The 2012 AFL Grand Final has arrived, with Hawthorn taking on the Sydney Swans at the MCG, on an afternoon expected to be wet and windy tomorrow, from 11:30am Cambodian time.
Both sides have been finals regulars in recent years, and both have claimed premierships in the past decade.
Surprisingly, the two sides have never met in a VFL/AFL grand final despite being in the competition for 85 years each (Sydney was formerly South Melbourne).
The dominant Hawks have, over the past month, been touted by many as premiership certainties. Their slick short-kicking, possession game and hard-nosed defence have helped them win 14 of their past 15 games.
The only loss in this period came in round 19, and it took a goal on the siren by Tom Hawkins to snare the points for Geelong.
The Hawks have an enviable blend of experienced game-breakers and hard workers.
The class of Rioli, Frankilin, Burgoyne and Hodge is well supported by hard nuts such as Brad Sewell, Sammy Mitchell and Jordan Lewis.
But the results last week in the two preliminary finals suggest this is far from a one-horse race.
Last week, the Swans comfortably accounted for a dogged Collingwood outfit, while the Hawks nearly blew it, sneaking home over the inspired Crows by just five points.
The Swans have had a remarkably consistent year under newly appointed John Longmire, who was named Coach of the Year on Tuesday night. Sydney finished with 16 wins for the season, just one win behind the Hawks, and have been convincing in their two finals victories this year.
Several stars, including O’Keefe, Goodes, Kennedy and Richards are leading the way with a number of young guns, particularly Hannebury, Jetta and Jack.
Both teams are relatively healthy and will take strong line-ups into the game. Hawks skipper Luke Hodge will return from an illness, although his game time may be monitored on the day. Brent Guerra has failed in his bid to get back from a hamstring injury.
The Swans will most likely take an unchanged line-up from the team that beat up the Magpies last week.
All-Australian defender Ted Richards is carrying a badly rolled ankle, but is expected to play. Like Guerra, Ben McGlynn will miss the game for Sydney after failing to recover in time from a hamstring injury.
With rain and hail predicted on the big day, a congested slugfest must be expected for most of the match.
The battle of the clearances will be crucial, and a delight to watch, with both teams boasting a number of combative midfield stars.
If the downpours come on cue, goals will be hard to come by and the ability of the small-medium forwards to apply pressure and produce some goals could be the difference.
Hawthorn have the edge here. The likes of Rioli, Bruest, Gunston, Lewis and Puopolo are capable of creating goals among congestion, while the Swans may struggle to score heavily.
Prediction: Hawks by 22.
For more information on the story contact our sport editor: Dan Riley