Two days to go to Grand Final, and here’s another update you won’t be getting from the brain-addled, local sports media – the only mention I’ve seen of AFL in Grand Final Week was the news that some dickhead punched Hawthorn star Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin in the toilet of a Perth restaurant.
Hardly the stuff of legend when the most eagerly anticipated finals of all time is now just two sleeps away. That should be the story you’re hearing from your talking heads: that two teams playing some of the best footy ever seen on an oval are about to go head to head to make history. Two days to go, and both teams will be trying to think about it like it’s just another game – and neither team will be succeeding. It doesn’t get bigger than a Grand Final – and it’s unlikely to ever get bigger than this one.
Geelong have transformed the game with their high speed, high skill rapid passing game over the last three years. St Kilda this year won twenty-odd games straight playing footy that was beautiful to watch, demolishing almost all before them. Their one meeting this season ended up in a one-goal victory for the Saints in a game that could have gone either way. But the Cats had men out injured that day – and on Saturday they’re all back.
Who gets to lift the trophy will depend crucially on how these two play: St Kilda captain and centre-half/full forward Nick Riewoldt (left, below), and Geelong’s Brownlow medal winner Gary Ablett, Jr – seen here evading Sydney’s Adam Goodes.
For their respective teams to win, they each need to fire. That’s a necessary condition for victory. Which means the men tagging them have it all to do. The Cats’ Harry Taylor will likely line up on Riewoldt; who gets to tag Ablett is anyone’s guess, but it’s probably the Saints’ Clint Jones. Jones has the most thankless task in footy.
If his man gets away and Geelong can start playing their high-risk, ‘full-speed through the centre corridor’ footy, then the Saints are going to have a game on their hands – no matter how much “Saints Footy” they put together. But if they do then the Cats will need to kick their goals – that’s what lost them (okay, us) the final last year against Hawthorn. And to kick them they (okay, we) are going to have to navigate St Kilda’s tighter-than-a-duck’s-arse zone defence, and kick straighter than they have been.
I reckon they’re gonna do it, and in just two days time will be lifting the trophy for the second time in three years. Go the Cats!