2012 AFL Grand Final Preview: Hawthorn vs Sydney

by Nick Ciantar

twitter: @nick_saint13

Grand Final, MCG

2.30pm

Last Time: Hawthorn 15.12 (102) defeated Sydney Swans 14.11 (95), round 22, 2012 at the SCG.

It is finally here. Just like die hard fans of Kim Kardashian waiting to meet her last Friday at Southland Shopping Centre. Fans have been agonizingly waiting for months, and it is finally here. On Saturday at 2.30pm, the two best teams of the season will battle it out at the home of football.

Hawthorn:

Hawthorn come into this game as big favourites, but their preliminary final against Adelaide tells a different story. The Hawks won a thriller by 5 points, although everyone expected them to win by a big, big, margin. To the Crows credit, they defied the odds and almost snatched an unwinnable game.

Hawthorn’s kicking was their worry. They have the best kicking efficiency in the league at 75%, however, their disposal efficiency on the weekend was 72.7%. What was more glaring, was their goal kicking accuracy. Hawthorn kicked 13 goals and 19 behinds and had 10 more scoring shots than the Crows (14 goals 8 behinds). Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin kicked 3 goals 5 behinds, Luke Bruest and Cyril Rioli both had 2 goals 3 behinds and Jarryd Roughead 2 behinds. If Hawthorn lost the game, they would be ruing their goal kicking accuracy, and will need to fix that quickly.

David Hale will be Hawthorn’s most important player on Saturday. Yes, they have ‘Buddy’, Luke Hodge and Sam Mitchell, but he will need to pull one out of the bag against Sydney. Nevertheless, Hale has had a fantastic year. He has kicked 22 goals, leads the club with 517 hitouts (9th overall) and second at the club with 32 contested marks (18th overall). However, Sydney’s ruck duo of Shane Mumford and Mike Pyke has been consistent. It is their feeding of the ball to contested possession star Josh P. Kennedy that has been the most damaging.

Sydney:

Sydney was too strong for an emotional Collingwood team. For the last two weeks, the Pies were on an emotional rollercoaster ride and could not keep up with a strong Swans team. The Pies were slow-out-of-the-blocks and the Swans took full advantage, with a 5 goal to 2 first quarter. The Swans eventually won by 26 points and broke a seven-year hoodoo.

They won the hard ball. Kennedy was at his best, finishing with 19 contested possessions (averages 17 a game). The Swans had 28 more contested possessions and 9 more inside 50’s. They were able to get their hands on the ball first, which enabled them to have 10 more scoring shots. Shane Mumford (32 hitouts) and Mike Pyke (16 hitouts) were too strong for Darren Jolly (34 hitouts) and Chris Dawes (3 hitouts) in the ruck.

Kennedy is in career best form. After blossoming in last years finals series, the former Hawk had a stand-out 2012 season. Kennedy finished 8th in the Brownlow and was the Swans highest placed. He leads the competition with contested possessions (408), clearances (185) and handballs (389). His ability to handball to teammates in traffic is horrifying the Hawthorn coaching panel. If the Hawks allow Kennedy to be best on ground, then the Swans will win.

Key Players:
Hawthorn:

Lance Franklin, Sam Mitchell, Clinton Young, Josh Gibson, David Hale.

Sydney:

Josh Kennedy, Shane Mumford, Lewis Roberts-Thomson, Adam Goodes, Lewis Jetta.

Who’s Missing:

Hawthorn:

Brent Guerra, Stephen Gilham, Michael Osborne, Brendan Whitecross, Tom Murphy, Max Bailey.

Sydney:

Ben McGlynn, Gary Rohan.

Key Match Ups:
Lance Franklin vs. Ted Richards:

Push Franklin to the right side of the ground for left-footers. As funny as this may sound, this will give Richards the upper-hand as ‘Buddy’ has been missing some easy shots at goal. His natural arc works better on the opposite side of the ground, so if you can’t stop Franklin, just push him to his non-preferred side.

Clinton Young vs. Craig Bird:

Young is one of the best kicks in the game, if not, the best. His pin-point left foot sets up the Hawks forwards. Bird will need to minimize his kicking, as the Swans will not be able to defend his deadly left foot.

Brad Sewell vs. Josh Kennedy:

Sewell is in career best form and will need to be against the best inside midfielder. There will need to be a direct tag for Kennedy, as letting him roam free will be costly for the Hawks.

Josh Gibson vs. Lewis Roberts-Thomson:
Gibson is the leagues best spoiler. He will need to be nullified, if the Swans forwards want to get their hands on the ball. In comes ‘LRT’. He is mister fix-it at the Swans. He can play in defence, in the ruck or up forward. If he can take out Gibson and kick a couple of goals, then the Swans forwards will be in pole-position.

Prediction:
Grand finals are not just won on the statistics, they are won on attitude, effort and luck. Whoever has the better attitude, produces the more effort and has the better luck, will win. Making a grand final is one of the hardest things in footy, to win one, is even harder. Some players will play over 300 games, and not even make a grand final. On Saturday at approximately 5.15pm, we will be telling our kids of ‘that moment’ in the 2012 grand final.

The Hawks have the class. They have ‘Buddy’, Mitchell, Hodge, Sewell, Young, Roughead, Rioli and Shaun Burgoyne. They have the winning game style and the grand final experience.

The Swans have the attitude. They have Goodes, Mumford, Jetta, Kennedy, Richards, Ryan O’Keefe and Jude Bolton. They have the confidence and an extra day’s break.

To win a game of footy is easy – you just need to win the basics. Win the hitouts, get your hands on the ball first and kick it quickly to an open forward line. The Hawks have the best forward line in the competition, whereas the Swans have the best defence.

The Swans’ ruck combination is in fine form, whereas Hale and Roughead are getting the job done.

The Hawks nearly stumbled last week and will want to start like Usain Bolt at the 100m final this year. John Longmire will compose the Swans and will remind them to just do the basics.

Mitch Morton for Sydney and Jack Gunston for Hawthorn could be wildcards. Morton has only played the four games and only kicked the 3 goals, however, he creates another avenue for goal if the Swans forwards have been taken out of the game.

2012 was a breakout season for Gunston. He played the 18 games and kicked 37 goals off half-forward. Highly rated as a youngster, he has grown with confidence and deserves his place in the grand final team.

There are key players on both teams that need to be stopped, however, grand finals are won by experience and composure. The Hawks have 10 players from the 2008 premiership, compared to the Swans 7 players with grand finals experience (2005-2006).

The Hawks have more talented players and match-up better across the ground. They were startled last week and will do enough to beat a composed Swans team.

Hawks by 5 points.

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