The scene is set for the four remaining teams left in the race for premiership glory.
AFL fans are awaiting two epic matches to see who will go through to the 2018 grand final. Here are the four talking points entering this weekend’s matches.
Collingwood versus Richmond
Date: Friday September 21
Bounce down: 7:50 AEST
- Can the Magpies go the distance?
When these two sides met in round six this season, the Magpies looked hungry for three-quarters but failed to meet Richmond’s intensity in the final term. At the final change, Collingwood were chasing an 11-point lead against the reigning premiers before an eight-goal last quarter saw the Tigers run away winners.
It was a similar story in round 19, Collingwood led at different stages of the game but the Tigers went into the last quarter with a four-point edge. As has been the case for the past 12 months, Richmond managed to overpower their opponent with a five goal to one final quarter, running away as 28-point victors. The Magpies were without key defenders Jeremy Howe and Matthew Scharenberg in that final term due to injuries, so a now stocked-up backline will boost Pies fans’ confidence. Nathan Buckley will be hoping for more than just a gallant effort tonight.
- The task ahead of Levi Greenwood
It would have been a nervous 48 hours for the role player, with talks of Tigers superstar Dustin Martin in doubt to play in the first final in 38 years between these two powerhouse sides. Greenwood has been thrown in the deep-end against several goal-kicking midfielders this season, but nullifying Martin is the biggest task of them all. The last time these sides met, Martin booted three majors and played deep forward for much of the game.
The reigning Brownlow medalist will likely spend even more time in the goal square if he is carrying an injury, the big question is whether Greenwood will follow Martin when he plays in the middle.
At the other end of the ground, the player to feast your eyes on will be Magpies match-winner Jordan De Goey. There’s a good chance Tigers defender Dylan Grimes will be his direct opponent.
West Coast versus Melbourne
Date: Saturday September 22
Venue: Optus Stadium
Bounce down: 3:20 AEST
- Battle of the big men
When referring to a ruck battle, it is usually a one-on-one contest, however, saturday night will tell a different story. Melbourne’s Max Gawn will be fighting off both Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy for the entirety of this blockbuster preliminary final. Gawn, who is one the favourites for this year’s Brownlow medal hasn’t mirrored much of his stellar home-and-away form this finals series, but he was pivotal the last time these sides met.
In round 22, Gawn collected 20 disposals, six clearances and 41 hit outs – six more than both Vardy and Lycett’s combined total of 35. That day, the Demons ran away 17-point winners, securing a finals spot for the first time in 12 years.
- West Coast’s twin towers a new threat
During that round 22 encounter, two-time Coleman medalist Josh Kennedy didn’t feature while his partner in crime Jack Darling managed just 10 minutes of gameplay before concussion finished his afternoon. This spells danger for the Demons defenders, it’s expected that both Sam Frost and Oscar McDonald will share the workload, but the likes of Jordan Lewis an Neville Jetta will continue to put their body on the line down back, as they have done all year.
Melbourne made one change, welcoming back defender Joel Smith for first-year player Bailey Fritsch. Demons coach Simon Goodwin will be hoping Smith can work in tandem with his fellow defenders.
Photo: ‘MCG’ by Adrian Malec available here and used with a Creative Commons Attribution.