BY Alasdair Beer
Saturday afternoon’s AFL Grand Final is a repeat of the 2012 decider, pitting reigning premiers Hawthorn against bookies’ favourite Sydney. The latter triumphed two years ago, and, in a further “fuck you” to the men in brown and gold, have since also stolen their best player (and his insurance premiums.)
Looking for UK pubs showing Sydney Swans v Hawthorne? Head this way brother for bars showing the AFL final.
Sydney cruised through their preliminary – belting North Melbourne by 71 points – whilst Hawthorn face-planted over the finish line, holding off another Jason Voorhees-esque Port Adelaide comeback by 3 points. Key Hawks Jordan Lewis and Cyril Rioli are both battling injury, whilst veterans Ben McEvoy and Brad Sewell could potentially return. For the Swans, perennially gaunt Sam Reid should overcome a jarred knee and the insects under his skin to take his place in the side.
One of these men battled crystal meth addiction.
Key Man: Hawthorn
Sam Mitchell: Mitchell was quelled by Fremantle’s Ryan Crowley in last year’s Grand Final, but will be integral to Hawthorn’s success on Saturday. The Swans thrive at stoppages and contested situations, and Mitchell’s ability as an extractor will allow players like Shaun Burgoyne and Bradley Hill to hurt Sydney with their pace and foot-skills. Key forwards generally struggle in Grand Finals, so the performance of flankers Luke Breust and Paul Puopolo will also be telling.
Key Man: Sydney
Luke Parker: 2014’s biggest improver, Parker was unlucky to miss All-Australian selection this year. Josh Kennedy and Kieren Jack are bigger names, but Parker’s ability as a goalkicker makes him especially dangerous. Ruckman Mike Pyke is the best thing to come out of Canada since Bryan Adams death hoaxes, and will need to excel at center bounces to best a combination of David Hale and one of McEvoy or John Ceglar.
All In The Family
Much has been made of the overlap between the two sides, especially given this is the first final where Sydney’s Lance Franklin will play his former club. Ben McGlynn and Josh Kennedy were both dumped by the Hawks before becoming stars at the Swans, whilst Hawthorn’s Breust is a product of Sydney’s reserves side. Pending the state of East Melbourne’s leper community, the Hawks’ Matt Spangher is another former Swan who will turn out against his old side for the first time in a Grand Final.
Sheeran’ Present Danger
In light of a recent terror alert upgrade, the AFL has bolstered security at the MCG for Saturday’s decider. To really show their commitment to preventing punters suffering prolonged and excruciating pain, they’ve also booked Ed Sheeran as pre-game entertainment.
In further exciting new for anyone who has ever owned a “There’s too much blood in my caffeine system” mug, crusty relics Olivia Newton-John and Tom Jones are also being trotted out to sing hits first recorded in Aramaic. Following on from previously-employed groovers like Lionel Ritchie, Meat Loaf and Irene Cara, Jones and Newton-John give credence to my theory that each year’s entertainment is plucked arbitrarily from the ‘chill afternoon’ playlist of the AFL CEO’s dust-jacketed iPod mini.
This is Hawthorn’s third consecutive Grand Final, a feat unmatched since Brisbane’s 2001-2004 run. The doubly-felt loss of Franklin to their nearest rivals, plus the injury concerns over the talismanic Rioli are concerning, as is their fade-out against Port Adelaide. Sydney, though nominally the home side, will be playing away from their SCG fortress, but have shown an ability to win interstate throughout the year. In Brian Lake and Josh Gibson, the Hawks have the personnel to stifle Franklin and Kurt Tippett, and the most important battles of the day will take place midfield. With clear conditions predicted for Saturday, I’m backing the Hawks’ immaculate footskills to turn the tables from 2012 and win in an upset. Hawthorn by 13.