Footy’s big occasion is upon us and to AFL fans, Grand Final day is a right-royal affair. With usual sports reporter Ronny Lerner away, Cherie Moselen lifts the lid on the contest between Sydney and Geelong. Giddyup!
THE 2022 AFL Grand Final will be contested by Geelong Cats – who should have taken the silverware home in recent years – and the team who squeezed a toughened-up Collingwood out of the competition by one point, Sydney Swans.
Both sides offer a talented list, but eyes will be upon the two gladiators at opposite ends of the ground: aging-out-yet still-got-it Swans’ superstar Lance (Buddy) Franklin, kicker of over 1,000 goals (the most of any current player) and Geelong’s juggernaut in a jersey, the tank they call the tomahawk, Tom Hawkins.
Both key forwards are two-time premiership players. Both are Coleman Medal winners. And both will be hungry for the win.
Throughout much of the season, playing the type of offensive footy they are far-and-away most capable of, the Cats (alongside reigning premiers, Melbourne) were earmarked by commentators to feature come the end of September.
In a final closeup, Geelong defeated Collingwood by six points (78 – 72) to nab the much-coveted week off before its upcoming preliminary final tussle. For the Cats, who entered the season with the most aging bodies in the competition – close to a dozen players aged 30 and over – that week off was critical.
Outside hopefuls Brisbane Lions got the job done in their semi-final thriller at the MCG by 13 points (92 – 79), with inaccuracy throughout costing the much flatter Melbourne. Back to the whiteboard for Simon Goodwin and his boys from him.
Geelong then smashed down the door to the granny, walloping a disappointing Brisbane Lions to win by 71 points.
Led by 350-plus gamer “Captain Courageous” Joel Selwood – the skipper who recently earned the mantle of most capped captain in AFL/VFL history – Geelong appears unstoppable.
But we’ve been here before.
Competition is a fascinating beast. Winning is about more than just who has a great coach, who is faster or harder working (probably powerhouse Patrick Dangerfield if we’re talking Geelong). Mental toughness is key.
Geelong hasn’t won a flag since 2011 and hasn’t won a match in the first week of finals since 2016. Chris Scott’s men have been plagued by the sting of crunch-time losses, so you can bet the bees of disbelief are still humming — even if they have been quieter of late.
The Cats will be hard to beat this time around.
One cannot underestimate the bonuses brought by Tom Stewart — arguably the best intercept defender in the league.
If the Cats can keep the hoodoo from mucking with their mindset; if exciting small forward Tyson Stengle continues to fire; if one of the men most guaranteed to take a contested mark, Jeremy Cameron, jumps high and if Gary Rohan can cancel his criticisms on this biggest of occasions, Geelong has a more-than-even chance of carrying the cup home to the Cattery.
Success is so often about timing.
Over 25 years ago, Sydney’s one other preliminary final at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) saw the Swans snatch glory in an epic win over Essendon by – you guessed it – a single point.
Shades of that 1996 match, last week’s nail-biter against Collingwood was everything fans look for in footy — a fight-back in dying moments with one team destined to claim the counterpart of the truest statement in sport: there can only be one winner.
It wasn’t always pretty, the Swans missing goals which allowed the more accurate Magpies to get back into the game. Footy ultimately comes down to points on the scoreboard, so one more sporting truism gets a guernsey here — it’s not about how; it’s about how many.
For the most part, co-captain Luke Parker put paid to dynamic Collingwood midfielder Jordan De Goey.
Despite a controversial umpiring decision that saw a mark paid to Tom Papley when many think he should have been pinged for a push on Darcy Moore, the Swan’s flamboyant finisher was everywhere.
Papley topped Sydney’s goal-kicking leaderboard in 2019 and continues to prove poised in front of the sticks in John Longmire’s much-improved squad.
In one of footy’s stranger moments, the Pies’ Brayden Maynard tried to rub the oil off the arms of Buddy Franklin, however, the Swan’s fired-up full forward managed to give him the slip long enough to kick a couple of early goals.
And in a sweeter moment, Patrick McCartin – the player who hardened eight concussions during his five-season stretch with St Kilda, who since believed his career might be over due to medical concerns – well, he’s back and he’s better.
Extra sugar: Paddy will run through the banner at the MCG on 24 September with his brother Tom McCartin who also plays for Sydney.
In a fast-paced, injury-prone game like AFL footy, versatility counts.
Young gun – indeed, Sydney has a few – and winner of the 2016 AFL Rising Star award, Callum Mills, would be a monty to win a Brownlow Medal if his coach left him in the midfield consistently, but he’s such a consummate all-rounder that Longmire switches him in and out when needed.
Expertly drilled by “Horse” (Longmire’s nickname) the Swan’s brand of footy suits finals and they certainly won’t die wondering on the day.
Whatever happens this Saturday, in the words of UK pop star Robbie Williams – recently confirmed as this year’s Grand Final guest musical performer – these top two teams will surely “entertain you”.
Cherie Moselen is an Independent Australia assistant editor and freelance writer. You can follow Cherie on Twitter @CherieMoselen.
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