This Saturday’s grand final is the match-up we didn’t think would happen.
Let’s face it: we all thought the 2019 decider would be a Richmond versus Collingwood affair. I certainly did, anyway.
But Greater Western Sydney pulled off a remarkable, stunning, historic win over the Pies in the prelim to give themselves a sniff of claiming their first premiership since joining the AFL in 2012.
There are lots of things to consider about this weekend. Richmond have been to this big dance before. They know how to win a flag. The Giants will be eager and nervous. They will also be hungry. Toby Greene is back. Will Tom Lynch be more lethal in front of goal than Jeremy Cameron?
With that, here are four predictions for the 2019 grand final.
Toby Greene wins the Norm Smith Medal
The bad boy of the AFL is back this week. The week before he visited the tribunal and got fined, then responded with 30 touches and two goals.
Expect Toby Greene to come out firing and leave it all out on the MCG. This can only mean good things for the Giants. When Greene is up, GWS seem to roll and function better. He is their heartbeat.
If he can produce a high-possession game with a few goals, and the Giants win, he will win the Norm Smith. Greene can pull off a performance Jason Akermanis in the 2003 grand final, when he booted five goals. And if he does that, the Giants will win.
GWS claim a breakthrough premiership
Wouldn’t it be a nice touch for the Giants to end their eighth season in the AFL with a flag?
They’ve had their chances, too. After being in the wilderness between their inaugural season in 2012 and 2015, the Giants have put themselves in a position to be flag contenders in the last three years. They lost to the eventual premiers twice in two preliminary finals: 2016 against the Bulldogs and 2017 against Richmond. In 2018 they fell short by ten points against Collingwood in the semi-final.
It feels like they are building toward a breakthrough flag. Yes, I said last week Richmond would claim the 2019 premiership, but the GWS win changed everything. Their defeat of the Pies will give Greater Western Sydney a sense of belief, resolve and finals know-how to get the job done on Saturday against the Tigers.
And the Tigers have won 11 games in a row: they are due for a loss.
Jeremy Cameron takes out the battle of the full forwards
Jeremy Cameron is the 2019 Coleman Medallist with 75 goals with Tom Lynch trailing with 61. Both have been very consistent this year.
Lynch had a massive impact in the prelim against the Cats, booting five goals and taking ten marks. And if you look at the big games this year, he’s delivered. Against the Giants earlier this season, he kicked three goals in Round 17 and four in Round 3. He’s a hard man to keep quiet.
Jeremy Cameron is equally tough to stop. His versatility up the ground makes him more of a problem. Against the Tigers this season, Cameron booted 7.5 and gathered 30 disposals in their Round 3 encounter, then kicked 3.4 in Round 17.
That tells us Cameron is getting a lot of shots on goal and can influence the game other than the scoreboard. Lynch is a dangerous weapon for the Tigers, but Cameron’s work rate gives him more opportunities to create and score, which could prove the difference on Saturday.
Dustin Martin has a quiet grand final
His disposals have been down this finals series. In the qualifying final against the Lions, he was kept to 14 touches, although he booted six goals, followed by 22 touches against the Cats in the preliminary final.
Perhaps this means Damien Hardwick is choosing to use Martin as more of an attacking weapon than contested ball-winner. But leading up to the finals series, Martin was hitting high-possession games: 30, 38, 34, and 35.
It was obvious against the Cats he was proppy at best and couldn’t keep up at the stoppages: Dangerfield and co. were able to break free easily, which is not the Martin we know. This would be a blow to the Tigers if Martin is not healthy.
Perhaps he could play as a forward and wreak havoc on the scoreboard. But who’s going to explode through the packs and break open the play like he does when he’s in full swing?
Following this trend, Martin will have a quiet grand final with little impact. Whatever ailment he has, it’s restricting him in ways that mean he won’t be able to operate at his lofty, elite level.