WHERE AND WHEN: The Spiritual Home of Football, Saturday, October 1, 14:30 AEST
So here we are – the
last Saturday in September first day of October with the game’s biggest prize up for grabs. It doesn’t get any better, especially with two vastly contrasting storylines. In the red and white corner we have the Sydney Swans, an ultra-professional outfit chasing their second title in five years under the guidance of John Longmire. Their brutal first-quarter demolition of Geelong in the preliminary final was a statement of epic proportions. Standing in their way are the courageous Western Bulldogs, who have come from seventh on the ladder in their quest to win their first flag since 1955. It’s been a remarkable finals series for Luke Beveridge’s men who now seriously believe they can achieve the impossible after their stirring six-point victory over Greater Western Sydney. This has all the makings of one of the truly great Grand Finals.
WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR?
Round 15: Western Bulldogs 13.5 (83) d Sydney Swans 11.13 (79) at the SCG
In his first game since round four, Bulldogs defender Jason Johannisen lived every footballer’s dream with a match-winning goal in the dying seconds. Johannisen showed nerves of steel to kick the set shot from 45m out directly in front to seal the four-point victory. The Bulldogs prevailed in one of the games of the season behind big games from Matthew Boyd, Lachie Hunter and Marcus Bontempelli, while Swans spearhead Lance Franklin kicked five goals for the hosts.
LAST FIVE TIMES
R15, 2016, Western Bulldogs 13.5 (83) d Sydney Swans 11.13 (79) at the SCG
R5, 2015, Western Bulldogs 11.11 (77) d Sydney Swans 10.13 (73) at the SCG
R22, 2014, Sydney Swans 20.10 (130) d Western Bulldogs 9.13 (67) at The Docklands
R19, 2013, Sydney Swans 21.8 (134) d Western Bulldogs 15.9 (99) at The Docklands
R21, 2012, Sydney Swans 26.11 (167) d Western Bulldogs 13.7 (85) at The Docklands
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
1. A fast start. The Swans tore Geelong apart in the preliminary final, kicking eight unanswered goals before the Cats got on the board. From there, the Swans were always in control.
2. Isaac Heeney to continue to be a ball magnet in the midfield. He’s been sensational in the Swans’ two wins in the finals with his attack at the contest and superb ball use.
3. Don’t expect the Swans to have Grand Final nerves. There are several new faces in the side, but there are still a lot of experienced campaigners who will be desperate to avenge their embarrassing loss to Hawthorn in the 2014 decider.
1. Who gets the big job on Lance Frankin? It’s either going to fall to Joel Hamling – who hasn’t played the Swans his 22 career games – or veteran Dale Morris. Franklin kicked five goals on first-year player Marcus Adams (out for the year with a foot injury) in round 15.
2. The Bulldogs need to find a way to control the Swans’ big four midfield guns – Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker, Josh Kennedy and Kieran Jack. The quartet are the kings at winning contested ball and giving the Swans the upper hand at the stoppages.
3. Jason Johannisen and Matthew Boyd to impose themselves on the game with their rebound from the defensive 50. The Bulldogs get all their run and drive out of defence, allowing their midfielders to then move the ball quickly into the forward line for easy “over the back” goals to Clay Smith and Tory Dickson.
THE SIX POINTS
1. Jason Johannisen’s goal with seconds on the clock sealed a thrilling four-point win for the Bulldogs at the SCG in round 15, but the stats showed how close it was. The Bulldogs edged the Swans by the narrowest margin in the possession count 392-391 and the Inside 50s with 56-53. Matthew Boyd had 32 disposals for the winners, while Swans superstar Lance Franklin kicked five goals from nine scoring shots.
2. The two teams who find the ball the most will battle it out for ultimate glory. The Bulldogs are the only team in the competition to average more than 400 possessions per game. The Swans are their closest rivals, averaging 396.5 per game. Roles are reversed in contested possessions, with the Swans ranked first and the Bulldogs in fourth.
3. The Bulldogs have a 3-1 advantage over the Swans in their four previous finals games. Their most recent encounter was a five-point victory to the Dogs in a semi-final in 2010 at the MCG. The Bulldogs will be aiming to win four consecutive finals.
4. The Swans have been the premier defensive team this year, conceding just 68 points per game. The Bulldogs aren’t far behind having restricted their opponents to 73 points per game.
5. When it comes to Grand Final experience, the Swans easily have the upper hand. This will be the club’s 17th Grand Final for a return of five premierships and their third decider since 2012. Eighteen players on their list have played in a Grand Final, compared to just one (Matthew Suckling) for the Bulldogs. It’s just the third Grand Final for the Bulldogs and their first since 1961 in their quest to break a 62-year premiership drought.
6. Sydney Swans dynamo Isaac Heeney was the highest-ranked player from the two Grand Final teams from last weekend’s preliminary finals in the AFL Player Ratings. Heeney racked up 20.3 points to continue his steep climb in the overall standings this year. Having started this season ranked 475th, Heeney has improved a massive 342 places to be 133rd in the competition.
WHAT THE COACHES SAY
John Longmire: “(The Bulldogs have) been fantastic. If you look at their three finals games, they’ve beaten last year’s Grand Finalists on their home deck in Perth. Then they’ve come back and beaten the team (Hawthorn) that’s won the last three premierships at the MCG, then GWS on their home ground. It’s as solid as there is. I think them finishing seventh was a bit unusual because they won 15 games for the year, and their finals series has been outstanding.”
Luke Beveridge: “You’ve got to make sure you don’t play the game over and over (in your head). It’s a bit of a broken record, but really it is the best advice. Ultimately, every final is more important than the home and away games, but if you stray from what you know, you’re in a bit of strife. There’ll be a lot of exciting things going on during the week, but I think they’re such a new-age sort of bunch, I think they’ll really enjoy it and take it in their stride.”
IT’S A BIG WEEK FOR …
Lance Franklin: These are the moments why the Swans paid $10 million to lure the champion forward away from the Hawks. Buddy is one of the few players capable of winning a game on his own. A dynamic quarter or two may be enough to tip the Swans over the edge.
Marcus Bontempelli: It’s hard to believe ‘The Bont’ is only 20 given his incredible composure and ability to make the right decision. The big-bodied midfielder has been incredible all season and is pivotal in what happens in the final chapter of this amazing Bulldogs fairytale.
MOTTSY’S TIP: As much as I want the Doggies to get up, my head says Sydney by 15 points
YOUR TIPS: Give us your predictions for the winner, margin, first goal kicker and Norm Smith in Comments!
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