Preliminary final week for the 2012 AFL season kicks off at 4:50pm Cambodian time today with Sydney hosting Collingwood at ANZ stadium, the circumstances suggesting an epic contest looms.
The Swans are relatively fresh and raring to go after their away win against the Crows in the qualifying final two weeks ago earned them a battle-free weekend. In contrast, Collingwood has had two tough contests in the past fortnight and were made to work hard against the Eagles last week in an emotionally charged semifinal win.
The tragic death of former team-mate John McCarthy on September 9 clearly affected the players last week and is likely to again this weekend. The Collingwood players were to attend the funeral yesterday.
Both teams should take largely unchanged line-ups into the game. For Collingwood, big forward/backup ruckman Chris Dawes is a chance to miss with an injured knee, while Alan Didak is another in doubt with calf soreness. The loss of Dawes would cause a headache in the ruck department for the Magpies, who don’t have an obvious replacement to play the part of back-up ruckman. For Sydney, reliable defender Heath Grundy will return to bolster the defence while Benny McGlynn is set to be ruled out after injuring his hamstring against the Crows two weeks ago.
Collingwood has an outstanding recent record against the Swans, having won their past 11 meets including seven matches at ANZ stadium, an imposing record on paper. The Magpies’ form has been up and down over the past two months but they reminded us all last week how gritty they can be when they sustain their renowned high pressure for a majority of a game. The challenge is to recover in time after a tough fortnight and a six-day turnaround.
Sydney have been big improvers this year and will be confident going in despite the recent history. The emergence of a number of young guns has made a big difference this year for the Swans, particularly in the midfield.
Youngsters Jack, Kennedy, Hannebury, along with speedster Lewis Jetta on the outside, have had a massive influence this year for the Swans and have formed a formidable combination with some in-form veterans. This week they take on a Collingwood midfield full of premiership stars in Pendlebury, Swan, Thomas, Beams and Co, who last time got on top of Sydney.
The mouth-watering battle of these great midfields will play a major part in the outcome, along with the fatigue factor. I expect Sydney will have too much run in the end.
The other Preliminary final tomorrow at 2:15pm Cambodian time at the MCG is when flag favourites Hawthorn take on the Adelaide Crows. The game time was moved forward during the week to accommodate a flight home for the traveling Crows.
For more information on the story contact our sport editor: Dan Riley