A final for the people

So now we know – the Swans will take on the Bulldogs next Saturday to determine who becomes 2016 premiers.

Most of Victoria will be following the Bulldogs. They’re the perennial underachievers, downtrodden and disappointed. To make it this far, against the odds and battling injuries, bravely taking on one opponent after another, is the stuff of fairy-tale. They’ve captured the heart of every neutral supporter. It helps that they’re inoffensive, and that they’ll be playing against an interstate team. They’re easy to cheer for.

Last night they took on the looming might of the Giants. The Giants are a team contrived and manufactured by the AFL. While the raison d’être behind creating a new club in the western suburbs was fine, it was on the back of over-generous draft concessions and a basic corruption of the system. I remember scratching my head wondering why the AFL clubs had agreed to this – now the chicken has come home to roost. They’re out of it this year, but they’ll be a monumental competitor over the next 5 years.

I actually don’t mind GWS the team, but like most people feel as if they have been artificially elevated. The fact of the matter is that they’ve been given such a good hand that they can dictate draft strategies for years to come, and that’s unhealthy for the competition.

Last night was a classic finals match. Watching a game like that it’s hard not to think that AFL is the greatest sport in the world.

The Bulldogs held sway for most of the night, and were the better team, but GWS scrapped sufficiently well to hang in there. For much of the game there was a sense of inevitability. The Bulldogs had not done enough with their superiority. When GWS skipped out to an early lead in the last quarter it looked like it might be it – except this game had more twists.

In the   end the Bulldogs got up by a goal in a truly pulsating match. I think had the suspended Stevie J had played the result would have been reversed – that’s how close it was.

The Bulldogs will come up against the Swans, who were clinical in dismantling the Cats on Friday night.

It’s hard to tip against the Bulldogs. They’ve met every challenge. They’ve played rousing football and are brilliantly coached. If they play like they did against Hawthorn they’ll probably win.

The Swans are a hardened, professional unit though. They hunt teams down and dispatch them methodically. They’ve got a great midfield and an exciting forward line. And they know how to win a grand final.

On paper I think the Swans are a little ahead. Paper is deceiving though. Bulldogs are playing above themselves right now. They’ve hit a rich vein of form, and form counts big time, as does momentum and confidence. I’m leaning towards the Swans simply because they are clinical, but if the Bulldogs surge they’re a big chance. They have to be more efficient though – they can’t afford to be untidy against the Swans. They must convert opportunities.

One thing’s for sure, this’ll be one of the more anticipated grand finals of recent years. Everyone is up and about. I’m happy for either team to win – people forget, that for the Swans recent success they spent over half a century in the doldrums. Historically speaking, the Bulldogs rank with St Kilda as being the least successful clubs in the comp, but the Swans are only a little way ahead. This is a match for the people.

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