Sydney and Geelong will play the AFL grand final on September 28. There, I’ve said it.
Just like before the first round, the 10th round, the 22nd round, everyone has an opinion on who will win the flag. Well, with just three weekends of football to play before the grand final combatants are decided, I’m making my call now.
You may well laugh, you may agree a little or a lot, or perhaps – particularly if you are a supporter of any of the other six finalists – you will vehemently disagree. But here is reasoning behind my prediction.
Starting tomorrow night with Hawthorn versus Sydney, and I’m going with the Swans to cause somewhat of an upset against the minor premiers.
Just which team got the most upside out last week’s clash is debatable. The Swans, with a number of their best players on the sideline, would have been buoyed by staying within a couple of kicks of the Hawks.
Hawthorn would have been happy with the way they worked their way into the game and overpowered Sydney, on the Swans’ turf.
The Swans will have important ins with Dan Hannebery and Nick Smith, and coach John Longmire will be tempted to add the pace of Lewis Jetta, but, there is some talk Kurt Tippett will miss again.
All the talk on the other side of the fence is about Buddy Franklin missing through suspension, but, in the past 14 games Buddy has missed, the Hawks have won 13, and the only loss was against their nemesis Geelong, last season.
It should be the now typical, tight and tough, Sydney-Hawthorn game (similar to the Sydney-West Coast matches of the mid 2000s) tomorrow night, and while the Hawks have the class, I’m going with the Swans, just, in a typically tight finals’ clash.
It was more than eight years ago that the Dockers stunned Geelong at The Cattery. That nine-point win is the only time (albeit in only 13 clashes) Fremantle have won down at Geelong.
On Saturday they get their best chance in some time to double that winning record, and at least will take a number of very fresh players into the game having rested a truckload last weekend.
They may have a woeful record there, but the Dockers won’t fear a September clash with the Cats having ended Geelong’s season in the first week of finals last season.
The Dockers, like the Swans, play a brand of football suited to the finals, and while coach Ross Lyon has played down the significance of playing at Skilled Stadium, there is no doubt it plays a major role.
Geelong were far from their best last start against Brisbane. Credit to the Lions, but after Hawthorn won on the Friday, and Fremantle opted to rest so many on Saturday, the Cats were really playing for very little.
There still would have been some things which Chris Scott would have been far from happy about, but better for it to happen last week in a game which meant zero, than this week.
Geelong are not impossible to beat at home, but I’m tipping they will win this week.
That means, by my predictions, Sydney and Geelong will get the week off and advance to the preliminary finals.
Also on Saturday, Collingwood meets Port Adelaide, and while I admire what the Power have done this year, I think their season might come to a swift end against the Pies.
Collingwood have been hot and cold in recent times but they have players who know what it takes to win finals, and I expect guys like Scott Pendlebury, Dane Swan and Dayne Beams to be truly stepping up this Sunday.
Port did beat the Pies in Round 14 in Adelaide, but their last win against Collingwood in Melbourne was back in 2007.
On Sunday, the big one – Richmond versus Carlton.
They will have the nerves and expectations of being in the finals for the first time since 2001, be playing against a bitter rival in Carlton, a team which has won 10 of the past 11 clashes between the teams, but I still believe the Tigers will win this one and advance to a semi-final clash with Hawthorn a week later.
Carlton fell into the finals courtesy of the AFL’s ruling with Essendon, and their one-point win over Port Adelaide last weekend. If they had lost that they would have finished 12th.
They do have the knowledge that they beat Richmond just three weeks ago, but the Tigers will be primed for this. This is their time, and their youngsters won’t freeze on the big stage.
So that leaves my semi-finals as Hawthorn versus Richmond and Fremantle hosting Collingwood.
While the Tigers have belted the Hawks in their past two outings, if these two met in a semi-final, I’d go with Hawthorn.
Buddy would be back, and having been on top of the ladder all year, it would be a wasted season if the Hawks didn’t move on from here.
The Tigers would make it a great contest, but led by Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell and Jordan Lewis, I’d see Hawthorn just getting home.
At home in Perth, I’d also go with Fremantle to end Collingwood’s season.
The Dockers have had just one loss – that memorable one against Essendon earlier this season – in their last 17 games at Patterson Stadium, and I’m tipping them make if 17 wins from the past 18 games at home.
So we now have the Swans meeting Fremantle in Sydney and Geelong hosting Hawthorn.
The only time the Swans have hosted Freo at ANZ Stadium was back in the 2006 preliminary final when the Swans were clearly a better side than the Dockers. That’s not the case now though with little separating the two clubs.
The Swans have won five of six finals played at ANZ Stadium, their only loss coming against eventual premiers Brisbane back in 2003.
With a surprise move of Adam Goodes as their secret weapon sub coming off the Swans’ bench, I’m tipping a home victory.
And then we have the Hawks v Cats. The grand final prediction of most. It would be a tough, tight, brutal, and entertaining match, and call it the Kennett Curse or not, I think the Cats will extend their streak over the Hawks to 12 wins in a row.
So, there you have it (and I’m sure everyone agrees), it will be a Geelong versus Sydney grand final.
And the winner will be …. I might just wait a couple of weeks and see how these predictions are panning out before I put my neck on the line again.