By Peter Argent
The biggest day on the AFL calendar has arrived, with minor premiers Geelong facing off against the third placed – on percentage – Sydney Swans at the cathedral of Australian Sport, the Melbourne Cricket Ground today.
Perennial finals contenders for the past 15 years, Geelong are looking for a first flag since 2011, and their opponents, Sydney last lifted the “Cup” a decade ago.
Not unexpectedly, Geelong has named an unchanged lineup for its Grand Final clash with Sydney.
The Cats are sticking with the same side that defeated Brisbane in the preliminary final the previous Friday evening.
One of the quartet of Brandan Parfitt, Mark O’Connor, Sam Menegola and Jonathon Ceglar will be the medical substitute, which will be named an hour before the first bounce.
Zach Tuohy will play his 250th AFL game, while Cat’s Captain Joel Selwood will play his 40th AFL final, which is a new record, superseding Hawthorn 426 game, seven-time premiership player, Michael Tuck’s major round total of 39.
Sydney have made one change to the side that won their preliminary final by a point, with Hayden McLean coming into the XXII in place of young forward Logan McDonald.
“It’s tough for Logan to go out of the team at any time but particularly for a Grand Final,” John Longmire said.
“We just felt with Hayden McLean coming into the team this week, that was the specifics we from him so we made the decision.
“Justin McInerney and Sam Reid got through it pretty well so we expect them to be ready to play on Saturday.”
The Sydney Swans Mr. Consistency, Jake Lloyd, will play his 200th AFL game in today’s Grand Final as well.
And now to the important questions as to where this game will be won?
Both teams have a pair of high profile forwards. Geelong’s pair of three-time premiership player Tom Hawkins (64) and Jeremy Cameron (63) have kicked 127 goals between them, while the Swans duo of 1000-goal veteran
Lance ‘Buddy” Franklin (52) and the freakish Isaac Heeney (48) have kicked exactly 100.
For the Cats, small forward from Adelaide Tyson Stengle, in his first full season, needs just one major for a 50-goal season in an All-Australian year, while for the men from the harbour city, Will Hayward and Tom Papley have 37 and 31 goals respectively.
Tom Hickey has been revelation in ruck for Sydney, while the McCartin brothers, Paddy and Tom, have been key pillars in defence.
Chad Warner has also produced a big season, with Callum Mills being important as well.
Equally, Geelong have the talent and experience of Tom Stewart and Mitch Duncan across half back, while young athletic marking defender Sam De Koning impresses at full back.
Former Hawk Isaac Smith and skipper Joel Selwood are looking for fourth flags, while “Raging Bull” Patrick Dangerfield is look to add a premiership medallion to his impressive footy CV.
There isn’t too much between the combatants when the ball bounces at 2.30pm Melbourne time, but virtue of their strong win on preliminary final week, Geelong will be slight favourites for a fourth flag this century and tenth in the club’s history.
Formerly South Melbourne, the Swans moved to Sydney in 1981. They have played in five Grand Finals since 1996, winning a drought breaker in 2005 and again in 2012.