Saturday, September 28
Richmond vs GWS Giants
2:30pm AEST, MCG
After near misses in 2016 and 2017, the Giants have progressed to their maiden Grand Final appearance on the back of playing the best month of footy in their club’s short history. They were superb in the first three quarters against Collingwood on Saturday afternoon, and while the Pies got a run on in the last and nearly stole victory, GWS were the deserving winner. They faced a hostile Collingwood crowd and didn’t wilt under the pressure; they’ll need to cope with a similar situation this week against the Tigers, though being a Grand Final there’s likely to be more neutral fans in attendance than last week, which might help reduce the one-sidedness of the crowd.
That being said, it’s still going to be a very different week for the Giants, who aren’t used to this level of attention and fanfare. The Tigers live with it and have obviously been through this same week back in 2017, but it’s somewhat of an unknown factor for the Giants. I don’t think it’ll be a big issue; there might be some nerves early in the contest, but once they settle it’ll be business as usual, and they’ll back themselves to beat Richmond. They’ve played each other twice this season, and the results have been split. I’m expecting this to be a close one.
The Tigers have opted for the fairytale selection of mid-season rookie Marlion Pickett, who will make his debut in the Grand Final, something no player has done since 1952. Damien Hardwick obviously thinks he’s the best man to step into the team, but I love the boldness in actually selecting him — it can’t have been an easy call. The Giants have, as expected, welcomed Toby Greene and Lachie Whitfield back into the side, omitting Ian Hill and the terribly unlucky Lachie Keefe, who had a really solid game against the Pies.
There are huge match-ups all over the ground. Matt De Boer will go to Dustin Martin and try to curb his influence; De Boer has taken three scalps in three weeks, but Dusty is flying and can push forward if he’s not getting his hands on the ball in the midfield. Phil Davis will cover Richmond spearhead Tom Lynch, who was the difference in the preliminary final win over Geelong. Davis will have his hands full, particularly if he’s sore from the niggles he picked up last weekend. In fact, if he’s not 100% they might opt for Sam Taylor or Aidan Corr to have first crack at Lynch instead. The Tigers will hope David Astbury and Dylan Grimes can hold Jeremy Cameron and Jeremy Finlayson, and then they’ll need someone like Nathan Broad to defend Harry Himmelberg, which might be a match-up the Giants look to exploit.
Shane Mumford was huge in the ruck against Brodie Grundy, and this week they’ll need him to have an impact against the Richmond duo of Toby Nankervis and Ivan Soldo, who will present a very different challenge to Grundy. Last week Mumford was the one looking to work over the opposition ruckman; this week it’ll be Nankervis and Soldo who will aim to run him down, and I expect they’ll do just that. Mumford is a key player for the Giants, but he’s got clear weaknesses and the Tigers will surely look to exploit those more than Collingwood did. The Pies simply backed their more-talented ruckman to play his natural game and have an influence that way, but they didn’t have a real plan. The Tigers will, and I expect that’ll make the afternoon difficult for the Giants’ big man.
Both teams have stars through the midfield, and I think that battle should end up being split fairly evenly; if that’s the case then I feel the Tigers will be more composed and better able to capitalise on their opportunities. Both sides will bring the pressure and that’ll ensure the game is tight, but I’m backing the Tigers to own the big moments and win their second flag in three years.
Richmond By 1-39 @ $2.08 (TopBetta)
Norm Smith Medal – Shane Edwards @ $15 (Sportsbet)