Finishing the season on top of the ladder with a 17-5 record, Hawthorn have advanced to the Grand Final with an easy 38 point victory over Collingwood and a hard fought five point victory over 2nd placed Adelaide. The premiership is Hawthorn’s to lose, and lose it they will.
When the siren sounds just after 5pm Saturday, Sydney will celebrate their second premiership as the Sydney Swans and their fifth including South Melbourne’s three back in the early 1900’s.
Sydney was able to upset Adelaide in the first week of finals by 29 points and comfortably accounted for Collingwood in the preliminary final by 26 points. They have won both games in commanding fashion and have earned their spot at the big dance.
Sydney is a team filled with big game players, able to take the next step when the pressure is applied. Goodes, Bolton, O’Keefe, McVeigh, Malceski, Roberts-Thomson and Richards not only are big game players but also are the remaining seven players from the 2006 Grand Final losing side.
Add Kennedy, Shaw, Jack, Mumford, Hannebery and the X factor Jetta, this side is capable of going one better than it did in 2006.
While it will be crucial that the bottom six for Sydney rise to the occasion, Sydney’s big name players will be more than accustomed to shouldering the majority of responsibility and carrying their side to the heights it last reached in 2005.
Sydney’s most important player won’t be one included in the list above but instead will be Sam Reid, the likely opponent for the vulnerable Ryan Schoenmakers. This match up will play a key role in propelling Sydney to victory. In what will be a high scoring encounter, Reid will be relied on to have an impact on the scoreboard as well as drawing attention away from his forward compatriots.
Hawthorn’s defence appeared fractured when isolated by Adelaide on the weekend, allowing for their big forwards to remain one-on-one and expose the Hawthorn defence for size. If Sydney is able to isolate Reid, Goodes and Roberts-Thomson along with the resting ruckman in Mumford or Pyke, Sydney will have one hand on the cup.
The midfield battle will be intriguing with both sides centre line almost reflective of an All Australian midfield. The matchup of Sewell on Kennedy will be very important for Hawthorn’s chances of winning. They must stop the rampaging Kennedy who has averaged 30 disposals in his six finals appearances.
It is impossible to ignore the task ahead of Richards and Grundy who are the likely opponents of Franklin and Roughead. They are responsible for limiting the influence of the Hawthorn big men and trying to keep both from ripping the game to shreds.
It is too hard to ignore the fact that Hawthorn has the same amount of big name players, if not more, and that their X factor players, Rioli, and Franklin just to name a few, may be able to have more of an influence than the Sydney boys.
Yet it is not always the favourite who is victorious on the last Saturday in September as Hawthorn proved back in 2008 with their victory over the all conquering Geelong.
Forget about the fact Sydeny have a poor record at the MCG, history is meant to be broken. Until this weekend, Collingwood had beaten Sydney the previous 11 games.
Sydney is a side accustomed to playing in the finals having only missed three of the last 17 finals series. The Bloods spirit will be on full display Saturday, as the Sydney tornado sweeps through the MCG.
Jackson Baker is a first-year Bacholar of Sport Journalism student at La Trobe University. You can follow his views on Twitter: @JacksonBaker9