It’s the day before Grand Final day here in Melbourne, which is always a big day – except, somehow, it doesn’t feel so much right now. Could be it’s the weather. It’s dreary, wet and cold, and tipped to be drearier, wetter, and colder tomorrow. Footy is a winter sport, and we’ve had plenty of cool grand finals, and yet I always think of Grand Final day as being the unofficial start of the barbecue season. Generally the weather is good, and sometimes quite warm, and almost always the mood is festive.
Not so this time, and though it seems strange to suggest, I think the ghastly events of this week might have a lot to do with it. The abduction and murder of Jill Meagher has really cast a a dark pall over the city, which the weather epitomises. We love our footy in Melbourne, and the opportunity to catch up with our mates at one of the thousands of grand final parties is always a calendar highlight. This year though we’re reminded very starkly that it’s just a game, and much more serious, much darker forces are afoot, and never too far away.
It seems the enthusiasm in the last week has dimmed, despite the prospect of a very competitive match. Hawthorn go in favourite against the Swans, but it would be no surprise to see the Swannies get up. I’m tipping Hawthorn, but actually have a feeling Sydney will win. The Hawks may be most dangerous team in the competition, but there is no better team at blunting those offensive weapons than Sydney. They’re hard, tough, disciplined, and very determined. And though they’re generally thought to be more blue collar, thy have some real silk amongst them.
It’s raining, today and tomorrow. The general consensus is that it suits the Swans because it nullifies some of the Hawks strengths – their skill by foot, their marking power up forward, and because it plays to the Swans big strength, their ability to win the contested ball. It’s probably true, but it’s a marginal advantage – the Hawks have plenty of tough in and under types of their own – Sewell, Mitchell, Lewis, Burgoyne; have a forward in Franklin as dangerous on the ground as in the air (not to mention Cyril beside him); and an undersized defence that will benefit from a slippery ball.
I’ll be at the Cheese’s as usual. No matter the weather we’ll cook up a few snags, a steak or two, and suck on the odd cold beer – not to mention a handy bottle of red or two. I hope for a compelling game, for its own sake, and because it would be good to move past this grim, sad day.
My tip? Hawks by 9 points.