Grand Final Combatants Renew Hostilities

Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/Phil Hillyard
The Swans beat the Hawks to claim the 2012 AFL premiership. Image courtesy of dailytelegraph.com.au/Phil Hillyard
Last Five Meetings

GF, 2012 – Sydney Swans 91 d Hawthorn Hawks 81 (MCG)
Round 22, 2012 – Hawthorn Hawks 102 d Sydney Swans 95 (SCG)
Round 5, 2012 – Sydney Swans 106 d Hawthorn Hawks 69 (Aurora)
SF, 2011 – Hawthorn Hawks 122 d Sydney Swans 86 (MCG)
Round 9, 2011 – Hawthorn Hawks 106 d Sydney Swans 60 (SCG)


Form

     Rd 2       Rd 3       Rd 4       Rd 5       Rd 6   
Hawthorn   W  W  W  W  W
Sydney   W  W  L  W  W

Apart from playing in last year’s grand final, Hawthorn and Sydney have plenty in common this season. Both teams are 5-1 and their sole defeats came at the hands of the Geelong Cats. There were plenty of pundits who thought the Hawks threw away a premiership with their poor ball use in the final quarter of last season’s decider, so here is a chance for Hawthorn to make amends, in a small way, for their loss on the biggest day of the season.

To do that, a firing Lance Franklin would certainly help. ‘Buddy’ has kicked 0.7 across his past two games as firstly Scott Thompson, then Daniel Talia, have had his measure. He went goalless in just one match last year, and not since the sixth and seventh matches of his career in 2005 has the Hawks’ talisman failed to register a major in back-to-back games. If there’s a backline you don’t want to come up against when going through a short goal drought, it has to be the Swans. In saying that, Franklin has kicked 21 goals in his last six games against the Bloods, including three in last year’s decider.

The Swans have managed to get off to fast starts their past two games in Sydney. They kicked eight in the opening quarter against the Cats a fortnight back, and then they put 40 on the board before Brisbane had even troubled the scorers on Sunday. Take out the blowout against a rampant Geelong and the Swans are conceding just 72 points per game. Sydney is better than any team at absorbing pressure and they’ll have plenty thrown at them on Saturday night.


Key Men

(Swans) Daniel Hannebery – Last year’s finals series saw Daniel Hannebery really come of age. He averaged 30 disposals and five tackles per game and was one of the biggest reasons why the Swans claimed the premiership. He has lifted his possession count in all six games so far this season, topping the Swans’ count in the past three matches by picking up 29 touches against Geelong (tied with Kieren Jack), 30 versus St Kilda and then another 32 in the mauling of the Lions on Sunday. He won the Rising Star award in 2010, now he’s just an out and out star in Sydney’s midfield.

(Hawks) Jack Gunston – It took some time for Jack Gunston to cement his spot in Hawthorn’s best 22 last year, and even this season he hasn’t exactly set the world on fire, but his effort against Adelaide last week could really spark him. With Lance Franklin a non-entity up forward, Gunston was Hawthorn’s leading goalkicker with three. In 2012 he really came to the fore when Franklin was out with a hamstring injury, kicking 19 goals in six games. With Hawthorn failing to fire up forward the past two weeks, Gunston’s height and athleticism give his team a real target if others aren’t at 100 per cent.


Prediction

Before winning the grand final at the MCG last season, the Swans had lost on 13 of their previous 15 visits to the ground. The teams have split their last six contests 3-3, but every Sydney win has come when it has kept Hawthorn to under 100 points. Lance Franklin isn’t firing, and with no Cyril Rioli to call upon, the Hawks need some other contributors in the forward line. Jack Gunston did an admirable job against his former team Adelaide last week and he’ll need to fire again, especially if ‘Buddy’ continues to spend time on the ball as he has done in recent weeks. Swans by 11 points

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