The Adelaide Crows come into the game as outright favourites, and rightly so as the Swans enter the finals losing three out of their last four games, with close losses to Collingwood and Hawthorn, and a touch-up from the Cats at Skilled Stadium in Round 23. This has forced the Swans to travel in Round 1 of the finals, which hasn’t been a problem for them in season 2012. The Swans have won 8 out of their 11 games on the road this year, including big wins against West Coast and Hawthorn.
The Swans have lost 12 out of their past 14 encounters with the Crows, including their first loss for the year in Round 6 at the SCG, by just 5 points. Taylor Walker proved to be the difference and finished with six majors. If the Swans are any chance to win this week, shutting down Tex Walker is crucial, and Teddy Richards who was named in the All-Australian Squad this week should get the task.
Heath Grundy is set to miss the clash with the Crows after failing in his appeal against his one-match suspension for striking Geelong’s Podsiadly, which seriously disrupts the structure of the Swans backline. In an ideal world, Teddy and Grundy would line-up on the big forwards in Walker and Tippett, but this weekend it will be up to the likes of Mattner and Smith to stand up and cover the hole left in Grundy’s absence.
The Swans were bolstered by the return of Jude Bolton last week, who will play his 21st finals game this weekend along with co-captain Adam Goodes. Sam Reid should also slot straight back into the side after missing last week’s game against the Cats. Reid is pivotal to the forward-line structure, and adds contested marking and height which frees up the likes of Goodes, Mcglynn and Roberts-Thomson. Daniel Talia looks set to get the job on Reid, and the 2012 Rising Star will have his work cut out for him.
It’s no hidden secret that an integral part of both Sanderson and Longmire’s game plan is contested footy, and the game could well be decided by the winner of the contested possession count. Sam Jacobs should be the All-Australian ruckman after a breakout season, although he is competing against an in-form ruck combination with Mumford and Pyke proving to be dangerous in both the ruck, and up forward. It then comes down to a battle between the midfielders. The Swans are led by All Australian squad members Kennedy and Jack, who have both had stellar seasons, although the Crows focal point has also been in the middle of the ground, with Thompson having another astounding season and Dangerfield playing the best footy of his career.
Prediction : Adelaide by 7 points in a nail-biter.
– Blake Gray
Arguably the two best-contested ball winning sides in the competition are going head to head. Making for an ever-important ruck battle. A duel that I think that Crow Jacobs will shade in terms of hitouts, although the Swan’s Mumford holds the greater mobility.
Once the ball is on the ground, it promises to be a ferocious clash, one that is potentially low scoring. There are All-Australian hopefuls from both sides including Thompson, Dangerfield, Kennedy and Jack, all hoping to decide this one in favour of their team.
The suspension of Heath Grundy is a massive loss for Sydney, one that leaves them a key defender short to account for both Kurt Tippett and Taylor Walker. Adelaide may try to compound this loss by playing another tall up forward in favour of Matthew Jaensch who returned for the Crows’ final round game against Gold Coast. Although this would go against the style displayed from Sanderson thus far this season, the temptation may be too great to resist.
Despite the loss of Grundy, the Swans will be bolstered by last week’s return of Jude Bolton who will have gained some vital match fitness in time for this clash. A man Sydney will be hoping stays fit for the entire match will be Adam Goodes, who exited the Round 5 clash in Sydney between the sides, early in the last quarter. Goodes had kicked 5 goals by this stage and was looking ominous for the Crows who escaped with a 5-point victory.
Down back for Adelaide, newly crowned rising star Daniel Talia will be full of confidence from his mid-week award. Veteran Ben Rutten will be hoping to find his best form after struggling somewhat this season; a task which may be made easier by a failed fitness test from Swan’s key forward Sam Reid. Although second ruckman Myke Pyke has drifted forward so far this season with good effect. The Swan’s leading goalkicker Lewis Jetta will pose a different challenge for the Crows, a task that I think will be given to impressive defender Brent Reilly.
Adelaide’s current form is hard to judge, following games against Melbourne and The Suns. Perhaps a better indicator is they have only lost one game at home all season, following a fade out in the last quarter in a tight game against Collingwood.
Sydney, have lost their last three against top eight opposition but do travel well, indicated by wins over in Perth against the Eagles and in Launceston vs the Hawks.
It will be tight and tough early, just like any final. I believe the lead will see-saw throughout, with perhaps the home ground advantage telling in the end.
Adelaide by 11 points.
– Luke Sale