It is just two days before the last Saturday in September, the day upon which one team reaches the Holy Grail, and another team stews over their missed chance. This time around, it will be the mighty Hawks against the exciting Dockers.
This game will be a first for many people, with it being Fremantle’s first ever grand final. But what issues will factor in the game’s outcome?
Hawthorn’s two x-factors are Shaun Burgoyne and Ben Stratton.
Shaun Burgoyne played his best game for Hawthorn last week, picking up 24 disposals, laying six tackles and kicking three important goals.
Ben Stratton had a quiet night against Geelong but took two important marks in the dying minutes of the last quarter.
Stratton’s ability to play on small and tall forwards was highlighted in last year’s preliminary final, when he chased down Patrick Dangerfield in the dying minutes to help win Hawthorn the game.
He averages five marks a game and around 15 disposals.
Fremantle also has many players that can provide x-Factor, but I have chosen two players who have stepped up in this year’s finals season.
Firstly, Nathan Fyfe. In season 2013 he has averaged 25.7 disposals and has kicked a solid 18 goals in his 21 games for the season.
Fyfe’s ability to move forward and kick crucial goals is a wonderful attribute to have on the big stage.
Fremantle’s other X-Factor is Michael Walters, who this season has booted 44 goals and averaged 15.6 disposals from 20 games, which is a great return from a small forward.
Walters kicked 3.2 in the preliminary final and took a magnificent mark in the third quarter.
Brian Lake v Matthew Pavlich
The Lake v Pavlich match-up will be an interesting one, as Lake is capable of matching it with Pavlich but his only struggle may be when Pavlich is streaming out of the forward line on a lead.
If Lake can be fast and agile enough, he will definitely be able to hinder Pavlich’s involvement in the play.
Max Bailey v Aaron Sandilands
If anyone can match it with Sandilands, it would be Bailey.
If Hawthorn are to win the grand final, Bailey will have to play a full game and not be subbed off in the third quarter like he has been in the past.
Both Sandilands and Bailey have great tapping skills and have shown they can have a huge influence for their respective sides.
Ryan Crowley v Sam Mitchell
Mitchell has shown before he can shrug off a tag and continue to dominate like he does a lot, but Crowley is a good tagger and has stopped the likes of Daniel Hannebery.
If Mitchell is to shrug off the tag, he will need help from all of his teammates. For example at a centre bounce if Bailey wins the tap and hits it in the direction of Mitchell, another Hawthorn midfielder will need to block Crowley so that he can’t get to Mitchell.
Luke McPharlin v Lance Franklin
This is another interesting match-up, as Franklin has not been in the greatest of form and McPharlin has a small injury worry.
Franklin has previously played well against McPharlin but, as I mentioned previously, he isn’t in the greatest of form.
If Franklin manages to play well and kick a bag, it will surely play a big part in the result. However, If McPharlin can hold Franklin to a goal or two, it will definitely benefit Freo.
Hawthorn – Mitchell and Jack Gunston
If both Mitchell and Gunston play well, Hawthorn will win, but, if they both have a quiet day, it could lead to a second Hawthorn grand final loss in a row.
Both Mitchell and Gunston starred for Hawthorn against Geelong, with Mitchell racking up 38 disposals and Gunston kicking four majors.
Fremantle – Michael Barlow and Michael Johnson
If Barlow plays well, Fremantle seem to win, if he has a quiet day, Fremantle seem to struggle a little bit.
Barlow’s ability to go and go and go is brilliant. He is Fremantle’s Sam Mitchell, ‘the clearance king’!
Johnson is also an important part of the Fremantle structure. His ability to create run off the backline and play on a tall forward helps Ross Lyon’s team become much more flexible.
Problems the teams may face
Hawthorn will need to stop Michael Walters – as I mentioned earlier, he is in brilliant form at the moment and can rip a game apart at any stage.
Fremantle will need to find two players who can match-up on Gunston and Luke Breust, both are extremely dangerous when they are on song.
Who plays for Brendan Whitecross?
Now the unlucky Brendan Whitecross has been ruled out of the game, who will come in?
Many people are suggesting either Jed Anderson, Shane Savage or Taylor Duryea will come in.
Duryea should play because he could play on Walters and try and tag him. But I don’t think that is what Alistair Clarkson wants.
Clarkson wants someone tough and fast, and Jed Anderson ticks those boxes.
Hawthorn have two small injury problems, with Paul Puopolo hurting his ankle and Brent Guerra suffering a corked thigh during the five point win over Geelong.
As I mentioned earlier, Brendan Whitecross snapped his ACL and will not play.
Fremantle also have two minor injury worries, with both Michael Johnson and Luke McPharlin spending lengthy time on the bench during their side’s win over Sydney.
All four of these players are expected to play.
Pressure is the key!
Hawthorn and Fremantle are both ranked on Champion Data in the top five for pressure acts. This grand final could be a scrappy one!
Expect lots of tackles from the likes of Chris Mayne and Jordan Lewis, who had 13 and 9 tackles respectively in their preliminary finals.
Does the extra day help?
Due to Hawthorn playing on the Friday night and Fremantle playing on the Saturday, Hawthorn have a one day advantage in preparation for the game.
It doesn’t seem like an advantage, because both teams had the previous week off. But, as they always say, only time will tell!
Both the Hawks and the Dockers suffered from bad kicking in their respective preliminary finals.
In the fourth quarter against Geelong, the Hawks kicked 4.8! In the first quarter against Sydney, the Dockers kicked 2.9!
Both teams will need to improve in this area.
The final say!
This game will be a close one, but will break open in the third quarter and Hawthorn will kick away to a 24 point win.
The Hawks’ foot skills are too good and they will be able to cut through the Dockers’ defence.
Hawks by 24.
Norm Smith – Isaac Smith.
Crowd prediction – 99,800.