The Collingwood Football Club storm into Saturdays Grand Final as raging favourites.
The St. Kilda Football Club enter the game as underdogs, yet with a quiet confidence and an unshakable belief.
Both teams managed to conqueror the mighty Cats, which make them both worthy Grand Finalists.
Mick Malthouse tasted the bitterness of two Grand Final defeats at the start of the Millennium. Can he finally deliver the Collingwood faithful a Premiership?
Ross Lyon and his men tasted the most sour of defeats just one year ago. Will the hurt drive Lyon’s men to victory and deliver the Saints their second Premiership in their club history?
The game will be won or lost in the middle.
If St. Kilda can win the stoppages and get first hands on the ball, they can then control the tempo of the game. The Pies’ “full press” game is most suited against a team like Geelong who try to play on at all costs. But the Saints have the ability to slow a game down and play keepings off, and also have the courage to take the game on. Last week, Geelong failed to react to Collingwood’s unrelenting tackling and consistent smothering. The Saints like to play a stoppage game to strangle the opposition but as shown against the Bulldogs in the third quarter, they can also slam home seven goals in a quarter. Therefore, the Saints have the armoury to play with the tempo of the game and keep the Pies out of rhythm.
For the Saints to control the speed of the game, Lenny Hayes must get on top in the stoppages by doing what he does best, burrowing in the packs. He undoubtedly is the motor that keeps “Saints footy” moving.
The much maligned Justin Koschitzke looms crucial for the Saints’ chances. He won’t be a match winner or the “go to man” in the forward line but what he can do is give Nick Riewoldt a one-out opportunity close to goal. If Kozi can clunk a few early and maybe kick 1 or 2, then he will draw the third-man-up, normally Nick Maxwell, away from Saint Nick and force Collingwood to be accountable. If he succeeds, there isn’t any backman who can stop Saint Nick one on one.
On the counter-side, Alan Didak and Darren Jolly are integral to Collingwood’s premiership chances. Jolly’s first class tap work and ability to get around the ground will reduce the chances of St. Kilda controlling the tempo. If he can give Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury first crack at the ball, then the Pies’ overwhelming runners roaming forward may be just too much for the Saints. Finally, there is the magical and captivating Didak. He has been questioned in previous years for his ability to perform on the big stage. He has proven his doubters wrong in this final series so far. If he causes havoc in the forward line and then push up in the middle and creates from there, he is then the most influential player for Collingwood. St. Kilda must restrict him.
The outcome of this one day in September will be awfully painful for some and overwhelmingly joyous for others. Pending if Collingwood prove victorious, there may be more than just St. Kilda supporters upset and ready to flee. It may just be the longest summer yet.
The contest will be mouth-watering. By Saturday 5pm, a new team will be crowned Premiers.
On the back of St. Kilda’s path to redemption and the leadership of Hayes and Saint Nick, the Saints by the most fractional of margins.
Saints by 3 points.