be an unexpected twist or turn similar to the Doggies 2016 barnstorming Grand Final win that took many of us by surprise.
Time will tell.