Sydney fans would have been chirpy and full of confidence after beating Adelaide in the qualifying final. But now, they might just be a little more reserved, because Collingwood of all teams is set to travel up to ANZ Stadium for their Preliminary Final clash tonight.
The Magpies have won the past seven meetings at the venue, most of them spread across the split round in years gone by. This however, is a different ball game. The Magpies are coming off two tough games, admittedly both at the MCG, but the Swans have had the week off to freshen up.
The jury tends to be tentative when ruling whether the footy free build up during the week off is good for teams, or if playing all weeks of the finals is the way to go.
Collingwood is coming off a six day break, a hard fought win against the Eagles, and an emotional week off the track, some are tipping that the Magpies might simply run out of steam. However they always get fantastic support up in Sydney, and tonight will be no exception. Expect their raucous travelling fans to make some noise and carry their boys through to the final whistle.
A disjointed preparation is what greeted Collingwood players this week- they attended former team mate John McCarthy’s funeral in Sorrento on Thursday morning, before flying out immediately afterwards. Their training times also changed, they had their main session earlier than usual to accommodate the funeral.
Sydney on the other hand have been plotting the downfall of their ANZ kryptonite for the better part of two weeks. Veteran midfielder Jude Bolton is also set to play his 300th AFL match, and the Swans will look to lift the intensity for their team mate.
Their midfield has had a stellar year, with contributions from Josh Kennedy, Keiren Jack, Ryan O’Keefe, Jarred McVeigh and Adam Goodes all year, most of these players also supporting secondary roles up forward or off half-back throughout the season.
The main question will be whether the midfield will go head-to-head, or if Sydney’s coach John Longmire may choose to play shut down roles on the likes of Collingwood’s All-Australian midfield- Swan, Pendlebury and Beams.
Travis Cloke will be followed by Ted Richards, whilst siblings Sam and Ben Reid also look to clash at Sydney’s CHF position.
The ruck contest will also go a long way in helping decide the clearances. Darren Jolly is in red-hot form, whilst the Sydney duo of Shane Mumford and Mike Pyke have been solid all season.
Last time these two teams met, clearances were won 51-41 by Collingwood, Dayne Beams led with 11. He also kicked a clutch goal in the dying minutes to go with his 34 disposals on the night. Josh Kennedy monstered 40 touches and 8 tackles for the Swans.
The Swans cannot afford to kick 9.16 like they did in the round 20 clash. That will cost them a Grand Final berth. Collingwood need to maintain the ruthless tackling pressure and attack on the ball if they wish to make the big dance next week.
It’s a do or die preliminary final. No second chances, no mistakes. Expect Sydney to kick straight, break the ANZ Stadium hoodoo, and win by 15 points.
Matt Walsh and his horribly inaccurate predictions can be viewed on his Twitter: @MattWalshMedia