It’s the game we’ve all waited 26 weeks for. We’ve experienced the wave of emotions through 198 home-and-away season games and eight finals, and it was all for this one game.
Grand final week is a magical week. It’s the week where every journalist pulls out every cliche they know, every fan has an opinion and a sentimental favourite, every supporter of the competing clubs dare to dream and the supporters of the other 16 clubs look on with envy.
It’s the magic of the grand final which drives every tackle, every kick and every goal and why we play, watch and spend our hard earned money on footy.
It’s the clash of the titans, an event which separates our code from all others.
Nothing beats the drama of 100,000 screaming fans (minus a significant proportion of corporates) and the fairy-tales which can be written in two-hours of battle.
If you were hoping for some close games last week, you would have been disappointed, but last week’s games provided a mouthwatering insight into how these teams will play on Saturday.
And their styles couldn’t be any further apart.
But that’s what makes it exciting.
Last time they met
The Crows inflicted Richmond’s heaviest defeat of the year in their Round 6 demolition. Both teams were undefeated heading into the game and it was the Tigers who raced out of the blocks, holding a nine-point lead at quarter time. They kept their lead until the eigth minute of the second quarter before Adelaide took total control, booting six-goals-to-one in the second term and seven-goals-to-one in the third term to consign the Tigers to their first loss of the year.
It was a demoralising loss for the Tigers, who at that stage, had won their first five games of the year. They went on to lose their next three games by under a goal each in the most heartbreaking of circumstances.
Why it’s Tiger Time…
The Tigers have built their grand final campaign on a high-pressure, high-intensity game. Richmond’s high press is designed to hound opposition players into a mistake before their uncompromising attack on the footy turns defence into ferocious attack.
Their take-no-prisoners approach almost landed them in strife with captain Trent Cotchin and Brandon Ellis infamously cleared by the match review panel on Monday but with it, they have claimed the scalps of a highly fancied Geelong side and overpowered GWS last weekend.
The Tigers will also have the explosive midfield duo of newly-minted Brownlow medallist Dustin Martin and 2012 Brownlow medalist Trent Cotchin. This finals series, they have combined for 98-disposals, four goals, 27-tackles and 12 one-percenters. The duo are the on-field leaders and their performances have inspired these Tigers, unloved by many at the beginning of the year, to reach a place they haven’t been to since 1982.
The game will also be played at a venue Richmond is more than familiar with. The Tigers have played 13 games at the home of footy this season, compared to Adelaide’s three matches.
The stars are undoubtedly aligning for the Richmond faithful. Their players and supporters should have every reason to believe that they will be celebrating with silverware by six o’clock on Saturday.
Why the Clinical Crows will win…
The Crows have built their game on clinical and effective ball movement. They scythe through even the most well organised defences with quick and clean kicking, handballing and marking. They dominate their opponents by outsmarting them, denying them possession and putting the ball onto the heads of their potent forward line.
Adelaide are the highest scoring team all year and their forward line should overwhelm the undermanned Tigers. With names like Taylor Walker, Tom Lynch and Josh Jenkins joined by goalsneaks Eddie Betts and Charlie Cameron, their forward threats are omnipresent and they will back themselves every time the ball is thrust forward.
The Crows will take plenty of confidence in the fact that they have never lost a grand final. Their previous two appearances in 1997 and 1998 were capped off with comfortable wins against St Kilda and North Melbourne and this year, their women’s team continued the tradition, taking out the inaugural AFLW grand final on the Gold Coast.
Not to be outdone, the Crows have a dynamic midfield duo themselves. Rory Sloane and Matt Crouch have anchored the Adelaide side not only with their incredible ability rack up possessions but also use it well. The Crows know that while they all need to fire, it is the performance of Sloane and Crouch which will go a long way to securing their third premiership.
Only six Brownlow medallists who have played in the grand final the week after have gone on to win the premiership. With superstition second in importance to only training, Adelaide players will take every advantage, whether it exists or not, that they can get.
The Crows have been the form side all year. They will be extremely confident of closing out their season with the ultimate glory and 22 premiership medallions dangling from their necks.
Tip: Adelaide by 4 points
We wait all year for this game, but strangely, the last Saturday in September (or the first Saturday of October as the case may sometimes be) is a game many fans dread. Why? Well after this game there is no football until the AFLW kicks off in January and the JLT Series in February.
But enough negativity.
Hopefully these sides are able to deliver a cracking clash to redeem the finals from the disappointment it has been until now.
Forty-four players will take to the field on Saturday afternoon, each with the chance to burn their names and their exploits into the memories of millions of fans around the world.
It will be a brand new experience for every one of them; the first time since the first grand final in 1898 that no player in the game has previous grand final experience.
They have the chance to deliver insatiable euphoria or melancholic heartache and etch themselves into the rich history of the league.
Anything less than 110 percent will be doing a disservice not only to themselves, but to their teammates, their coaches, their passionate supporters and football fans in general.
Footy fans deserve no less.