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Hawthorn v Fremantle Grand Final Preview

On Saturday evening when Fremantle secured a historical,  place against Hawthorn in the Grand Final this weekend, Perth came alive in a sea of purple, as fans took to the streets to celebrate the momentous achievement of their first Grand Final appearance. Twenty-six weeks ago many believed Fremantle were in for just another good season, but how wrong they were. Under the guidance of Ross Lyon, the Dockers have created a squad that has created the league’s most effective defence coupled with having a strong attacking presence.

It should be noted that the Dockers have made history this season without having heavy reliance on star players to secured their victories this past season. Aaron Sandilands missed the first part of the season with a hamstring, whilst captain Matthew Pavlich missed 12 weeks with a groin injury. The team that Ross Lyon has developed is founded upon consistency and efficiency, which if they maintain on Saturday will make them a very hard team to beat.

True to their form all year, Hawthorn secured a spot in a thrilling Friday night clash win Geelong. The Hawks have been the side to beat since the season kicked off all the way back in March. They’ve dominated sides from the opening bounce with forward pressure that has made them the envy of the competition. Saturday’s meeting will be their third Grand Final appearance in 5 years, and for the sake of their supporters, hopefully their 11th flag.

Forwards Lance Franklin and Jarred Roughead are a potent and threatening duo. They have a chemistry that is difficult to unsettle, making the most effective forward pair this season. Hawthorn’s strength is their midfield line, they control the ball from the middle and a routinely transition into the forward line. Their efficiency since March has made them the Premiership favourites.

2012 AFL GF. Photo - Nichola de Boos/ Flickr

2012 AFL GF. Photo – Nichola de Boos/ Flickr

But there’s a weird feeling of deja vu about this Grand Final. Like 2012 Hawthorn went in as favourites. They had a big win in the Elimination Final, before a narrow win in the Preliminaries. They were placed in the box seat for the the last weekend in September, but failed to leave with silverware. Fremantle have an uncanny resemblance to the season Sydney’s 2012 season. Finishing 3rd after 22 home and away rounds, Sydney defeated Adelaide in an un-expected Elimination Final to jump to the Preliminaries to hand Collingwood a 26-point defeat, before going on to become 2012 premiers. Similarly, Fremantle handed Geelong an un-expected defeat at Kardinia Park, before dealing Sydney a sound 25-point defeat a week ago. If last week’s preliminary was all about ‘Kennet’s curse’, this weekend will be all about keeping the purple under-dog from quiet.

With showers predicted tomorrow afternoon, both sides should prepare for a on-field storm at the MCG. For Hawthorn, it will be all about sticking to what they’ve been doing all season and controlling momentum swings. We’ve seen previously swings of momentum in Grand Finals show Premierships can be decided in just minutes so the Dockers need to maintain their fight for all four quarters. Hawthorn need to make sure they shut down key midfielders in Michael Barlow, David Mundy and Nathan Fyfe.

As for Fremantle, Matthew Pavlich will need to stand up and lead from the front. They will need to capitalise on every scoring opportunity offered as they don’t have the same forward capacity as the Hawks. Last year it wasn’t until the final quarter where Sydney began to ask the Hawks some serious questions, which they weren’t able to effectively answer. Fremantle will have to apply that same pressure tomorrow, whilst Hawthrn will need to hold their nerve.

Verdict

This is going to be one of the most exciting Grand Finals we’ve seen in years. Hawthorn will be under pressure to perform, whilst Fremantle have nothing to lose and everything to gain having reached their clubs first Grand Final. On paper, the Hawks should win tomorrow, however, if the Dockers continue to play as they did in the previous weeks dismantling of Sydney and Geelong, we’ll have a real fight on our hands that should go deep into the final quarter.

Ross Lyon summed it up perfectly, predicting “We’re going to ask some serious questions of Hawthorn Football Club, and they’re going to ask some serious questions of us.” If Fremantle are able to ask those serious questions and for four quarters they could quite possibly return across the Nullabor with a premiership flag in tow.

Fremantle by 2

Luxbet are currently offering a great range of Grand Final odds. Hawthorn are favourites at $1.65, closely followed by Fremantle at $2.28 for tomorrow’s big dance.

Cover image by Charlievdb – Flickr

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