We have got to that time of the year the AFL Grand Final is upon us. The two best teams for 2009 the Saints and the Cats will do battle at the MCG at 2.30 pm on Saturday. It is the rematch many have been waiting for and it happens on the one day when teams are remembered. The Cats have recaptured some of the form that has seen them be so successful over the previous two seasons. St Kilda has been the form side of the competition in 2009 only dropping two games to this stage of the season. Surprisingly the Saints go into this match as the underdog after the preliminary finals. The Saints defeated the Dogs in a close encounter while the Cats smashed a Collingwood team that were just not up to the big game.
St Kilda – 14.7 (91)
Geelong – 13.7 (85)
A record breaking crowd at Etihad Stadium for an AFL game in 54,444 people were in attendance for this game. The Saints had the first victory in winning the toss. It was time to see who the best in the competition was. The Saints had clearly come to play and kicked the first five goals of the game, but slowly the Cats clawed their way back into it. To summarise the game I will use the words of Ross Lyon and say it was an “armwrestle”. The game was not decided until the last minute of the game when scores were level and birthday boy Michael Gardiner marked in a pack and kicked his fourth of the day to put the Saints up by 6. The siren went not long after and the Saints had emerged as the “best team in the competition”. We can only hope that these teams meet again in the grand final so we can see a rematch.
How the Saints got to the big dance
The Saints dominated the home and away season this year finishing 20-2 thanks to a well implemented game plan that is an upgrade of the Hawks AFL premiership winning one which relies much on profiting on mistakes forced by pressure.
Despite their home and away dominance, they entered their first Qualifying Final against the Pies with a heap of questions. After an unconvincing 1 and a bit quarters, the questions remained. That came to an end with Nick Reiwoldt’s 2 goals just before the half-time which steadied the ship and help the Saints dominate from thereafter.
The captain finished with 5 goals in a low scoring game in an excellent performance, along with Sam Fisher who picked up 42 possessions and Lenny Hayes who dominated contested possessions.
The 28 point victory over the Pies gave the Saints a week off whilst the Bulldogs set up a clash with them in the Preliminary Final.
The Bulldogs took it right up for the Saints and if it weren’t for the Bulldogs poor kicking for goal, the result would have been a fair bit different. But thanks to the excellent efforts of Nick Reiwoldt who kicked 4 goals, and Lenny Hayes who once again dominated the contested possessions, they were dragged over the line to win by 7 points.
How Geelong got to the big dance
Geelong in 2009 have had a season that has not reached the heights of 2008 or 2007 but still find themselves having only lost four matches in the season. Geelong ended the season second on the ladder and faced the Bulldogs first week of the finals. After a hard fought encounter the Cats were able to earn the week off and a must needed rest for many of its stars namely Chapman, Johnson and Ottens who have all battled injuries in 2009. The Cats went on to face Collingwood in the preliminary final and while the first half was close the Cats ran away with the match in the second half and cruised to a 73 point victory. That victory lands them in their third consecutive Grand Final and a chance to write the wrongs of 2008.
Key players for St Kilda
Played like the superstar that he is in the two finals that the Saints have played in. His 9 goals are a fair sum of the 21 that his team has kicked all up which just shows his importance to the Saints chances. There are few defenders that can run with him due to his strength, marking and endurance but Geelong’s Harry Taylor is one who has before.
It’s a pretty simple equation. If Reiwoldt fires; the Saints will win.
Likely match-up: Harry Taylor
After an excellent year, he is following it up with an excellent finals series, Whilst Reiwoldt is the undisputed leader for the Saint’s, in the middle of the ground; he is the one providing leadership time after time, doing the grunt work for the likes of Dal Santo and Montagna to make the most of.
It’s no coincidence that of the two games that the Saint’s have lost, Hayes has been injured.
Likely match-up: Joel Selwood
The man likely to stand Gary Ablett, Geelong’s most influential midfielder. He did a pretty good job in limiting Ablett’s influence in round 14, but as we’ve seen in previous years; this years Brownlow medallist loves stepping it up for the Finals.
Likely match-up: Gary Ablett
His dominance over Mark Blake was telling in round 14. He was best on ground whilst Blake was probably the worst on ground.
Much has changed since then with Blake entering this game with an excellent showing last week against the Pies in where he gave first-use to the Geelong midfield time-after-time.
If he can play as half as well as he did in round 14, the Saints will be fine.
Likely match-up: Mark Blake
The much maligned full-back will likely to be standing the big hairy cat, Cameron Mooney who is a very important player for the Cats. When he get’s going, the players seem to lift so Zac is in for a big one.
Likely match-up: Cameron Mooney
Key players for Geelong
This will be Matthew Scarlett’s biggest challenge of 2009. The Saints forward line has been very impressive throughout the season and stopping its impact will either win or lose this match. Scarlett the backline general for the Cats will wear the bulk of the responsibility.
Likely match-up: Justin Koschitzke/Nick Reiwoldt
This shapes up as Harry Taylor’s biggest test of 2009. The support of Taylor in the backline for Matthew Scarlett will shape this match. Taylor has been impressive in 2009 but this game is where he will be made as a player. If he can negate the impact of the big forwards in this match he like Scarlett will help his side to victory.
Likely match-up: Nick Reiwoldt / Justin Koschitzke
After a very impressive 2009 ending with the Brownlow medal Ablett will be expected to standup in this encounter. Ablett will look to push up the ground and have an impact on the scoreboard. I would imagine he will start the game in the centre and drift up to the forward line. Will be looking to add the Norm Smith medal to his current list of accolades.
Likely match-up: Clint Jones
Chapman will benefit from the two weeks he has had back in the side in the past two weeks. Kicked 5 goals last week against the Pies and looks to be fighting fit. Will be hoping he can make up for the disappointment of the 2008 Grand Final. The Saints will be looking to stop the impact of Chapman who looks to be in good form.
Likely match-up: Steven Baker
Was missing when the teams met in round 14 of the 2009 season. Now back in the side Johnson looms as the key to the Cats success. The run against the Pies last week will help him enormously. The mercurial forward for the Cats can turn a game instantly and if he is able to have an influence for me the Cats will kick enough goals to win the match.
Likely match-up: Sam Gilbert
Why St Kilda will be Premiers
20-2 has to count for something right??!?!?
They had their scare last week and they would have learnt a heap out of it in the mean time keeping them in good stead for any surprises that Geelong may throw up.
I can’t fail to mention the excellent defensive pressure that will strangle Geelong’s usually clean ball-movement. Add two guys called Lenny Hayes and Nick Reiwoldt to the mix and you realise how big of a chance the Saints are.
Why Geelong will be Premiers
For the Cats to win the equation is simple, stop the power forwards of the Saints and win the midfield battle. If the Cats can stop the impact of Nick Reiwoldt and manage to win more of the contested football they will go a long way to winning this football game. The Stars for Geelong are hitting form at the right end of the season and the last quarter against the Pies would have helped immensely with recover during the week. This taken into account and the fact the Saints had the battle to the final siren puts Geelong in a great position to win this game. Ottens, Chapman and Steve Johnson will be keys in the game and tow were missing in the last encounter in round 14. Scarlett and Taylor face their toughest challenge of 2009 but with the support of Mackie, Harley, Enright and Milburn I believe they can get the job done.
Vish: Geelong by 3 points in an absolute classic. Bartel for Norm Smith due to his love of playing in the wet.
Brent: Geelong by 18 points with the Backline the key. Ablett for Norm Smith – No explanation needed.
Luke: St Kilda by 1 point by a goal by Riewoldt after the siren in the Roo pocket to make his Grand Final dream come true. Ablett for the Norm Smith, he’s just the best. Hoping the Saints can play in the wet or it doesn’t rain with that tip.
Cladi: Geelong by 2 points and it coming down to the wire. Lenny Hayes for Norm Smith.
Geelong sections and Introduction by Brent
St Kilda sections by Vish