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AFL Finals are upon us and Saturday night will be the end of the season for one of these teams in the week one blockbuster between Geelong and Fremantle. Join us from 7.00pm AEST for live scores and blog.
Geelong finds themselves in a new realm outside the top four in September for the first time since 2006. With no double chance, Geelong need to win four games in a row to win their fourth premiership in six years.
In their first season under Ross Lyon, the Dockers have made the finals by finishing seventh on the ladder after the regular season.
They have come into their stride towards the back end of the season when it matters and are playing the best football they have in a long time.
The dramas of last year’s acrimonious falling out with Mark Harvey have seen improvement on the team who will be playing just their seventh final since the team’s inception in 1995.
Lyon has his boys hungry to change history with a demolishing win over Melbourne last week which forced the Dockers to play Geelong rather than West Coast.
With the aggressive hit out last week, Lyon and his Dockers are not concerned about the road trip and feel good knowing they are playing at their best with strong performances to finish the season.
The last final Fremantle played was ironically against Geelong at the MCG in 2010 when Geelong defeated Fremantle by 69 points in the semi-final.
Geelong did what they do best by winning at Simonds Stadium last week against Sydney in a commanding performance which led many experts to voice their belief that the premiership can be won from outside the top four for the first time since 1997 when Adelaide did it.
The final round of the home and away season saw casualties on both fronts. Dockers defender Luke McPharlin left the game with a hamstring complaint and will miss the do-or-die clash.
In a season which saw him selected into the All-Australian squad, he has been one of the league’s most consistent key defenders and was a certainty to get the job on Coleman medal co-runner up Tom Hawkins.
The Cats will be without Norm Smith medallist Steve Johnson after he accepted a one match suspension for rough conduct against Sydney. A proven September performer, he will be missed by the Cats but nowhere near as much as the Dockers will miss McPharlin.
Coming in for Johnson is John Simpkin who will be playing in just his fourth AFL game and will be the likely substitute for the Cats.
The Dockers have bought key defender Alex Silvagni into the team to replace McPharlin. Kepler Bradley and Matt DeBoer have also been recalled at the expense of Jon Griffin and Tom Sheriden.
These two teams last met in round one of the 2012 season when the Cats flew Patersons Stadium and were defeated by the Dockers 16.9.105 to 15.11.101.
On that occasion, Nathan Fyfe starred for the home team, amassing 30 touches in the midfield and kicking two goals. Matthew Pavlich got the better of Harry Taylor that night by kicking three crucial goals.
Aaron Sandilands was the difference maker on the evening with 32 hit outs, eight clearances and three contested marks.
The best forward that night was Tom Hawkins who kicked four goals while Joel Selwood led the Cats midfield with 33 touches and eight clearances.
In that game, Matthew Scarlett was handed a four week suspension for striking when he was baited by the pest tactics of Hayden Ballantyne. Scarlett will be looking for revenge but must be wary of the TV cameras which will be all over this game.
In what will likely be his final season, a slip up of the fist would see him end his career from the stands.
In the midfield, Ryan Crowley has turned his career around under Lyon’s tutelage to be the league’s best shutdown tagger this season. He is most likely to get the job of Joel Selwood but against the Cats star studded midfield; he will need plenty of assistance.
Nathan Fyfe, a proven performer against the Cats, has been in blistering form since returning from injury. Originally expected to miss the entire season, Fyfe has turned games around over the past three weeks.
Finding good chemistry with David Mundy as an inside-outside tandem, the duo has averaged 56 possessions between them per game over the past three weeks.
The two key match ups will be at opposite sides of the ground. Both ending the season on 62 goals each, Matthew Pavlich and Tom Hawkins are the finals series in-form forwards and hold the key to this match and progressing to the next week of finals.
Harry Taylor will have the job on Pavlich. Failing earlier in the year, Taylor will need to be at his best to contain the Fremantle skipper.
With McPharlin out, Zac Dawson will be given the job of containing Hawkins who was not mentioned as a Coleman medal candidate mid-season. His strong finish to end the season has coincided with Geelong’s form. If he can get the better of Dawson, Geelong will go on to win the game.
Join us on The Roar from 7.45pm AEST for live scores and blog of the Elimination Final.