The 2023 AFL Grand Final presents a tantalising matchup between Collingwood and the Brisbane Lions, with both sides flexing their respective muscle in multiple areas of the ground.

There's talent galore through the backline, midfield, and forward sector, with plenty of individuals boasting the capability to tear the game apart.

As there are selection headaches due to potential forced changes on both sides of the ball, neither side is going into Saturday's decider with a clean bill of health.

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We've examined both squads to see who has the edge ahead of the big dance.


1. Backs

Which side will be best suited to hold up the opposing attack and rebound swiftly?

Collingwood has made a name for themselves with their ability to force dump-kicks to the waiting arms of the likes of key-position defenders Darcy Moore and Nathan Murphy, before surging the ball back through the corridor with speed, skill, and numbers.

Moore, Murphy, and medium-sized backmen Jeremy Howe and Isaac Quaynor make up a quartet of interceptors who trust each other and work in tandem without relying on a saviour in the air.

Quaynor and hard nut Brayden Maynard also work as lockdown defenders on dangerous forwards, tall or small, with an emphasis on splitting one-on-one contests and feeding ball users going into attack.

These users include veteran ball-winner Scott Pendlebury, who rebounds with poise and skill, while the dashing Oleg Markov races out of defensive 50 with explosive power and intent.

Collingwood's midfielders also do a body of work helping their defenders clear the ball away from the goal face and getting the offence into gear.

Other options down back include forgotten rebounder John Noble, who plays a similar role to Quaynor, Will Hoskin-Elliot as another ball user, or Nick Daicos as the half-back roamer.

One of the proven ways to expose the Pies is to stem their corridor surge through the centre square and send the ball back while their defenders are pressing up the field in hopes of outnumbering the opposition at the contest.

Brisbane does not invest in their team defence to kickstart their attack in the same way Collingwood does, but they can still hurt any opposition with their back-line weapons.

On his day, dependable stopper Harris Andrews can keep just about any key forward scoreless while plucking anything that comes his way, but Brisbane relies largely on him.

As good as he may be, relying on any one individual can create a method of exploitation for the opposition, who may try to force Andrews up the ground and kick over his head, or go around him to potentially leave Jack Payne or Darcy Gardiner exposed on the last line.

The Lions still face uncertainty regarding the availability of Payne, who continues to recover from an ankle injury that kept him out of last Saturday's prelim final win over Carlton.

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Helping out in a versatile lockdown role is Brandon Starcevich, who has developed under Chris Fagan into one of the heralded defenders of the competition.

What the opposition doesn't want is the ball in the hands of the rebounding Keidean Coleman, who is capable of generating a score from a seemingly dead passage with a single kick from half-back.

Youngster Darcy Wilmot and Irish recruit Connor McKenna can also be dangerous on the run in a similar way to Collingwood's Markov, leaving Brisbane's backline capable, yet also potentially vulnerable.

Whether or not the Magpies can stem Coleman's kicking, Andrews' intercepting, and McKenna's dash will go a long way to determining if Collingwood triumphs on Saturday.

The defensive edge here probably goes to Collingwood.