Preview of AFL grand final: stats, profiles and analysis

0 Have your say

Below are all the facts and figures you need to pick a winner in Saturday’s AFL Grand Final between Geelong and Hawthorn at the MCG.

Teams: GEELONG v HAWTHORN
Venue: MCG
Date: Saturday, September 27
Time: 2.30pm (AEST)
Overall finals record: Geelong (played 95, won 42, lost 54, drawn 1)
Hawthorn (played 64, won 40, lost 24)
Head to head: Geelong 73, Hawthorn 66, Drawn 1
Last time: Geelong 12.16 (88) bt Hawthorn 11.11 (77) R17 2008, MCG
Head to head in finals: Hawthorn 3 Geelong 2
Last time in finals: Hawthorn 14.8 (92) bt Geelong 12.11 (83), 1EF 2000, Colonial Stadium
Head to head in grand finals: Geelong 1 Hawthorn 1
Last time in grand finals: Hawthorn 21.18 (144) bt Geelong 21.12 (138) 1989, MCG
Betting: TAB Sportsbet Geelong $1.45 Hawthorn $2.65; Centrebet Geelong $1.45 Hawthorn $2.85

Summary: If grand finals are destiny, then this is the season decider we had to have. The Cats and Hawks have been the two stand-out teams of 2008 and many were predicting long ago their round 17 clash would be the grand final preview.

Both sides have a lot to like, built around superb midfields, multi-pronged forward lines and the all-round toughness that wins finals. The symmetry runs deeper, dating back to the famed 1989 grand final, where the Hawks won back-to-back flags by holding off the Gary Ablett-inspired Cats.

The roles are reversed entering this game, as the Cats are seeking back-to-back triumphs for the first time since 1951-52, while Lance Franklin stands as the wildcard among the pack of Hawk young guns. That said, the Ablett influence is still paramount, as Geelong’s Gary Jnr is the architect in his side’s midfield. While both sides have dismissed round 17 as a relevant form guide, Hawthorn did push the reigning premier all night until they squandered several late shots.

Hawthorn’s impressive finals series this year indicates nerves won’t be a factor on Saturday, when the brown and gold will chase their first premiership since 1991. Hawthorn have the versatility of Franklin, Jarryd Roughead and Mark Williams in attack, but Geelong possess an edge over their rival in defence, where Matthew Scarlett, Tom Harley and Corey Enright were named All-Australian backmen and Andrew Mackie was unlucky to miss out. Conversely, Hawthorn’s defensive half has been penetrable on occasion this season to teams which move the ball quickly and efficiently through the rolling zone.

Luke Hodge will be a key for Hawthorn filling the hole at half-back and whether his sore ribs cop a battering is one of the answers we’re looking forward to finding out. At selection, Geelong named half-forward Paul Chapman to replace half-back David Wojcinski, while the Hawks kept the same side which beat St Kilda last Saturday night.

Key: The Hawks will be hungry, but Geelong were an emphatic minor premier and have not lost their edge this finals campaign. With an extra day of recovery under their belt after the preliminary finals and the experience of last year to draw on, they should cap a near-faultless campaign. Hawthorn will have their time in coming years, but there is something great about a side which has won 42 of their past 44 games.

Hawthorn’s grand final squad

BACKS:

STEPHEN GILHAM. Age: 24. No: 27. Games: 52. Goals: 2. Finals: 3.

Never established himself in three years with Port Adelaide, but has proven a handy key defender for the Hawks, playing every game last year and all but one this season. His consistency has been important, given the club’s dearth of quality key backmen, besides Croad, is seen as their biggest concern.

TRENT CROAD. Age: 28. No: 24. Games: 221. Goals: 189. Finals: 9.

The Hawks’ No.1 key defender and expected to have the job on Geelong spearhead Cam Mooney. Strongly built, with a good leap and solid overhead mark. Regularly does the job against opposition power forwards. Suffered a foot injury in the qualifying final, but looked untroubled in the preliminary final.

BRENT GUERRA. Age: 26. No: 18. Games: 155. Goals: 89. Finals: 13.

Former Port Adelaide and St Kilda player who has thrived in his role as a defensive sweeper for the Hawks, with good decision-making and raking left-foot kicks. Also enjoys dishing out a bone-rattling bump when the opportunity presents.

HALF BACKS:

RICK LADSON. Age: 24. No: 4. Games: 98. Goals: 36. Finals: 4.

Solid running player who knows how to find space and uses the ball well on his left foot. Regularly racks up disposals, but has had a quiet finals series so far, with a total of just 22 touches in the Hawks’ two games. Hurt his shoulder in the qualifying final win over the Western Bulldogs, but played against St Kilda.

LUKE HODGE. Age: 24. No: 15. Games: 131. Goals: 90. Finals: 4.

A natural leader, can play anywhere on the field, but has carved out a role as the Hawks’ defensive “quarterback”. Capitalises on his renowned courage, ability to read the play, cool decision-making and powerful left foot. Will enter the grand final under an injury cloud, having copped a heavy knock to the ribs last weekend, but it will not stop him putting himself in harm’s way.

GRANT BIRCHALL. Age: 20. No: 14. Games: 64. Goals: 7. Finals: 4.

With strong endurance and a precise kick, the Hawks love to have the ball in his hands running out of defence and he rarely racks up fewer than 20 possessions. Most valuable as an offensive rebounder, but big enough to handle a tall defensive role as well.

MIDFIELD:

CHANCE BATEMAN. Age: 27. No: 10. Games: 116. Goals: 38. Finals: 4.

Tough midfielder with great pace, endurance and a very good kick. Capable of performing a shut-down role on an opposition running player. Stands out on the field with his trademark dreadlocks.

SAM MITCHELL. 25. No: 5. Games: 132. Goals: 21. Finals: 4.

Other Hawks are more brilliant, but none more important than the skipper. Far and away the club’s most prolific centre clearance winner, Has picked up 30-plus possessions in each of the Hawks’ previous two finals, but will likely have to deal with Geelong super-tagger Cameron Ling on Saturday.

JORDAN LEWIS. Age: 22. No: 3. Games: 82. Goals: 27. Finals: 4.

One of the Hawks’ genuine hard men, a solidly built midfielder who will not back down from a stoush. Throws himself into the packs with abandon to set play up for teammates but is also a fine kick himself.

HALF FORWARDS:

MICHAEL OSBORNE. Age: 26. No: 7. Games: 98. Goals: 52. Finals: 4.

Aggressive small forward whose biggest attribute is fierce attack on the ball and opponents. Can play a defensive role, but can also take a high mark and contribute goals. Kicked four in the qualifying final.

LANCE FRANKLIN. Age: 21. No: 23. Games: 80. Goals: 236. Finals: 4.

The first AFL player to kick 100 goals in a home and away season in a decade, “Buddy” is the one man capable of singlehandedly turning the game on its head. His combination of height, pace, athleticism and sheer brilliance makes him a nightmare match-up for any defender when on song. Has shown a liking for the big game spotlight, so expect something special in his first grand final. The one query is over his erratic goal-kicking, and if he sprays them on Saturday it could skittle Hawthorn’s chances.

CYRIL RIOLI. Age: 19. No: 33. Games: 24. Goals: 22. Finals: 2.

In his first season, the 19-year-old will be the grand final’s youngest player. But his pedigree – as the nephew of two Norm Smith Medal winners Maurice Rioli and Michael Long – indicates he should know how to handle the big day. Is fifth on the Hawks’ goal kicking list this season, but his closing speed and tackling ability is the key feature of his game, making opposition defenders panic.

FORWARDS:

MARK WILLIAMS. Age: 25. No: 6. Games: 97. Goals: 223. Finals: 2.

The quick sharpshooter defied his small stature to be the Hawks’ main forward target and leading goal kicker in 2005 and 2006, before sitting out most of last season with a knee injury. The emergence of Franklin and Roughead since means he has reverted to a more traditional small forward’s role, but still takes his fair share of marks and is capable of a freakish goal.

JARRYD ROUGHEAD. Age: 21. No: 2. Games: 82. Goals: 131. Finals: 4.

Tall, a reliably strong mark and long kick, Roughead will make the Cats pay if they focus too much attention on Franklin. Is destined to spend his career in Franklin’s shadow, but has shown with 66 goals this season, including four in the preliminary final rout of St Kilda when Franklin had a rare down match, that he is much more than just Buddy’s sidekick.

CAMPBELL BROWN. Age: 25. No: 30. Games: 120. Goals: 51. Finals: 4.

Hard-as-nails undersized key defender who has been moved forward to great effect in recent months. One of the league’s most combative and courageous players. Move forward has given the Hawks’ attack an alternative marking target, as well as added aggression and tackling ferocity.

FOLLOWERS:

ROBERT CAMPBELL. Age: 26. No: 39. Games: 101. Goals: 24. Finals: 4.

Strongly built ruckman whose hit-out work will be crucial to the midfield battles. Loves to dish out a heavy bump. Solid marking player who can also win the ball at ground level and can slot into a key defensive position if needed.

BRAD SEWELL. Age: 24. No: 12. Games: 84. Goals: 12. Finals: 4.

The Hawks’ reigning best and fairest. Established himself as a tagger and still performs that role well, but is also a fine ball-winner in his own right. Second only to Mitchell in winning the ball out of the centre and dishing out handballs. Likes using his strong body to test opponents physically.

SHANE CRAWFORD. Age: 34. No: 9. Games: 304. Goals: 224. Finals: 11.

The Hawks’ oldest player and a motivating factor as they chase their first premiership since 1991. Hawthorn would love to win this for him. Rare for a 300-plus game player, this will be his first grand final. A tireless runner and a skilful kick, with goal-kicking capability and vital experience and poise in young team.

INTERCHANGE:

STUART DEW. Age: 29. No: 31. Games: 194. Goals: 250. Finals: 16.

The surprise story of the season, the former Port Adelaide premiership player was drafted by the Hawks despite ballooning in weight during a year out of the game. A prodigious left-foot kick with an ability to use his bulk to clear a path for team-mates. The Hawks have drawn heavily on his knowledge as their sole player with grand final experience.

XAVIER ELLIS. Age: 20. No: 8. Games: 35. Goals: 5. Finals: 1.

The 20-year-old was the No.3 pick in the 2005 national draft. After playing 13 games in his debut season last year, played 21 of 22 home and away games this year. Left out for the qualifying final, but recalled for the preliminary final. A handy running player who can play midfield or defence.

BRENT RENOUF. Age: 20. No: 34. Games: 7. Goals: 0. Finals: 2.

With seven games to his name, his fairytale selection is Simon Taylor’s nightmare. Took his fellow ruckman’s spot in round 22 and has not given it up. An aggressive player who will keep the pressure on Geelong’s Brad Ottens and Mark Blake when the Hawks’ No.1 ruckman Robert Campbell is resting.

CLINTON YOUNG. Age: 22. No: 11. Games: 63. Goals: 26. Finals: 4.

Long-kicking running player who can deliver the ball well to the Hawks’ potent attack and can also kick a long goal. Has picked up 20 disposals or more in each of the Hawks’ two previous finals and kicked two goals against the Saints last week.

EMERGENCIES:

THOMAS MURPHY. Age: 22. No: 29. Games: 30. Goals: 3. Finals: 1.

After 12 games over three seasons before this year, the 22-year-old defender has slotted in for 18 this year, including 12 straight before he was a late withdrawal for the preliminary final. Did a good job on star Geelong forward Steve Johnson when the teams last met.

SIMON TAYLOR. Age: 26. No: 13. Games: 66. Goals: 15. Finals: 2.

The tall, rangy ruckman looks set to become one of the hard luck stories of grand final week. Had been an automatic inclusion in the side for almost two full seasons, until he was rested in round 22. Has been unable to make his way back for the Hawks’ two finals. Main asset is good tap work.

TRAVIS TUCK. Age: 21. No: 22. Games: 9. Goals: 1. Finals: 0.

Fringe midfielder, who managed eight games in his second year at the club. Good in tight, a possible understudy to Sam Mitchell.

Geelong’s grand final squad

BACKS:

TOM HARLEY. Age: 30. No: 2. Games: 183. Goals: 11. Finals: 11.

The general of the most miserly defence in the league, one that conceded an average of just 75 points a game in the home and away season. Reads the play well and regularly intercepts opposition passes inside his defensive 50m arc, sometimes backing back into contests. An inspiring skipper, named All-Australian vice-captain.

MATTHEW SCARLETT. Age: 29. No: 30. Games: 205. Goals: 16 goals. Finals: 11.

The best full-back in the league and the glue that binds the team’s defensive structure. Has revolutionised the role with his rebound, run and creativity from defence. Made the All-Australian team for a fourth time this year.

JOSH HUNT. Age: 26. No: 8. Games: 121. Goals: 16. Finals: 10.

A nuggety defender who usually takes the opposition’s small forward. Has shrugged off questions about his willingness to put his body on the line. An accurate kick, who regularly takes on the responsibility of kicking the ball in from a behind.

HALF BACKS:

DARREN MILBURN. Age: 31. No: 39. Games: 234. Goals: 86. Finals: 13.

A reliable defender who usually takes one of the opposition’s most dangerous forwards but provides plenty of drive and run from half-back. Is Geelong’s most experienced player and won All-Australian selection last year.

HARRY TAYLOR. Age: 22. No: 7. Games: 20. Goals: 3. Finals: 2.

The tall, mobile key defender has made the transition to the AFL remarkably well in his first season. Important to the Cats’ structure, given the absence through injury of last year’s All-Australian centre half-back Matthew Egan. Answered questions over his ability to handle finals pressure by soundly beating St Kilda skipper Nick Riewoldt in their qualifying final.

ANDREW MACKIE. Age: 24. No: 4. Games: 81. Goals: 52. Finals: 7.

Versatile defender who can play on talls and smalls, but is expected to spend some time on Hawk star Lance Franklin. Continued his improvement this season, providing dash and dare from half-back. Is good at finding space and is used as a link-man.

MIDFIELD:

JOEL SELWOOD. Age: 20. No: 14. Games: 44. Goals: 13. Finals: 5.

Has lifted his game to another level after winning the Rising Star award last year. Is now considered an elite midfielder in just his second year in the AFL and polled an impressive 19 Brownlow votes, just three less than Gary Ablett.

CAMERON LING. Age: 27. No: 45. Games: 181. Goals: 106. Finals: 10.

Acknowledged as one of the premier stoppers in the game but has continued to improve his ball-getting ability. Made an incredible comeback just three weeks after sustaining a fractured cheekbone against Fremantle in round 15. Unlucky to miss out on a second All-Australian selection this year.

COREY ENRIGHT. Age: 27. No: 44. Games: 149. Goals: 45. Finals: 8.

An excellent rebounding defender and link man, who can also rotate through the midfield. Will play his 150th AFL game on grand final day. Scored his first All-Australian selection this season.

HALF FORWARDS:

STEVE JOHNSON. Age: 25. No: 20. Games: 111. Goals: 209. Finals: 10.

One of the most skilful and slippery forwards in the game, who has booted 52 goals this season. His football talent sometimes begs belief. Made a stunning transformation from outcast to star last year by earning selection in the All-Australian team and winning the Norm Smith Medal.

CAMERON MOONEY. Age: 28. No: 21. Games: 167. Goals: 204. Finals: 12.

The team’s key focal point in attack. Has the ability to terrorise opposition defenders when he gets his confidence up by kicking early goals and has curbed his undisciplined ways. Has booted 50 goals in 23 games this year after kicking 67 from 25 matches last season. Made the All-Australian team last year and is aiming for his third AFL premiership.

JIMMY BARTEL. Age: 24. No: 3. Games: 132. Goals: 84. Finals: 10.

An ultra consistent on-baller who backed up last year’s Brownlow medal winning season with another stellar year. His aerial strength for his size makes him tough to match up. Was awarded his second straight All-Australian selection.

FORWARDS:

PAUL CHAPMAN. Age: 26. Games: 154. Goals: 203 Finals: 8.

A popular on-baller/small-forward who was the subject of a fitness test for a back-related hamstring injury. Has a history of hamstring problems but is known for his iron will. A proven finals performer who booted 10 goals in last year’s finals series.

TOM LONERGAN. Age: 24. No: 13. Games: 22. Goals: 40. Finals: 2.

Would be the feel-good story of another Geelong premiership after returning from a life-threatening kidney injury in 2006. Named as best afield in the Cats VFL grand final last year and has not missed a game since returning to the seniors in round 10 this season. A strong-marking forward, who is important to Geelong’s structure in attack following the retirement of premiership star Nathan Ablett.

MATHEW STOKES. Age: 23. No: 27. Games: 51. Goals: 79. Finals: 5.

Until recent weeks, the pacy and skillful small forward had been considered an integral member of the Cats’ side. But his two finals have been among his poorest games of the season, prompting doubts over whether he would earn grand final selection and suggestions he is carrying an injury. At his best is a dangerous goalkicker and can also work further up the ground.

FOLLOWERS:

BRAD OTTENS. Age: 28. No: 6. Games: 203. Goals: 236. Finals: 8.

The team’s No.1 ruckman, who can push forward to become another genuine key target in attack. Spent the first nine weeks of the season sidelined with a foot injury but has not lost any of his ability to win ruck contests.

GARY ABLETT. Age: 24. No: 29. Games: 145. Goals: 189. Finals: 10.

Took his game to another level this year to vie for the honour of being the best midfielder in the game. His strong hips and low centre of gravity allows him to break tackles and explode away from congestion. Voted the competition’s most valuable player for the second straight year.

JOEL COREY. Age: 26. No: 11. Games: 175. Goals: 54. Finals: 10.

A ball magnet who often sneaks under the opposition’s guard with the top taggers usually sent to Gary Ablett and Jimmy Bartel. Collected the most number of possessions in the competition for the year, with 640. Won Geelong’s best and fairest award in 2005.

INTERCHANGE:

MAX ROOKE. Age: 26. No: 33. Games: 111. Goals: 32. Finals: 7.

A tough utility, who can play back or forward. Renowned for his hardness and attack on the ball-carrier. Effectively killed off the Western Bulldogs challenge in last week’s preliminary final when he cannoned into Brad Johnson and then kicked a goal.

JAMES KELLY. Age: 24. No: 9. Games: 128. Goals: 61. Finals: 6.

Made his return in last week’s preliminary final after spending a month on the sidelines with a quad injury. Part of a very strong midfield mix and moves smoothly.

TRAVIS VARCOE. Age: 20. No: 5. Games: 33. Goals: 29. Finals: 2.

After being overlooked for last year’s grand final, the small forward cemented his spot this year with a very strong game in the preliminary final. Has plenty of pace, good crumbing skills and lays a lot of tackles.

MARK BLAKE. Age: 23. No: 24. Games: 57. Goals: 8. Finals: 4.

The unlucky player of last year’s premiership after being overlooked for more experienced and in-form Steven King. Had to assumed the mantle of the team’s No.1 ruckman for the first 9 games this year as Ottens recovered from a foot injury.

EMERGENCIES:

DAVID WOJCINSKI. Age: 28. No: 40. Games: 132. Goals: 45. Finals: 8 Regained his spot for the preliminary final, after missing eight games with an Achilles injury, which took frustratingly long to heal. But was the unlucky one to be dropped for Paul Chapman’s return. Makes strong runs from the backlines and is a reliable kick.

RYAN GAMBLE. Age: 20. No 15. Games: 14. Goals: 21. Finals:0

A handy goal-kicker who played 13 games this year. Was dropped for the qualifying final against St Kilda. Good overhead and hits contests hard.

SHANNON BYRNES. Age: 24. Games: 54. Goals: 27. Finals: 3.

A fringe player who managed to play nine matches this year. Has not played since being dropped for the Cats qualifying final against St Kilda. A pacy goal-sneak.

© AAP 2014
The AFL is now a year-round beast. From the pre-season Cup to the draft, it's always on. What's on your Christmas wishlist for 2015? What are your reflections on the year that was? If you're feeling inspired, you can share it with other Roarers by submitting an article.
Roar TV is live! Looking for the latest sports video, all in one place? Go on, check it out here.