It all comes down to this!
I was genuinely worried we wouldn’t get here at many points throughout 2020, but this Saturday the AFL season finally concludes with a mouth-watering grand final between the Richmond Tigers and Geelong Cats.
The Tigers are looking to make it three flags in four seasons and cement their status as one of the greatest teams of the modern era. Geelong, on the other hand, are hoping to put years of finals heartbreak behind them and send legend Gary Ablett Jr off with a high.
The preliminary finals proved difficult to predict for everyone on the panel once more. My tip of Geelong to beat Brisbane was the only point anyone earnt. Marnie Cohen, Liam Salter and The Crowd all picked up the doughnut.
This week, like last year, we’ll not only tip the winner but also the margin, the Norm Smith medallist and the first goalscorer.
Geelong by 16. Norm Smith to Patrick Dangerfield, first goal to Dion Prestia
I feel like I’ve written about this match enough already, when I dissected Geelong’s woes against the Tigers of late in my Tuesday column.
I won’t beat around the bush – I’m barracking for Geelong on Saturday. I’d really like to see Gary Ablett Jr go out on a high, and a premiership would be just reward for a Cats team that’s been one of the competition’s best for such a long period of time.
They’ve got incredible momentum at their backs with two awe-inspiring finals wins. The 40-point margin flattered them a tad against Brisbane, but they were still several notches above the Lions when it counted. The 68-point margin against Collingwood, on the other hand, flattered the losers.
As I said the other day, I really believe the Cats have figured out the perfect way to play against the Tigers, but circumstance has robbed them of the opportunity to cash in on the last two occasions.
Will it happen again on Saturday?
For most of the week I thought it would, with the forecast for Brisbane supposed to be downright terrible on grand final day. Richmond’s record in wet weather is impervious and I saw the decider being a low-scoring slog that the Tigers would prevail in after smothering their opponents.
But at the time of writing the Bureau of Meteorology says the deluge won’t hit Queensland’s capital until the day after the decider, with Saturday set for a drizzle and lots of cloud cover at worst.
Of course Richmond can play in any conditions and, as much as I’ve written about it, I’m not basing my tip purely on the weather.
The incredible form the Cats are in needs to be given some stock – certainly a lot more stock than it’s being given. With the preliminary final hoodoo off their back and buoyed the fact they’re not playing the Tigers at the MCG, I reckon Geelong can finally break through and claim another flag.
It’s hard to see the Norm Smith going to anyone other than Patrick Dangerfield if Geelong win. Even if he’s not best on ground, the selection panel have got it wildly wrong over the last few years (Cyril Rioli in 2015, Jason Johannisen in 2016, Dustin Martin in 2017), so I’ll back them to play it safe and pick him no matter what.
Dion Prestia will kick the first goal of the match in the very early going.
Finally, here’s my Shoe-In of the Week. With Geelong just about over the line, Gary Rohan will have the opportunity to kick an easy sealer and wash away years of criticism, but, like Jack Darling in 2018, he’ll fluff it badly and give the Tigers a pulse.
Geelong by 22. Norm Smith to Cam Guthrie, first goal to Tom Lynch.
We have just about reached the end of the 2020 season and, let me tell you, it has been an incredibly entertaining ride and has built up to a sensational grand final match-up.
I will start by saying this: it is seriously remarkable that two Victorian sides will be facing off after over 100 days in the Queensland hub and few genuine home games.
Obviously it’s a shame the majority of their fans will be trapped in their home state and unable to witness their beloved sides play, but I don’t think that will change the sweet taste of success.
Speaking of success, I think Geelong will win the 2020 grand final.
I have thought for most of this season that they are the best side in the competition. However, with so much media and social media noise constantly surrounding you, it’s so easy to go back and forth on that statement.
But the proof is in the pudding, and not just throughout the home-and-away season but during the final series as well.
Despite losing the qualifying final to Port in Adelaide, the Cats have backed it up with two dominant displays against Collingwood and Brisbane. They have a solid contribution across the board and are such a joy to watch.
They are the better team going into Saturday night’s game, but there is always a catch where Richmond is concerned.
The thing with Richmond is when they begin to play on a knife’s edge, they become their most dangerous and are so good that no-one is a chance of stopping them. Their work rate around the stoppages and centre clearances against Port Adelaide in the prelim was elite, and not to mention they boast one of the best finals players in Dustin Martin.
Still, the fact Geelong has managed to break through a streak of preliminary finals failures really means something, and I believe that something is premiership glory.
As for who will be best on ground, I don’t think Cam Guthrie is too much of a left-field choice, but it may require some explaining.
Vision has emerged of Guthrie in the rooms in tears following Geelong’s preliminary finals victory. It’s the emotion that ignites a fire within players and drives determination towards greatness. That emotion, combined with the midfielder’s breakout season, could be a Norm Smith-winning combination.
Although it will be a very different grand final, here’s hoping it’s still an entertaining contest. Hopefully it’s a game to remember not just for the strange circumstances but for the right reasons as well.
Geelong by five. Norm Smith to Patrick Dangerfield, first goal to Tom Lynch.
It’s somewhat bemusing that after a very weird season we end up with a grand final featuring two interstate teams for the first time since 2006.
Given that, and given the fact the decider is being played in the Switzerland of venues, it’s very plausible this will be the most even premiership decider in years.
There’s a chunk of evidence to support this. Both Richmond and Geelong have superb records in Queensland, with the Cats not losing at the Gabba this year and Richmond winning eight of their last ten.
They followed identical finals trajectories too. Both lost qualifying finals, were scarcely challenged in the semi-finals and took down the prohibitive favourites in last weekend’s prelims.
I’m no tactical expert – that should be obvious by now – but statistically both teams are high-scoring outfits (no surprise with even a cursory look at their forward line talent) while simultaneously being tight defensive units.
The latter fact was obvious in their Round 17 meeting, which produced Geelong’s lowest total score and Richmond’s fifth-lowest winning score of the season. That Round 17 win was the Tigers’ fourth from their last five matches against the Cats, including last year’s preliminary final, which is a good record any way you look at it.
They may hold the statistical advantage but Richmond no longer yield the fairytale card – that slot is entirely Geelong’s this week. Whether it be Gary Ablett’s last premiership hurrah, Patrick Dangerfield gunning for an inaugural premiership or the team itself gunning for a first premiership in almost a decade, the Cats appear to have the hearts and minds of most neutrals.
If you’re expecting a walloping on behalf of the Tigers, temper your expectations. Richmond will have plenty of nostalgia from last year’s huge grand final win over the Giants and 2017’s thrashing of Adelaide. That makes their favouritism completing.
But with rain expected, Geelong with an abundance of motivation and the Gabba locale bound to throw up a surprise, I’m not even considering a Richmond blowout.
In fact I’m not tipping a Richmond win at all. The sentimentality around Geelong is irresistible, and while the Tigers are a ridiculously tough opponent that are likely to make me regret this come Saturday night, the moment is right for the Cats. They’ll win in a close one – I’m thinking 2018-close, just to raise a few heart rates.
As for individual tips, I’m going to back the controversial Tom Lynch to get the scoring underway. The Norm Smith is more difficult to tip, though. Patrick Dangerfield is the easy choice if the Cats win, though I’m somewhat partial to falling for the Gary Ablett Jr being best on ground. Not partial enough to tip it – the medal will be Dangerfield’s.