Just four teams remain in the hunt for AFL’s biggest prize.
Fresh from a week off, both Hawthorn and Fremantle will walk out to their home crowds for the final time this season with just Geelong and Sydney, respectively, standing in the way between them and a spot in the Grand Final this year. By all accounts, it looms as a thrilling week of finals footy, and should make for some pretty spectacular viewing.
We’ve broken down all the action scheduled for this weekend in our complete guide to Week 3 of the AFL finals, with all the need-to-know details, viewing information, team news and predictions. The Roar will also be providing live commentary for both semifinals.
Read on to see how the weekend ahead could unfold.
 HAWTHORN VS.  GEELONG
Friday, September 20, at 7:50pm AEST (Melbourne Cricket Ground)
TV Coverage: Live via Channel 7 and Fox Footy (Channel 504)
Hawthorn and Geelong has seemingly become a stable fixture for finals footy over the past few years, and another thrilling installment no doubt waits on Friday night. The Hawks are flying high – and will head into this one as clear favourites – but the Cats have so often saved their best for Hawthorn that despite their poor run of form lately, could very well cause a stirring upset.
Geelong have beaten Hawthorn on both occasions this season, but this is far different. They won’t have Corey Enright or Paul Chapman (who was the star against Port Adelaide last week) and Tom Hawkins is day-to-day with a back injury as well. You’d have to think that the latter is almost certain to play, but he’ll certainly be in some pain and potentially even be quite restricted at the top of the Cats’ attack. Those injuries stand in stark contrast to Hawthorn, who not only welcome Franklin back, but also that of the wiry Cyril Rioli.
Hawthorn were very strong against the Swans in their opening match of the finals series this year, and will simply be hoping for a repeat performance here. They’re facing a Cats side that’s produced several underwhelming performances in the past month or so, and as mentioned, will likely be the firm favourites to book their spot in the finals. However, one simply needs to remember the “Kennett Curse” to know that it just isn’t that easy for the Hawks.
Geelong have won their last 11 encounters with the Hawks, in what remains one of the most remarkable streaks currently in the AFL. In their last three matches, Hawthorn have entered as favourites yet suffered defeats to the Cats. And with it already happening twice in 2013, there’s certainly no reason why – incredibly – it couldn’t happen again this weekend.
Even still, I just can’t see it happening. The Cats haven’t been at all convincing in the past month, and now with more injuries to add to the list, they just won’t have the personnel required to take down a red-hot Hawthorn side. After all, they did win the minor premiership for a reason, and with their most recent performance seeing them defeat the reigning premiers without either Buddy or Rioli, it’s hard to go against them here.
The idea of the Kennett Curse might keep the score line close, but the streak will end this weekend as Hawthorn march through to their second consecutive AFL Grand Final.
Prediction: Hawthorn by 15 points.
 FREMANTLE VS.  SYDNEY
Saturday, September 21, at 7:45pm AEST (Patersons Stadium)
TV Coverage: Live via Channel 7 and Fox Footy (Channel 504)
One of these teams will line up without any real injury problems and with a large portion of their squad having had more than enough rest over the past month.
The other team is the Sydney Swans.
Fremantle earned themselves a huge bonus two weeks back when they defeat Geelong at Simonds Stadium, in that they not only got the week off, but they also got a home semifinal. Travelling across the country wouldn’t have been what the Swans thought they would be doing at the start of September, and while they’ve no doubt had plenty of time to prepare for the trip, it still doesn’t make it any easier, especially when the club have been dogged by the injuries and concerns that they have been over the past two weeks.
Sydney cruised to a comfortable victory over Carlton last week, but the question remains as to the cost of that win. The defending premiers lost both Kurt Tippett (knee) and Tom Mitchell (ankle) for the season, and with the likes of Adam Goodes (knee), Sam Reid (quad) and Rhyce Shaw (knee) already season-long casualties, those injuries could be made even worse than they already are – which is certainly saying something!
On paper, it appears to be a pretty straightforward conclusion given Freo’s great form against Geelong (and subsequent rest) coupled with the Swans’ injury woes.
But, as the cliché goes, games are never won on paper, and the same will be true on Saturday.
The Dockers do have a home final, but it’s their first home preliminary final in the club’s history. Everyone is dreaming of a potential Grand Final appearance (which too has never happened before), and that dream could well bring plenty of pressure on to the Dockers. They might have felt like they had nothing to lose against Geelong given their underdog status, but as very strong favourites for this one, they seemingly have everything to lose.
Sydney have shown time and time again in the past few years that they are fighters. Regardless of what odds are against them, the club seemingly always manage to produce strong performances when they need them most, and they should do the same here. Tippett’s omission will be a blow, but it’s worth noting just how one-dimensional the defending premiers had become with him in their attack. Thus while it’s a blow, it’s certainly one that could see the Swans’ running game through their midfield take on even more work.
Michael Johnson should return from injury here to give the Dockers’ defence a huge boost, and it’ll be their defence that ultimately proves the difference on the night. Freo are simply too strong in midfield and across half-back to allow the Swans to establish control there, and without Tippett, they simply won’t be able to get enough points on the board to match the home team.
I think it will be far closer than many predict – that’s just the nature of the Swans’ never-say-die attitude – but in the end, I just can’t see this one finishing as anything but a thrilling Dockers’ win.
Prediction: Fremantle by three points.