It's building.

The tension, excitement, and nerves grow as each day goes by in anticipation of the 2023 Grand Final this Saturday.

The Brisbane Lions meet with an old enemy in Collingwood in a 2003 replay 20 years on. Of course, so much has changed since then; the players and the rules in particular, but one thing hasn't changed.

Both sides have that game-changing player that no matter what position they play, can flip the game on its head and change the direction of the momentum in literally seconds.

Looking back, 2003 had the likes of Nathan Buckley, Michael Voss, Simon Prestigiacomo, and Jason Akermanis, to name a few.

So, we took a look at the stats to see who the likely game-changers are for each side in the build-up to the final gameday of the year.


1. The contest

Both teams walk into this game with an insanely talented midfield that is dying to move the ball quickly, not allowing the opponent to even go near it. Of course, to give your team the first chance of taking the lead, it all happens at the contest. Giving your team the first chance to score on multiple occasions will be crucial.

Brisbane's game-changer: Lachie Neale

Well, it should come as no surprise that the two-time Brownlow medallist will be vital in this area for Brisbane. He finished the season leading the league in clearances and ranked second in contested possessions. Whilst it seems that Josh Dunkley has taken some pressure off Neale's shoulders this season, Neale will still be the main man to lead the Lions around the ball. If he dominates on the weekend, Brisbane will be premiers thanks to the dangerous forward line he has at his disposal. Neale averages 13.72 contested possessions per game to go along with eight clearances.

Lachie Neale during the round 22 AFL match between St Kilda and Brisbane on August 12, 2022 (Photo by Cameron Grimes / Zero Digital Media)

Collingwood's game-changer: Tom Mitchell

Mitchell has found new form at Collingwood. Leading the club in clearances, you would expect him to be the one to do the dirty work against Neale to allow players like Jordan De Goey and Nick Daicos to get the ball rolling inside 50. Leading the club with contested possessions as well (11.16 per game), his skills are crucial with the next-best contested ball-winner averaging 10.4 (De Goey) but Collingwood's preference would be to have De Goey on the outside to start the link-up. Mitchell will be looking to hit those handballs as he averages 4.76 clearances per game.