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The grand final we can’t wait to have

The two best teams in the 2009 AFL series have realised their Grand Final destiny. As the last Saturday in September draws near, Ben Waterworth looks at how the year's two top teams made it through two very different contests last weekend.

Opportunity knocks only once.  And when a game is up for grabs, a team must its opportunities.  That’s exactly what St Kilda and Geelong did on the weekend to storm through to the AFL Grand Final.

I watched both matches live.  In the end, they were two very different games of football; St.Kilda scraped home against the Western Bulldogs by seven points in a hard and tough contest while Geelong cruised through to the grand final by slaughtering Collingwood by an incredible 73 points.

Friday night’s game between the Dogs and the Saints was a thrillingly close tussle with no side able to gain a significant lead at any stage of  the whole night.  There was no room for the fainthearted as players threw their bodies into contests in a desperate bid to get add to their respective scoreboards.

As it has been many times this year, it was Nick Riewoldt who made the difference, playing the game of his life. He had 18 possessions, took 11 marks – seven of whichwere contested – and, most importantly, kicked fours goals in a low- scoring encounter.  In the second half, Riewoldt threw himself into every contest, courageously backing into packs, even though he was under an injury cloud.  In finals, players make heroes of themselves, and Riewoldt’s game elevated him to superstar status.

The Western Bulldogs tried their hearts out. They had plenty of run through the midfield, with Matthew Boyd and Ryan Griffen getting plenty of disposals. Jarrod Harbrow was outstanding, shutting down St.Kilda’s goal sneak Stephen Milne, and gathering 23 possessions himself.  But some questionable umpiring decisions didn’t help the dogs and allowed St Kilda to quickly gain momentum.

With a minute to go, Riewoldt kicked a goal off the ground to extend his side’s lead to seven points and, in turn, broke the hearts of Dogs’ supporters.

In complete contrast to Friday night’s match, Geelong marched through to gain a spot in their third successive grand final, annihilating a very disappointing Collingwood.

Led by Gary Ablett and Paul Chapman, the cats were able to kick away in the second half after an evenly contested first half. Chapman finished with five goals and 26 possessions, while Brownlow-medal winning Ablett was at his brilliant best with 34 possessions and two goals. And after a season that at times prompted questions over their own ability- something that the Cats haven’t been questioned over for the last three years – they seem to have peaked at the right time and appear to be all set for next Saturday’s grand final showdown.

The result meant that I was wrong once again. However, before the finals started I had tipped a Geelong and St.Kilda grand final.

Ben Waterworth is a first-year Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University. His Grand Final preview will be published on Thursday.

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