History is on the line this weekend in more ways than one.
Collingwood and Richmond square off in a final for the first time since 1980, while the Demons hope to keep their cinderella story alive against the Eagles over in Perth.
It’s double-delight this weekend as the AFL Prelims pack a punch. But before you go and pick a winner, it’s worth asking yourself a few questions first.
Friday 21 September, 7.50pm, MCG
Toby The Tank Engine?
The Tigers own double-bragging rights over the Pies this season and their pressure and intensity has so far proved too much for Nathan Buckley’s side to handle.
It’s doubtful either coach has reviewed a ton of footage from their Round 6 clash ahead of Friday’s third and final showdown, but interestingly enough, there was a major storyline to come from Richmond’s 43-point win – Toby Nankervis.
The powerful ruckman led the team in disposals that day with 29. His presence in the midfield can’t be stressed enough, and you only have to take a look at his contribution in the ruck against Hawthorn to understand how detrimental he is to Richmond’s success.
As far as Collingwood is concerned, the burden falls squarely on Brodie Grundy’s shoulders. Even if the scoreboard says otherwise, Nankervis had a quieter game during their Round 19 meeting, but the Pies, and more importantly Grundy, will need to target him once again.
With no genuine second ruckman, this could be the chink in Richmond’s armor.
De Goey Da X-Factor?
No prizes for guessing, the Pies need to score points if they wish to win on Friday night, and that conversation starts and ends with Jordan de Goey, Collingwood’s breakout full-forward.
A mid-season injury cost the youngster a spot in the lineup against Richmond in Round 19, and his one-goal contribution against the Tigers in Round 6 was hardly felt.
The worrying sign for Collingwood supporters is de Goey’s lack of experience against this Richmond outfit. The 22-year old has played in just three-games against the Tigers dating back to 2015, averaging no more than a goal in each of them.
We’ve seen how stingy Richmond’s back-line can be in recent weeks, holding Jack Gunston goalless a fortnight ago. A lot now relies on the Pies defence to bring the pressure and force errors around midfield to push the ball forward de Goey’s way.
Is Dusty… Dusty?
A corkie is commonplace for football players, but reports from Damien Hardwick suggest the bleeding has traveled down into Dustin Martin’s knee.
There’s zero chance he misses Friday night’s clash, however, that isn’t to say the superstar forward will be at full-strength.
Collingwood will be out to target Martin’s soreness, so risking him anywhere close to the goal square probably isn’t smart. For all the talk surrounding the Tigers’ pressure and their home-field advantage at the G’, the one common theme this season has been their strong bill of health.
Martin has dealt with nicks like this before, and more often than not played through. Now we wait and see if a week of limited training costs last year’s Norm Smith Medalist.
West Coast Eagles
Saturday 22 September, 7.50pm, Optus Stadium
No-Go Without Yeo?
Look around the ground and you’d be forgiven for thinking Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling hold the keys to victory for West Coast this week, but how wrong you are.
If we learned anything during the Eagles’ qualifying win over Collingwood a fortnight ago, it’s how important centre Elliot Yeo is to this side.
Racking up 36-disposals, a season high, Yeo was the main reason Josh Kennedy turned a rather quiet first three quarters into a respectable two-goal night.
That effort alone won West Coast the game, but more importantly, Collingwood did a great job of spreading the ball quickly across the midfield.
A week after limiting future Brownlow winner Tom Mitchell to 24-disposals, a low tally by his standards, the Dees are now tasked with tagging Yeo and silencing his ball distribution around the stoppages.
Can the Eagles Win the Inside 50’s?
We just touched on Kennedy’s so-so night against Collingwood two week’s ago, yet that’s only the tip of the iceberg as far as West Coast’s worries go.
In the Eagles six losses during the home/away season, they won the inside fifty count three times. Melbourne already know how to take care of the Eagles, booking a trip to the finals back in Round 22 with a 17-point win away from home.
The Dees won the inside fifty count that day, while West Coast sat dead even with Collingwood during the qualifying final. A week’s rest should have done Kennedy some good, but the Eagles will need a big game from half-back Jeremy McGovern and Yeo if they wish to push the ball forward and create plenty of opportunities.