Trent Cotchin of the Tigers and Tim Taranto of the GWS Giants.
Trent Cotchin of the Tigers and Tim Taranto of the GWS Giants.

Mick: Tigers have Grand Final edge ... just

So Greater Western Sydney has broken its preliminary final hoodoo and is in to the big dance.

And that's not where the good news ends for the Giants, with three brilliant players potentially available to come into their Grand Final line-up - Toby Greene, Stephen Coniglio and Lachie Whitfield.

I've always thought Richmond was the AFL's best wet weather team, but now it has a rival in GWS. If it's wet again next Saturday, it will be trench warfare and anyone's game.

The Giants' and the Tigers' contested game has stood up to the pressure of finals football. You do not win finals by being the best uncontested football team.

 

 

Both teams have role players, but their game structures are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

Richmond bullocks, bashes and thumps the ball forward in ordered chaos. GWS plays a settled game with structured entry into its forward line, patiently looking for the best inside-50 option.

The Giants will draw the Tigers out and make them come to them. Then they will divide and conquer.

They know they've got the players to kick goals with Jeremy Cameron, Jeremy Finlayson and Greene in good form. Richmond will have to find one or two medium backs if Nathan Broad and Jack Graham don't get up.

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At the other end, Tom Lynch is brimming with confidence, with small forwards Jason Castagna and Shai Bolton both on song. I wouldn't expect Jack Riewoldt to have another quiet match, and never discount his ability to bring other players into the game.

Grand Finals are notorious for being low-scoring affairs of late, but that will not hold either of these sides back with both capable of winning with only 12 or 13 goals.

Richmond has been the best team in the competition in the past three years.

Each line is particularly strong. The backline is outstanding, the midfield finds a way, and the forward line is always dangerous. GWS will be sweating on the availability of captain and brilliant defender Phil Davis after he appeared to injure his calf in the preliminary final.

My main criticism of the Tigers in the past has been their lack of a second ruck, but now they have one in Ivan Soldo, and that puts additional pressure on Shane Mumford.

Perhaps this is a way for Lachie Keeffe to keep his spot in the team after being a surprise inclusion against Collingwood and doing a magnificent job.

Richmond also lacks a top midfield tagger. This will be a potential downfall unless it finds one quickly.

 

GWS star Jeremy Cameron takes a look at the premiership cup. Picture: Phil Hillyard
GWS star Jeremy Cameron takes a look at the premiership cup. Picture: Phil Hillyard

 

Collingwood had 78 hitouts to 16 against GWS, but the Giants won the clearances 54-35. When you are able to clear the ball the way GWS did, the hitout tally loses its polish. Contested possessions are the mortar that binds the Giants' structure.

Matt de Boer has been outstanding this season, and was again against Collingwood.

He haunts top-level midfielders, and will go to either Dustin Martin, Dion Prestia, Trent Cotchin or Shane Edwards on Saturday - good luck sleeping the night before, lads!

De Boer had a wonderful colleague yesterday in Harry Perryman who took Steele Sidebottom out of another final.

Geelong's Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood, and Tim Kelly ripped the heart out of Richmond in the first half on Friday night, but the Tigers' midfield wrestled that control back and immediately killed off the Cats' chances of a win.

That luxury will be tested against Josh Kelly, Zac Williams (a revelation in the midfield against Collingwood), Coniglio, Tim Taranto, Jacob Hopper and de Boer.

The Magpies lost the game they should have won, and the minor premier departed once again in the prelim. Along with last year's premier West Coast, they will wonder how it came to this.

Take away the top five or six players from each club this Saturday and the remaining players are a lesson that if you stick to the roles given to you, as a collective, dreams do come true.

 

Brandon Ellis and Dylan Grimes examine this year’s silverware.
Brandon Ellis and Dylan Grimes examine this year’s silverware.

 

I have to say I am delighted for Damien Hardwick, who has stuck true to his approach. And I am so pleased also for Leon Cameron, who has been under immense pressure and scrutiny. And I am happy for Heath Shaw to have another tilt at a premiership.

I only hope the goal review system improves this week (the Josh Thomas goal was clearly touched), and that the Giants are given the kudos and opportunity to play without bias. They deserve more.

It was tough for Richmond to make up lost ground and come back against Geelong, but perhaps that was more to do with the week off. GWS is now into its third week of travel.

The wet weather will have robbed it of energy in the legs, and the lead-up to the preliminary final will have taken an emotional toll. A full week's recovery will be essential.

This is going to be a brilliant contest. I am leaning towards Richmond, only because the Tigers have been there before, and their lead-up has had one gamer fewer of finals-level pressure. But it will be close, maybe even as close as last year's Grand Final.

MY TIPS: Richmond by 7 points. Norm Smith Medal: Toby Greene

News Corp Australia


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