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AFL delivers grand final we needed

Roar Guru
25th September, 2011
6
4044 Reads

The 2011 AFL season has delivered the grand final most of us have been expecting all year. The best two teams will face off on Saturday afternoon in what looms as a blockbuster match.

The grand final will see the premiers of the previous two seasons battle it out, but it almost wasn’t to be after Collingwood only just scraped through in its preliminary final against a determined Hawthorn side on Friday night.

When Buddy Franklin kicked a superb goal off the outside of his boot late in the fourth quarter to put the Hawks in front, it appeared that the tenacious Hawthorn side was about to pull off the upset of the finals.

A minute later, Franklin’s goal was trumped by Magpies midfielder Luke Ball, who kicked the match-winner for the second time in this finals series.

Contrasting with Collingwood’s two tight finals victories, the Cats have had a much easier road to the grand final, ending the West Coast Eagles’ fairytale season at the MCG on Saturday afternoon in a match they controlled from the opening bounce.

The Cats won the first three quarters of the match, before taking the foot off the pedal in the final term, aware that they had secured a grand final berth.

Much of the attention this week will be focused on the injured stars from both sides, and whether they will be fit enough to play.

Geelong’s mercurial forward Steve Johnson looked to have badly damaged his left knee early in the third quarter of the preliminary final, and was taken off the ground on a stretcher.

Johnson later re-appeared on the bench late in the match, much to the delight of those who had feared the worst when he went down injured.

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He was able to walk on his injured knee following the match, but was limping noticeably and had his left knee heavily bandaged.

Collingwood too has injury concerns, with key defender Ben Reid injuring his groin, and ruckman Darren Jolly injuring his thigh in Friday night’s match.

For Geelong, this will be its fourth grand final in five years, and surely this will be the Cats last chance to taste premiership success before it starts to move down the ladder in the years to come.

While many predicted Geelong to slide down the ladder this year, the club has done remarkably well in coach Chris Scott’s first year at the helm, but the wise heads at Geelong must know that all good things must come to an end, and Geelong’s position at the top of the AFL tree is no different.

The Cats resemble the Brisbane side of 2004 – a team choc-full of ageing stars where one last big effort is being asked of them.

While this Saturday sees Scott coaching an AFL grand final in his first year as head coach, the Collingwood coaching box sees Mick Malthouse in his last ever match as senior coach.

Much has been made of Malthouse’s emotional post-match reaction after his side kicked five final quarter goals against the Hawks on Friday night to clinch a tight match, and it will be curious to see how the knowledge that this will be his last match affects both Malthouse and his players.

These two teams met in the final round of the home-and-away season in a match which was touted as “Mockbuster at the MCG.” On that occasion, Geelong was victorious by 96 points.

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The significance of that result remains to be seen, but the most likely answer is very little. Collingwood had nothing to play for on that occasion, having secured top spot, whereas Geelong at that point desperately needed to show some good form heading into September.

The best two teams all year will play-off this Saturday for the ultimate prize in football. Either victor will provide a wonderful storyline.

Malthouse winning back-to-back flags in his finals two seasons as coach will become the stuff of legend. The critic-defying Cats securing their third flag in five years will see this team enter into “best ever” consideration.

Game on.

Follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelFilosi