Who will win the Coleman Medal?
Buddy Franklin led Hawthorn to a sensational win over Sydney (AFL media/Slattery Images).
Eight finalists have been locked in and the most exciting thing about the upcoming weekend will be the race for the 2012 Coleman Medal.
In a hotly contested year where no single big man has been able to shoot clear on the goal kicking tally, there are five legitimate chances.
The Coleman looks to be won with the fewest goals since 1965 when Hawthorn forward John Peck won the award with just 56 goals. After 22 rounds, the goal kicking tally looks like this”
Matthew Pavlich – 60.
Jack Riewoldt – 59.
Tom Hawkins – 58.
Lance Franklin – 55.
Drew Petrie – 55.
Stephen Milne – 55.
Form, opposition, playing conditions and finals situation will dictate which forwards will kick bags, whilst others will be fuming at their poor delivery after coming so close to the highest individual award for the games forwards.
Here are the contenders:
Matthew Pavlich, 60 (Fremantle vs Melbourne at Paterson’s Stadium)
Pavlich has the luxury of playing Melbourne over in the west, where Fremantle plays best.
After taking a week off and missing the Round 22 match against North Melbourne with a groin complaint, Pavlich should come back fresh and hell bent on winning his first Coleman medal.
In his last eight outings, Pavlich has kicked bags of three, two, eight, two, seven, four, six and five.
Earlier in the season, Pavlich kicked four goals against the Demons at Etihad Stadium and would be capable of more in the west.
The biggest problem Pavlich will face is that Fremantle can not win by too much. If they win by an enormous margin, their percentage will shoot them to seventh on the ladder, somewhere they do not what to be. Finishing seventh they are likely to have to come to Melbourne for the first week of finals.
If they finish eighth, they will play West Coast in the west assuming Hawthorn beats West Coast on Friday night. The latter option will be the preference and therefore Pavlich could be wrapped in cotton wool if Fremantle run away with the game early.
Pavlich will benefit from the dry conditions of the west where rain is unlikely.
Jack Riewoldt, 59 (Richmond vs Port Adelaide at the MCG)
Riewoldt will be licking his lips for this upcoming fixture, and just one goal behind Pavlich, he knows the gap can be closed in the opening minutes and is a good chance to come from behind and steal the medal from Pavlich’s grasp.
He would be in front had it not been for bad kicking on Friday night against Essendon when he kicked three goals and five behinds from his 17 disposals and 10 marks. At the MCG, Riewoldt has been inconsistent this year but with the Tigers finishing the year strongly, Riewoldt should be near his best.
At the G, he has averaged 2.58 goals per game this season with a high of six.
Last time these two teams met, Riewoldt kicked four goals in a low scoring game at AAMI Stadium and usually plays well against the Power. Key defender Alipate Carlisle was tried up forward last week so if Port Adelaide continue to trial players in different positions, Riewoldt may find a fruitful mismatch.
Tom Hawkins, 58 (Geelong vs Sydney at Simmonds Stadium)
Tom Hawkins is the form forward in the competition and ignoring the West Coast game when he was subbed out in the first quarter, Hawkins has kicked four, six, six, three and five since Round 17.
Against Sydney, however, Hawkins has the unenviable task of kicking a big bag of goals against the leagues most miserly defense which is ranked first in the league for points conceded.
The blustery conditions in Geelong will not help Hawkins cause where this year he has kicked only seven goals from four games at Simmonds Stadium.
These two teams last met in Round 13 in Sydney when the Swans won a low scoring thriller by six points. Hawkins kicked one goal that night when Heath Grundy and Ted Richards rotated on him.
Lance Franklin, 55 (Hawthorn vs West Coast at the MCG)
If Franklin had not missed five games late in the season, Franklin would already be writing his acceptance speech. Buddy returned on the weekend to kick four goals against Sydney and is likely to improve on that at the MCG, his happy hunting ground.
The five-goal deficit will be a big factor for Franklin who will need to kick eight to ten goals to win the medal from a long way back. Franklin this year has shown he can kick big bags against finals contenders with 13 against North Melbourne in round 10 but to do it again will be a big ask against the Eagles.
Eric Mackenzie is likely to start on Franklin and has been in excellent form recently.
Franklin’s goal kicking inconsistency will work in his favor because no one is seriously expecting him to win the Coleman but all football fans know Franklin is capable of anything on the MCG stage.
Drew Petrie, 55 (Greater Western Sydney vs North Melbourne at Skoda Stadium)
Petrie comes up against the easiest competition on the list of medal contenders. The young GWS backline are sore after a season of heavy barrage and as expected have conceded more points than anyone else.
Most likely to be manned up against the Giants’ only established defender, Phil Davis, Petrie’s fellow forwards may benefit more than him against the weak backline. Nonetheless, Petrie is capable of kicking a big bag but he needed to close the margin a little against Fremantle but was held goalless by Luke McPharlin.
North Melbourne will be looking for a big win and percentage boost to ensure they do not need to go to the West in week one of the finals. The Kangaroos will probably kick close to 25 goals.
Petrie has a big margin to close on Pavlich but in the unlikely scenario of drawing level by half time and kicking clear after, he would be a deserving winner.
Stephen Milne, 55 (Carlton vs St Kilda at Etihad Stadium)
Of the competitions leading goal kickers, Milne is the least likely to figure in the Coleman medal race.
Carlton will be looking to make amends for a disgraceful performance against the Gold Coast who caused the upset of the season and closed the door on Carlton’s finals hopes and possibly Brett Ratten’s tenure at the helm of the Blues.
Against GWS on Saturday, Milne booted five goals in just the opening half and looked to be right in the thick of the Coleman race with another half to play but failed for kick a goal in that second half, leaving him stranded five behind Pavlich.
Milne is the rank outsider and would need a string of miracles to win the medal. If he was to do so as a small forward, it would be one of the games historic moments.
The Coleman race is set to be the highlight of the weekend and with various games being played simultaneously, all eyes will be on the live goal tally.
How many goals will each of these forwards kick on the weekend and who will win the 2012 Coleman Medal?
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