Adam Goodes will be a key player in the AFL Grand Final. Image courtesy of heraldsun.com.au
Without doubt, the two teams playing the best football at the pointy end of the season will face off in Saturday’s grand final. Hawthorn has been the premiership favourite for most of the season, but the Swans are looking Cherry Ripe coming in to the decider after two commanding finals wins.
The formline would look to favour the Swans with each side having matched up against Collingwood and Adelaide in the finals so far. Both were challenged by the ‘Pies at times, before running out relatively comfortable winners. In the first week of the finals, Sydney travelled to Adelaide and left the City of Churches with a commanding 29-point win in the bag. In contrast, Hawthorn only just scraped through in their preliminary final appointment with the Crows, winning by five points.
For the first time in the finals, though, the Swans will experience the open expanses of the MCG. It’s hardly a happy hunting ground for John Longmire’s men considering they’ve lost 11 of their past 13 games there. The Hawks have won their past 11 matches at the ‘G against interstate opposition, and 12 of 15 there this season.
The teams split their head-to-head contests this season, with Sydney winning by 37 points in round 5 in Launceston, before the Hawks triumped by seven in a thriller at the SCG in round 22. In both games the home side jumped out to an early lead before being run down in the second half.
Where it Will be Won
– Hawthorn plays a game which is kick-heavy but based on keeping possession. Whether they’ll be able to find the space against a Swans outfit which applies pressure better than any other team in the competition could decide the outcome. Sydney harassed Adelaide and Collingwood in to oblivion and apart from a quick burst of goals at the end of the third and start of the fourth quarter from the ‘Pies, neither side has been able to crack the Swans’ watertight defence.
Brownlow Medal runner-up Sam Mitchell had his two quietest games of the season against the Swans thanks to some close checking from Kieren Jack . Even if he’s shutdown, the Hawks can still rotate the likes of Luke Hodge , Brad Sewell , Jordan Lewis and Shaun Burgoyne through the midfield to great effect.
The Hawks have got plenty of grunt in the midfield, but so too have the Swans. If the expected wet weather hits the ‘G on Saturday, tough inside players like Josh Kennedy and Jude Bolton will come in to their own. Kennedy has been unstoppable in both finals racking up 10 clearances in each game, and his work at the stoppages has allowed Ryan O’Keefe and Sydney’s other outside mids first use of the football. If it buckets down, expect the Norm Smith Medallist to come from one of the men doing the bullocking work in the centre.
– Sydney has the best defence in the league, but All-Australian fullback Ted Richards will carry an ankle injury in to the game, so expect Lance Franklin to try to run him all over the park. Between Cyril Rioli , Jarryd Roughead , Jack Gunston and Luke Breust , Hawthorn may have too many goalkicking options for the Swans to keep quiet. Hawthorn 1-24
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