The Best Damn Grand Final Preview You’ll Read

Welcome ladies, gentlemen, and all others inclusive to this season’s ultimate instalment of Jimmy’s Mongrel Preview!

After 198 home and away games and eight finals, it all comes down to this. One team will achieve the ultimate glory all 18 sides dream about and dedicate their lives to, whilst the other will head home broken-hearted and defeated. Such is the cruel nature of competitive sports.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the biggest day on the Australian sporting calendar through the eyes of a Mongrel.

 

Teams:

Geelong vs Sydney

 

Venue:

MCG

 

Form:

The Cats were in a class of their own through the latter half of the season, finishing with an 18-4 record after winning their last 15 games in a row (including finals) to claim the minor premiership for finishing first on the ladder, for the first time since 2019. Prior to that it was back-to-back-to-back top finishes in 2008 and 2007 respectively.

The Swans also finished their season strongly, winning their last nine straight games (including finals) and claiming 12 of their last 14 victories to finish in third place with a 16-6 record, their best ladder placement since achieving minor premiership status in 2016 and 2014 respectively, with their last third-placed finish occurring in 2012 – a premiership year.

 

 

Last Time They Met:

 

Round 2, 2022

It’s hard to think that the last time these two sides met was back in March, almost six months to the day, in fact. It was a game that probably won’t register in the minds of many, with only one or two minor happenings to bother the press. It was a drizzly Friday evening at the SCG when some bloke named Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin kicked some goal that took his career tally to 1000 or something like that.. you probably missed it.

In all seriousness though, the last time these two sides met was the utter pandemonium that was Buddy Franklin’s 1000th career goal. Chad Warner and Ollie Florent were so displaced amongst the hordes of fans invading the ground, that they ended up out on the street trying to regain entry to club rooms inside the SCG, as Buddy-Mania swept over the ground.

It’s hard to gauge exactly what both sides brought to and from that meeting, given the extremely Buddy-centric media and press leading into and enveloping the game itself. But the Cats kicked the first two goals before surrendering eight of the next nine in quick succession, giving the Swans a five goal lead in the second quarter. It was as good as goal for goal throughout the third quarter until Sydney kicked three in a row heading into the final term, as Franklin kicked his fourth goal of the game to notch up the historic milestone, that caused a 34-minute delay in play as fans and revellers ran onto the ground in droves. The final five or so minutes meandered somewhat after the spectacle and the Swans finished the game as 30 point winners.

Isaac Heeney was dangerous with five goals, having Buddy in tandem Ki king four and Will Hayward finished the game with three majors.

Brad Close kicked four for the Cats and Hawkins and Cameron were well held to 1.5 between them.

Callum Mills, Chad Warner and Erroll Gulden were amongst the best for the Swans with Cam Guthrie and Isaac Smith battling hard for the Cats.

17.5.107 – 10.17.77

 

 

Grand Finals Record

 

Geelong –

The Cats have made 18 Grand Final appearances since their very first back in 1925, with an even record of 9-9. Their most recent wins coming on the back of an era of success throughout the past 16 years, in 2011, 2009 and 2007 against the Magpies, Saints and the Power, with their most recent losses coming in 2020 and 2008 at the hands of Tigers and the Hawks respectively.

 

Sydney –

The Swans have made 17 Grand Final appearances since their very first back in 1899, with an unsavoury record of 5-12. Their most recent wins coming in 2005 and 2012 against the Eagles and the Hawks respectively, with their most recent losses coming in 2016, 2014 and 2006 at the hands of the Bulldogs (or the umpires, depending on who you ask), the Hawks and Eagles.

 

Finals History Together:

The Swans and the Cats have met five times in finals across the existence of both clubs, with Sydney holding a 4-1 advantage. They have never played off in a Grand Final.

 

 

2017 Semi Final

The only time the Cats have beaten the Swans in a final came five years ago, after finishing second on the ladder, the Cats would lose their first final to Richmond, sending them into a Semi Final against a red-hot Swans side, who had finished sixth to qualify for their eighth straight finals appearance, the first side ever to do so after losing their first six games of the season. The Swans had easily accounted for Essendon the week prior and moved on to tackle the Cats in a do-or-die final.

In a stroke of genius, Chris Scott switched Patrick Dangerfield to full forward where the then-reigning Brownlow Medallist put on an absolute clinic, torching the Swans defenders and kicking 4.3 from his 26 disposals (four goals in the first half) and eight marks (four contested) to take the game away from Sydney, holding the Swans to their lowest finals score since 1924, and their lowest overall score since 1997.

Mitch Duncan was clinical in the midfield with 26 disposals, four clearances, and two goals, as was Sam Menegola with 26 disposals, eight tackles and two goals.

The Cats would go on to be rolled in a 61-point demolition in Adelaide at the hands of the Crows.

 

15.8.98 – 5.9.39

 

 

2016 Preliminary Final

After an upset loss to cross-town rivals GWS in week one of the Finals, the Swans were forced to host the Crows at the SCG in week two, a fixture they’d win comfortably by 36 points and subsequently meet the Cats at the MCG. Geelong had a somewhat smoother entry to the finals, albeit supposedly at their detriment. After beating the Hawks in a two point thriller for week one of the Finals, the Cats went straight through to a Preliminary Final, but with the pre-finals Bye and the week off for winning week onez the Cats infamous poor form post-Bye reared its ugly head once again.

It was the Swans who finished top of the ladder that blasted through the doors to play in their third Grand Final in five years with a barnstorming 37 point win over the Cats, who finished below them in second. In a brutal first half from Sydney, pressure football and precision disposal were rampant, exposing the Cats at the MCG.

Kieran Jack was pressure-personified, leading all comers with 13 tackles, as Isaac Heeney and Dan Hannebery made the most of their disposal tallies and punished the opposition.

Joel Selwood and Patrick Dangerfield battled endlessly in the midfield for the Cats.

With the Swans 15 goals coming from a plethora of scorers, Tom Papley kicking three and each of Gary Rohan, Kurt Tippet, Buddy Franklin and Luke Parker kicking two.

The Swans would go on to lose to the Bulldogs the following week in the Grand Final.

 

8.12.60 – 15.7.97

 

 

2005 Semi-Final

You may have seen it, but you wouldn’t believe it.

The Swans finished the season third on the ladder with the Cats finishing sixth. After going down to the second-placed Eagles by only four points in a nail-biting finish, the Swans had to endure the long road in the finals, taking on Geelong at the SCG the following week if they were to have any chance of progressing to a Preliminary Final. The Cats came into the match in a strong vein of form, having beaten the Demons by 55 points in a week one thrashing. The stage was set for what would become an instant classic and one of the most recognisable calls by a commentator of this generation.

The match itself looked to be heavily in the travelling side’s favour, as the Cats led narrowly at quarter time and extended it to a 20-point lead at the main break. Geelong kicked the first goal of the last quarter and the margin blew out to 23 points.

Cometh the moment, cometh the man. In a period of time etched in the annals of absolute, pure footy folklore, Nick Davis found himself running into space with about 14 minutes left in the game, after receiving a brilliant ruck tap inside the forward 50 for a cross-body kick from the pocket and a goal. Geelong’s margin now 16 points.

With about 10 minutes left to play, a link-up passage of play through the middle sees Ryan O’Keefe send a running torpedo from the centre circle deep inside the forward 50, where Davis out marks two Geelong defenders from behind and slots a drop punt from 20 metres out, directly in front. Geelong’s margin now 10 points.

About three minutes left in the game, the ball is contested inside the Swans’ forward 50, Davis receives a handball and snaps truly from about 40 metres out, to the elation of the commentary team and supporters alike. Geelong’s margin was now 3 points.

Now into the final minute, the ball is once again hotly contested inside the Swans’ forward 50 as players from both teams dive, scrape and scramble to win the ball out and earn a winning clearance. In the left pocket from about 20 metres out, the ruckman tapped the ball clear into space in front of a running Davis who juggled and guided the ball straight onto his opposite foot, with no time to take a proper possession, snapping the ball through whilst being tackled for the most miraculous of goals. Sydney now led by 3 points.

Three things perfectly sum up the finish to that game:

Firstly, Anthony Hudson’s impeccable call for Channel 10. “Nick Davis, NICK DAVIS! I DON’T BELIEVE IT. I SEE IT, BUT I DON’T BELIEVE IT. Class with a capital C, four goals from Nick Davis. He has single-handedly sent them into a Preliminary Final.”

Secondly, Clinton Grybas’ call on 3AW radio. “Final play of the season, ball at the top of the goal square. Nick Davis! Nick Davis! Davis has done it for Sydney! It’s grand larceny, It’s highway robbery. It’s Ronnie Biggs, It’s Ned Kelly. It’s the greatest thieving effort you will ever see.”

Thirdly, the supporter in the cheer squad with the indescribably apt banner saying: “Nick Davis come 2 Savis”.

The Swans would go on to beat the Saints in a Preliminary Final at the MCG the following week, and then again the next week, beating the Eagles in the Grand Final.

 

7.14.56 – 7.11.53

 

1934 Preliminary Final

In their first year with a new nickname ‘the Swans’, South Melbourne finished the season in third with a 14-4 record, whilst Geelong finished second with a 14-1-3 record. The two sides had met only a few weeks prior in the final round of the home and away season, where the Bloods would record a 42-point victory at their home ground. Earlier in the season, it had been a different case, back in Round 7 Geelong found themselves 29 points up at the final siren when South Melbourne travelled to Corio.

The first week of the finals had the Swans beat the Magpies by 3 points in an MCG thriller. Geelong lost to the eventual premiers, the Tigers, by 84 points and found themselves facing South Melbourne at the MCG for a spot in the Grand Final.

The Swans gained an early ascendancy to lead by 12 points at quarter time. A slight fightback from the Cats was met with resistance as South Melbourne led by 14 points at the main break. A continuous trend with a 34-point margin at three-quarter time and a blistering final term would see the Swans advance to the Grand Final, winning by 60 points. Newspapers from the time noted that Geelong did not handle the wet conditions well at all.

Bob Pratt kicked six goals and both Ossie Bertram and Laurie Nash kicked four goals a piece for South Melbourne, with Tommy Quinn being the pick of the Geelong players.

The Swans went on to face Richmond in the Grand Final a week later, suffering a 39 point loss. Bob Pratt would kick his 150th goal for the season, seeing the legendary forward set a League record that still stands to this day. (Equalled by Peter Hudson in 1971)

 

15.18.108 – 7.6.48

 

1914 Semi Final

After finishing second on the ladder, South Melbourne would face Geelong, who finished fourth, in a final to determine who would go on to play Carlton the following week in a Preliminary Final.

It was a ruggedly inaccurate start from the Souths, kicking 2.12 to three-quarter time as Geelong held a six-point lead. A resurgent 3.2 was scored in the final term, helping seal a victory for South Melbourne, winning by seven points.

Jack Freeman was the only multiple goal scorer on the ground with two for the game.

 

5.14.44 – 5.7.37

 

 

Potential Match-Ups:

Patrick Dangerfield/Luke Parker

This isn’t necessarily the one-on-one we want to see, but it’s a thrilling prospect nonetheless. After demolishing Essendon and earning three Brownlow votes in Round 1, Patrick Dangerfield had a stinker against the Swans in Round 2. Only touching the ball four times in the first half, it was a far cry from the previous week’s heroics.

The thought of these two players, both gifted with decent leg speed and an ability to handle their own in the forward 50, getting their opportunity out of the centre and the high likelihood of spending time in the forward line is a tantalising prospect, especially for the neutral observer.

This year we’ve seen Parker behind the ball a lot more, at least in comparison to Dangerfield. Whilst that doesn’t stop the 2016 Brownlow Medallist from getting around the ground, Parker has also scored more goals, but thanks largely to his five-goal haul in Round 1.

The argument can be made as to whether Luke Parker will be given a role to run with someone or used in his own way. Luke Parker has gone directly head to head with Jordan De Goey last week and did brilliantly, especially in the first half. There were also some big clashes against Christian Petracca in week one of the finals, albeit Petracca was notably injured, but between Parke and Callum Mills, the Swans have two midfielders capable of winning their own ball and providing a negative influence on their direct opponent.

 

Cam Guthrie/Callum Mills

Another clash of the titans in terms of individual importance to their side. Without starting a Vic-bias debate (I’m looking at you, Nev), I’m of a firm belief that if Callum Mills played for one of the ‘big’ Victorian clubs, his name would be shouted from the rooftops of AFL House. The 25 year old has fast become one of the more versatile midfielders in the AFL, with his early career experience of playing behind the ball now playing a huge part in his ability to read the play, and giving a level of commitment to follow the game going either way.

In a similar fashion, Cam Guthrie has spent his career thus far playing second fiddle to some of the greatest midfielders of his generation, and all time for that matter. Gary Ablett, Joel Selwood, Patrick Dangerfield, Paul Chapman, Cameron Ling, Joel Corey. Just a small selection of names that have been on the same team sheet as Guthrie throughout his 11 seasons in the AFL. In recent years, Guthrie has been able to achieve a level of continuity in his game style that has turned him into a dependable and durable weapon for Chris Scott. A good old fashioned follower in every sense of the old vernacular, but with a modern twist in the capability to play a role as a genuine defender, attacker and ball winner.

 

Jed Bews/Tom Papley

This is potentially shaping up to be one of the more highly anticipated clashes leading up to the game. Jed Bews may be rather undersung amongst most supporters that don’t closely follow the Cats, but his numbers this season by far stack up as one of the better smaller defenders in the league. Having only had multiple goals kicked on him once this season, Bews has flown under the radar of many and been tasked with some of the toughest tussles in footy when taking on some of the opposition’s craftiest small forwards each week.

The threat of Tom Papley has been intensified, given the small forward’s terrific season and finals series to date. Currently sitting on 31 goals from his 18 games, the dangerous Papley has been highly touted by many as that mercurial type of player that can change the course of a game, with huge questions over who and how the Swans will choose a way to limit his presence on the game. Certainly, Bews possess the talents needed of a small defender to keep Papley from scoring, but we’ve seen coach John Longmire unafraid to use his small utility further up the ground and even at the centre bounces when he’s having trouble affecting the scores.

Given the outgoing nature of a player like Papley, stopping him early in the game before his freakish ability around goal gifts the small forward momentum will be paramount for Geelong, and my money is on Jed Bews to get the job.

 

Tom Stewart/Ryan Clarke

Now, this selection is one that poses the most questions on potential outcomes for the rest of the team sheets. If Ryan Clarke is used on Tom Stewart, as the sticky, negating forward has been in recent weeks on the likes of Nick Daicos and a plethora of other skilful and dangerous defenders, will it only serve to free up someone like a Mitch Duncan to take over? Are you simply chopping one head off the fabled hydra and watching others sprout back in its place?

Stewart is undoubtedly one of the Cats’ most important players and key playmaker from the back half, so sending someone like a Ryan Clarke to prevent the potent mix of interception and rebound craft that Stewart is renowned for is something that could really throw a brick in the Cats’ Weet-Bix. But in saying that, we’ve seen plenty of teams attempt it at their own peril this season for a number of reasons. Firstly, Stewart is no chump. As a defender and prime ball user, the Geelong vice-captain is more than used to receiving the extra attention of a negating forward and has thrived at times this year despite coming under immense opposition pressure.

Last week against the Lions, Stewart was afforded far too much leniency in the back line, and it absolutely killed Brisbane. The rotation of Mark Blicavs and Rhys Stanley from the ruck to a spare man in defence paired beautifully with Stewart’s ability to be a genuine stopper behind the play, and rebound the ball into successful scoring chains.

As I touched on earlier, even if Clarke is to do a number on Stewart, will this only serve as a runway for Mitch Duncan to then take off and be that rebounding defender with a full capability of hitting the midfield and impacting the game with Tom Stewart tied up? There’s always the option of Sydney backing in their own system and going toe to toe with Geelong’s tight defence. Regardless, however this pans out will become a riveting contest on the biggest stage.

 

Jeremy Cameron/Dane Rampe

When it comes to running and aerial abilities z there aren’t many players in the game that can go with Jeremy Cameron when the dynamic forward is at full tilt. Of the Sydney defenders, the only one I see as covering or at least breaking even with Cameron in most departments, is Dane Rampe. I’m not going to list all of the accomplishments and skills of Jeremy Cameron here, we all know that when fully firing he is unquestionably one of the most important players in the AFL, and we’ve seen that many times this season.

If Rampe can avoid all urges to climb the goalpost, and ramp up his pressure (pun not intended), directing his defensive nous squarely at Jeremy Cameron, then the superstar forward may find himself with a damn hard opponent to shake – especially one that can compete in the air, but also possesses the aerobic capacity to runs round the ground and keep Cameron accountable. The past five times they’ve met, Rampe has held Cameron to a total of five goals, including a single bag of three, two games with single goals only and two games with big, fat zeros.

 

Sam De Koning/Lance Franklin

Can you imagine this? Just ponder the situation from the view of young De Koning – after playing one game last year, this is the highly talented defender’s first full season in the AFL, and to cap off a successful season that sees you named as full-back in the top-ranked side now chasing a premiership dream, you are tasked with opposing the greatest forward of his generation, and one of, if not the most dynamic player of this century. What a task for Sam De Koning.

Listening to Geelong’s assistant coach and former premiership defender Harry Taylor speak this week, gave a great insight into how the Cats are preparing the young defender for his metaphorical David vs Goliath Matchup this weekend – and who better to give this advice than a man who played on Franklin many times, including a Grand Final?

Coming off the recent press of signing on for one more year, Buddy Franklin is chasing that elusive premiership that has escaped him since he became one of the highest profile trades in the game’s history, when crossing from Hawthorn to Sydney on a long-term, big money deal all those years ago. Achieving the heights of absolute superstar status which Franklin undoubtedly has, the superstar forward has been met with criticism at each turn. But even at age 35, Franklin has still kicked 52 goals this season at an average of almost 2.5 goals per game, including his 1000th career goal against the Swans back in Round 2. Quite a sound return for someone that many are happy to call over the hill, but with a justifiable contract extension for next year was signed with the Swans, why can’t Franklin give the Swans another season like this one?

But before all that, his next task is to be a heavy influence on this weekend’s Grand Final, and one of the game’s up-and-coming defenders, 14 years his junior in Sam De Koning is what’s potentially standing in the way of Franklin achieving that.

 

Notes:

 

This century, the Swans have finished in third place twice prior to this season: 2012 and 2005. Do those years sound familiar? They should. They are Sydney’s two most recent Grand Final victories.

This will be the first Grand Final in 15 years to not feature a Melbourne-based team. The last time this occurred was when the Cats trounced Port Adelaide in 2007.

Regardless of which side wins, either John Longmire or Chris Scott will break the record for most games coached between first and second Grand Final wins.

If the Cats are to win Saturday it will be Joel Selwood’s 22nd finals win of his career, drawing the Geelong captain level with… the St Kilda Football Club, who also have 22 finals wins in their 125-year VFL/AFL history.

Last week’s narrow win over the Magpies was an outlier for how the Swans have played all season. Sydney have become the best second-half team in the AFL, with a record of 20-4 when it comes to second-half wins over their opposition this season.

Likewise, the Cats also finish off games strongly – particularly in the final quarter. Geelong haven’t lost a final quarter in any game since Round 6, when of all teams, North Melbourne outscored the eventual minor premiers. To put that into context though, the Cats were already 64 points up heading into that final quarter.

My co-resident quirky stats guru here at the Mongrel Punt – Jimmy Day, tells me that the last time these two sides played back in Round 2, Jake Kolodjashnij kicked the first goal of the game. Now, if you’re one for omens then look away Cats fans, because Geelong have never won a game after Kolodjashnij has kicked the first goal.

Ever wondered why they call the third quarter of the game the ‘premiership quarter’? I learnt recently that it actually used to be known as the ‘lemon quarter’ way back in the day, and I’m still yet to find out why. So if anyone knows, feel free to tag me in the comments. Anyways, I digress. The past eight Grand Finals have all been won by the side that wins the third quarter. Outscore your opponent in the third, and the odds say that you will win the game. Looking back at recent years, they’ve all been by decent margins, in almost all cases the successful side has won the quarter by a figure in double digits.

The only three Cats playing this weekend that lined up in Geelong’s 2011 Grand Final win in Chris Scott’s first year as coach, are Joel Selwood, Tom Hawkins and Mitch Duncan.

The only two Swans playing this weekend that lined up in Sydney’s 2012 Grand Final win are Sam Reid and Luke Parker who was named sub on the day.

In the event of a Sydney win, Paul Kelly will present the premiership cup. In the event of a Geelong win, Cameron Ling will present the premiership cup.

I may have mentioned this previously, but if it’s good enough to hijack Richard Goyder’s Brownlow speech, then it’s good enough for me to bring it up again. Joel Selwood is set to break Michael Tuck’s record of 39 finals appearances this week when the Geelong captain lines up for final number 40 in his illustrious career.

Thanks to Swamp for this one, but Joel Selwood and Lance Franklin going head to head this week is the first time since 1986 that two opponents have appeared in five or more Grand Finals each. The last occurrence being Hawthorn’s Michael Tuck and Carlton’s Bruce Doull.

 

 

Well, that’s me signing off on the preview front for another year. Thanks to everyone for your support throughout the season, and check back at the Mongrel Punt throughout the offseason for plenty more content.

 

 

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