Last month I started my 2019 AFL preview, detailing the competitive prospects of six of the competition’s teams, from Adelaide to Fremantle.
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In terms of games played this weekend, few have greater finals ramifications than the blockbuster clash between the Sydney Swans and Melbourne Demons on Sunday afternoon.
By the time the penultimate match of the weekend kicks off, both teams will know what a win guarantees, with a potential top-four position on the line if results fall their way.
If the teams around them win, they will need to win to stay in touch of the front-runners, guaranteeing an epic finish to a mega weekend of football.
The Swans sailed into the mid-season bye after their Round 13 win against top-placed Eagles, before falling well and truly off the wagon with losses to Richmond, Geelong, Gold Coast Suns and Essendon.
A desperate, last-gasp win last weekend against premiership contenders Collingwood kept the Swans in touch, while the Demons did more than dismantle the Suns – they gave them a football lesson.
Both teams’ run into the finals is as tough as it comes, with the Swans facing the Giants (UNSW) and Hawks (SCG) in the final two rounds, while the Demons play the Eagles (PS) and Giants (MCG).
A win for either team will be enormous for their belief and give them the best possible platform for a top-four finish, with all the teams around them playing other contenders before the end of the season, with anywhere from third to tenth up for grabs.
Despite the possible return of Swans midfielder Dan Hannebery (calf), the Demons still have a significant advantage in the midfield as the No. 1 ranked team for contested possessions and centre clearances.
With Lance Franklin nearing his best once again and closing in on an incredible fifth Coleman medal, trailing Ben Brown by just four goals, the Demons will have their hands full stopping the superstar forward.
Where and when
MCG, Sunday, August 12, 3.20pm AEST
Last five meetings
R15, 2017, Sydney Swans 11.19 (85) d Melbourne 7.8 (50) at the MCG.
R13, 2016, Sydney Swans 12.14 (86) d Melbourne 4.7 (31) at the SCG.
R6, 2015, Sydney Swans 12.16 (88) d Melbourne 7.8 (50) at the MCG.
R6, 2014, Sydney Swans 9.15 (69) d Melbourne 5.8 (38) at the MCG.
R15, 2013, Sydney Swans 16.20 (116) d Melbourne 13.7 (85) at the MCG.
Dane Rampe versus Jesse Hogan
Sydney’s best defender will need to be at his peak to limit Melbourne’s spearhead, Jesse Hogan. With 46 goals to his name, the athletic forward is at his absolute best outside the fifty, regularly racking up more than 20 disposals and ten marks this season.
Callum Sinclair versus Max Gawn
Max Gawn is the premier ruck in the AFL, narrowly edging Brody Grundy for the honours. The last time they faced each other, Gawn racked up an incredible 58 hit-outs to Sinclair’s 14.
Last week, Grundy was arguably the best on the ground with 57 hit-outs – he had more hit-outs to advantage than Sinclair’s 16 hit-outs for the match.
Lance Franklin versus Sam Frost
Lance Franklin’s hardly trained at all this season, battling through an injured heel suffered in Round 1 against the Eagles. It’s hardly stopped his goal scoring potential, with four bags of four goals and six against the Pies last week.
Frost has the unenviable job of limiting him – good luck.
The six points
1: Lance Franklin and Jesse Hogan top the goalscoring charts, Franklin is second behind Ben Brown on 50, while Hogan is sixth with 46. Both players loom as match winners for their clubs.
2: Sydney holds an imposing record over the Demons, winning 11 of their last 13 matches, including a draw. Melbourne’s only win in the last 12 years came eight years ago, in Round 20, 2010.
3: The MCG isn’t Sydney’s favourite venue, winning just five of their last ten matches since 2016. It’s no problem against the Demons, winning their last four matches by an average of 33 points.
4: The midfield looms as the key area for both teams, with Melbourne ranked the No. 1 contested possession and centre clearance team. Sydney rank ninth (-15.1) for contested possessions and 12th (-50) for centre clearances.
5: The Swans’ scoring woes continued last week, scraping past 70 with just over two minutes left in the match for the first time in three rounds. The Swans are ranked 15th for inside 50s, while the Demons are the top-ranked side.
6: Lance Franklin was the difference between the sides in Round 15 last season, kicking four of the Swans’ 11 goals in the match. The Swans eventually won by 35 points after kicking 2.14 early in the second quarter.
It’s a big week for…
It doesn’t get any harder for Callum Sinclair this week against arguably the best ruckman in the league, Max Gawn. Sinclair was influential in Sydney’s come back in the third quarter last week, quelling Grundy’s influence around the ground while hitting the scoreboard.
Gawn will win the hit-out battle, but can Sinclair hurt him on the scoreboard?
Sydney Swans by 11