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THE POINTY END by The Oracle


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The AFL’s two oldest clubs, Melbourne and Geelong, face off on Friday evening in a sudden death Preliminary Final. It’s a game that promises plenty in terms of fascination and intrigue as a result of the rivalry that’s been building between the teams over recent encounters that have been tight struggles which have gone to the wire with two of them decided by after-the-siren goals.

The added touch of mystery attached to this week’s meeting comes by virtue of the fact that it’s going to take place on neutral territory a long way from their homes. A game of this calibre should take place in front of 60,000 screaming fans instead of empty stands which was the case a few weeks ago when they fought out that thriller at GMHBA Stadium.

The match is being treated with some trepidation by Demonkind — the wider community of faithful Melbourne fans who have waited patiently for that elusive 13th premiership flag and are now a mere two steps away from the pinnacle. They know from experience that there is no guaranteed outcome in finals and that if you stumble near the summit, your dreams can come to a sudden end, at least for another twelve months … or longer.

Here we have two teams that are so different in their makeup and approach to the game. The Demons have a diverse mix of mature and maturing talent spiced up with youthful enthusiasm while the Cats just exude experience and old age in football terms. Perhaps too much of it!

They’ve certainly been to the well many times and have become accustomed to being there at the pointy end of the season. This will be their twelfth Preliminary Final in 18 seasons and it almost feels like most of their current side have participated in all of them. They do have big game players who have proved themselves time and again — the likes of Selwood, Dangerfield, Hawkins and co have been through it all.

Yet despite all of that, they must have their doubts as well. After all, what do they have to show from their numerous Preliminary Finals appearances in Chris Scott's reign as coach, apart from that flag in his first season, now a distant decade ago? That’s right — far more L’s than W’s and one shaky grand final defeat in the short form premiership decider last year after they beat Brisbane in their only Preliminary Final win since 2011 (and let’s face it, everyone beats the Lions in finals these days). Prior to that they bowed out of the finals to Hawthorn (2013), Sydney (2016), Adelaide (2017) and Richmond (2019) in normal length matches.

And now, they’re a year older and looking somewhat tired after a long, hard season, making it here on the back of an unconvincing win over the depleted Giants a week after being overrun by the Power. Two weeks after giving up a commanding half time lead on their home turf against Melbourne.

For their part, the Demons return to the scene of their only Preliminary Final in twenty years which was a monumental disaster. However, in the three years since, half of the side has changed and the 2021 version is a stronger, more hungry team with a defence that is the envy of the competition. They’re rested and primed for the occasion, led by Max Gawn, Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver and flanked by brilliance across the field. Against this the Cats have pinned their hopes on a tall slowish forward line that has an air of stodginess about it.

In their classic Round 23 clash, Geelong got away from Melbourne for a brief period in which they piled on goals coming quickly out of the middle on their narrow ground. That won’t happen here. What we can expect a repeat of is the Cats running out of gas on the bigger stage against a fit young side that runs all day.

Melbourne looks so much better placed for the pointy end and I expect it to win and win well. Demons by 35 points.

THE GAME

Melbourne v Geelong at Optus Stadium on Friday 10 September 2021 at 7.50pm

HEAD TO HEAD

Overall Geelong 132 wins Melbourne 87 wins 2 draws
At  Optus Stadium Melbourne 0 wins Geelong 0 wins
The last five meetings Melbourne 3 wins Geelong 2 wins
The Coaches Goodwin 3 wins Scott 5 wins

MEDIA

TV live and on demand on Kayo and live on the Seven Network and Foxtel. Check your local guides.

Radio - check your local guides.

LAST TIME THEY MET

Melbourne 12.9.81 defeated Geelong 12.5.77 at GMHBA Stadium in Round 23, 2021

The Cats shook off the Demons with a withering burst of eight unanswered goals over the second half of the second quarter until early in the third when they led by 44 points. The rest of the story was all about Melbourne’s comeback and famous four point victory secured by the club’s first ever after-the-siren goal, kicked by the skipper.

THE TEAMS

MELBOURNE

B: C. Salem 3 S. May 1 J. Lever 8
HB: J. Bowey 17 H. Petty 35 T. Rivers 24 
C:  T. Sparrow 32 C. Petracca  5 E. Langdon 15
HF: B. Fritsch 31 T. McDonald 25 J. Viney 7 
F: A. Neal-Bullen 30 B. Brown 50 C. Spargo 9
Foll: M. Gawn 11 C. Oliver 13 A. Brayshaw 10
I/C: J. Harmes 4 M. Hibberd 14 L. Jackson 6 K. Pickett 36 
Sub: J. Jordon 23 Emerg: K. Chandler 37 N. Jones 2 J. Melksham 18

IN: M. Hibberd 

OUT: J. Smith (hamstring)

GEELONG

B: J. Henry 38 L. Henderson 25 Z. Tuohy 2
HB: J. Kolodjashnij  8 M. Blicavs 46 J. Bews 24
C:  M. Duncan 22 C. Guthrie 29 I. Smith 7
HF:  E. Ratugolea 17 J. Cameron 5 G. Rohan 23
F: S. Menegola 27 T. Hawkins 6 G. Miers 32
Foll: R. Stanley 1 J. Selwood 14 P. Dangerfield 35 
I/C: T. Atkins 30 B. Close 45 Z. Guthrie 39 M. Holmes 9
Sub: S. Higgins 4 Emerg: L. Dahlhaus 40 D. Fort 28 S. Higgins 4 Q. Narkle 19

IN: S. Higgins

OUT: B. Parfitt (hamstring)

Injury List: Preliminary Final

Jayden Hunt (ankle) — Test
Joel Smith (hamstring) — Watch this space
Marty Hore (knee) — Season
Aaron Nietschke (knee) — Season
Adam Tomlinson (knee) — Season

PreviewPF2021.png

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