After enduring one of the wildest and the longest season in history from start to finish, and with almost the entirety of the season being hosted outside of Victoria, it is going to be a battle of Victorian powerhouses at the Gabba on Saturday night to see who hoists the premiership cup. Port Adelaide spent all season on top of the ladder but fell just short to the reigning premiers, who will head to their third grand final in four years. On Saturday night the young Lions were unable to overcome to veteran Cats, who have finally made a grand final after constantly falling agonisingly short since 2011. The stage is set, will it be Richmond going back to back, or can Geelong cause the upset to farewell Gary Ablett in style.
Richmond have defeated the Cats in four of their past five meetings over the last three years, including a 26-point win in round 17 this year. Prior to that meeting, their previous meeting was last year’s preliminary final when Geelong surrendered a 21-point halftime lead to lose by 19. They also played in a qualifying final in 2017, which Richmond won in comfortable fashion on their way to their first premiership in this dynasty.
History doesn’t favour the Cats, but this Cats team is far superior than the ones which fell short in years past. Last week against Brisbane they played disciplined – as they have all year – and wore down the Lions defence until they found a hole to attack. Defensively, they were dominant as usual with Mark Blicavs and Tom Stewart anchoring the back line. The Cats in the past have had enough talent, but this is the first year their game plan looks strong enough, and versatile enough, to steal victory.
Grand Finals are defined by big game players, and there are plenty of them on display this weekend. For Richmond, Dustin Martin and Bachar Houli are almost certainties to be among the best players, while the same can be said for Geelong’s Gary Ablett and Joel Selwood. We’re yet to see Patrick Dangerfield on the big stage, but I have a feeling he will go okay.
Another big name is Jack Riewoldt, but Richmond need him to be in better form. The star forward has totalled 16 disposals, 4 marks and 3 goals throughout The Tigers’ three finals so far, which just isn’t enough from one of your certified star players. Will we see Riewoldt play further up the ground to open up space for Tom Lynch and the brigade of small crumbing forwards?
Geelong have fared so well this year by getting contributions from all 22 players, they have had no passengers. Can the likes of Sam Menegola, Cam Guthrie and Mitch Duncan keep producing at an elite level? Can Rhys Stanley hold his own in the ruck and hit scoreboard when he rests forward? And the big one, can Gary Rohan provide an x-factor? After missing the Swans’ flag in 2012 Rohan was a non-factor in Sydney’s 2014 and 2016 Grand Final losses. This may be Rohan’s last chance, can he capitalise on his opportunities this time around? He is in career best form and has found his niche as a mid-sized speedy forward playing alongside Hawkins.
This is set to be an all-timer between two of Victoria’s biggest clubs. A night grand final at the Gabba on a 30+ degree day is certainly different, but it won’t make the game any less exciting. Both teams play a tough defensive brand, and scoring will be hard to come by, so it may come down to whichever team ceases its opportunities best.
Prediction: Geelong by 1-12 points