Collingwood v St Kilda
Saturday 2 October, 2.30pm AEST at MCG, Melbourne (Channel 7)
Last Week: You couldn’t have asked for a better grand final. It had everything – heroic individual performances, high marking, missed opportunities, brilliant coaching manoeuvres and a close result. In fact the final margin was too close to decide a winner, as the 2010 AFL Grand Final finished in a thrilling draw. It was only the third time in VFL/AFL history that two teams couldn’t be separated at the final siren in a grand final.
As I said in last week’s preview, the team that would be able to get the game on its own terms would win. Both teams did that at different stages in the game. The Magpies quickly settled into their fast-paced game style early on and looked like they would sprint away with the game during the first half. However St Kilda began to play one-on-one football and win more contested possessions, therefore making it more difficult for Collingwood to get any run or momentum going.
Looking at the stats alone, Collingwood had more than its fair share of opportunities to win. The Pies went inside their forward 50 metre arc 62 times to St Kilda’s 35. They also had 23 scoring shots to 18 – yet they still weren’t able to win. Travis Cloke was the main culprit behind a lot of those wasted chances, missing two crucial chances in front of goal when the Pies had a run in the second term. If those two kicks had gone through for goals, Collingwood would’ve had all the momentum going into halftime with a five goal lead.
There were some fantastic individual performances, but none better than St Kilda’s Lenny Hayes and Brendon Goddard who elevated themselves to new levels. Hayes’ second, third and fourth efforts throughout the second half were heroic as he gathered 32 touches and 12 tackles, plus a telling goal from outside the 50 metre arc late in the game. Goddard showed why he is the most versatile player in the league with two goals from 31 touches and plenty of gut running. The winner of the Norm Smith Medal was a toss of the coin between those two players, who each had colossal performances. In the end in went to Hayes, but it could easily have gone to Goddard too.
There were other players who played extremely well. Nick Maxwell and Sam Fisher were rock solid in defence, rebounding seemingly everything that came their way. Grand final veteran Sean Dempster showed why he is such a valuable member of the Saints’ line-up, giving his numerous opponents very little space to work with. Also young Steele Sidebottom proved that he belongs on the big stage with an impressive 19-possession game.
Key Players: Collingwood would’ve been a little disappointed with Darren Jolly’s efforts last weekend. It looked promising for the Magpie big man early on as he booted the first goal of the game within a minute of the opening bounce. Then St Kilda’s number one ruckman Michael Gardiner left the ground with a hamstring injury, leaving the Saints without a recognised ruckman. But Jolly failed to capitalise on the opportunity and never stamped his authority on the game. The Saints’ midfield worked together superbly to finish with 45 hit-outs to the ruckman’s 32. Jolly is an experienced campaigner who already has a premiership medallion to his name. With Gardiner unlikely to play in the replay this Saturday, he must lift his output for the Pies to win.
Nick Dal Santo had one of the strangest grand finals you will ever see. He seemed to be playing with plenty of caution early on, not throwing himself into the contest as hard as what he normally does. Maybe he was trying to avoid tearing that troublesome hamstring which was given so much media attention during the previous week. However the smooth-moving midfielder lifted significantly in the second half to finish with 18 touches, seven clearances, eight tackles and seemed to move better at the end than at the start. The Saints need Dal Santo to be somewhere near his best this Saturday because they need players breaking the lines and more polish by foot.
Who Wins? Firstly, let’s clarify that either Collingwood or St Kilda will definitely leave the MCG with the premiership cup this Saturday. If scores are tied at the end of the fourth quarter, there will be two five-minute periods to be played in order to decide the 2010 premier.
It’s unlikely that there will be any major game style changes. The Magpies will try and use their leg speed to run their opposition of its feet while the Saints will look to slow the pace of the game down and make it another low-scoring slog. And unless there are any major injuries, there shouldn’t be too many changes at the selection table either.
However St Kilda’s opportunity to win a premiership this season has now past. They had all the momentum in that second half and got themselves in front late in the game. However they weren’t able to hold onto that lead.
Last week’s game made it very clear that Collingwood is the best side in the competition. The Magpies just didn’t take their opportunities. But their ability to break the lines and slam on goals in quick succession is always extremely difficult to stop.
Even though last week’s match was a draw, they were the big losers. But they have a chance to rectify and will be keen to make amends. They should make a statement very early on in the game and, unlike last Saturday, take their opportunities and win this year’s premiership reasonably comfortably.
Prediction: Collingwood by 30 points
Norm Smith Medallist: Dane Swan (COLL)
Ben Waterworth is a Bachelor of Journalism student at La Trobe University who has contributed dozens of articles to upstart during 2010. In the coming weeks he will be reporting from the Aquatics Centre at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi. You can read even more of his work at his blog, A Short Sport Thought.