Compared to previous years, this year’s final season has been made all the more intriguing by the fact that there are five teams – St.Kilda, Geelong, Collingwood, Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs – who all have a genuine chance of winning the premiership.
For Essendon, Brisbane and Carlton, just making it to the finals has been a win in itself. While they will struggle to compete with the top teams in the coming weeks, these younger sides will thrive on finals experience and can come away from this year knowing that their year has been a success.
Adelaide and Collingwood are the two sides who have made a serious impact at the top of the ladder this season. Both teams are heavily talented, from full-back line to full-forward line. They will challenge the top sides till they can give no more, but it might be a little too early for them to go all the way. Give them another one or two years.
The Western Bulldogs are almost everyones second side. You’ve got to love them. It seems as if every player who represents them plays for the football club and no one else. After coming agonisingly close to a third grand final appearance in their long history last year, they will have a red hot go at the flag this year. The playing group has been together for a good five to six years now and they are just starting to peak right now.
A side with the class and professionalism that Geelong possesses is always a glorious sight to see. After such a comprehensive and dominant premiership victory back in 2007, they missed out on going back-to-back last year. This year, they have continued their era of domination, losing only four games.
However, Geelong’s injuries list is a concern going into the finals, with two of their best forwards, Paul Chapman and Steve Johnson, their two best forwards, in serious doubt to play. But they have all the credentials with five finals victories in the last two years. And it almost seems like there is some unfinished business for them and they will be desperate to rectify that tragic loss to Hawthorn last year.
St.Kilda, a team who’ve put so much emphasis towards pressure on the ball carrier, go into the finals as premiership favourties, purely because they have only lost two games for the entire home and away season.
With a towering forward line which includes superstar Nick Riewoldt, a midfield oozing class and toughness, and a solid and reliable back line, you can’t go past them. It has been too long for St.Kilda supporters and surely they will finally win that elusive second premiership and their first since 1966.
But, finals is a totally different time for any sport. It is a season within a season. The pressure and intensity of a finals game is so much greater than an ordinary home and away match. It is anyones ball game and any side can win on any given day.
Who will come out on top? Who’s going to have the will and determination to keep on pushing themselves to their absolute maximum?
Here’s what I think:
Premiers: St.Kilda to beat Geelong by 24 points
Norm Smith Medal (Best-on-Ground in Grand Final): Nick Riewoldt
Brownlow Medalist (Best-and-Fairest player for the entire season): Dane Swan
Ben Waterworth is a first-year Journalism student at La Trobe University.