It had to be. After an intense, mouth-watering finals series, Sydney and Hawthorn will go head to head at the MCG on Saturday in the 2014 AFL Grand Final.
It would take a brave man to suggest they didn’t deserve it.
The week that was
In the harbour city, Sydney booked their ticket to Melbourne in front of a 48,000 strong crowd at ANZ Stadium last Friday night, flexing their muscles to easily account for the Kangaroos in a 71-point clinic. The Swans forward line caused headaches for North Melbourne from the first bounce, with Franklin, Tippet and Goodes chiming in for 12 of Sydney’s 19 goals on the night. An instrumental performance from Luke Parker through the middle of the park, racking up 26 disposals and a handful of goals, iced the performance for the minor premiers.
Meanwhile, it could not have been more different for the Hawks who were pushed to the final siren by a rampant Port Adelaide outfit, running out unconvincing three-point victors. The Power fell behind some 30-points midway through the final term, but rallied late to provide a final scoreline much more suited to the tight game that preceded it. Jarryd Roughead finished with six majors while Luke Hodge put in an inspired performance for the 2013 premiers.
Tale of the tape
R18, 2014 – Hawthorn 15.14 (104) d Sydney 13.16 (94) at the MCG
R8, 2014 – Sydney 15.17 (107) d Hawthorn 13.10 (88) at ANZ Stadium
QF, 2013, Hawthorn 15.15 (105) d Sydney 7.9 (51) at the MCG
R23, 2013, Sydney 16.4 (100) lost to Hawthorn 17.10 (112) at ANZ Stadium
R7, 2013, Hawthorn 18.11 (119) d Sydney Swans 12.10 (82) at the MCG
In their last five encounters, Hawthorn have had the wood over Sydney having beaten the Swans on four of these occasions. This season, Lance Franklin kicked the difference in his first match against his former side, as Sydney ran out 19 point victors, while in the reverse fixture Hawthorn held on in one of the matches of the season to break Sydney’s 12-match unbeaten run with a 10-point win in Melbourne. Arguably the most important match between the pair came in 2012, where Sydney overcame the highly fancied Hawks by 10-points in the Grand Final.
Will Cyril Rioli play? Its the biggest unknown heading into the last Saturday in September, and may well prove the difference on Grand Final day. A fit Rioli provides a headache for the Swans as his speed and creativity, complimented by his eye for the big sticks, makes him one of the most dangerous players in the AFL. After 12 weeks out with a hamstring injury, a three quarter cameo in the VFL last weekend is all Alastair Clarkson has to go off, so an appearance as the substitute seems his only way into the 2014 decider.
Jordan Lewis (Hawthorn) and Sam Reid (Sydney) are both expected to be fit despite suffering knocks in their respective preliminary finals.
Sunday’s headline: Buddy Beautiful – Franklin boots six to sink former side.
Norm Smith medallist: Luke Parker (Sydney).
Biggest Shock: Josh Kennedy to nullify Hawthorn’s Sam Mitchell – keeping him to 15 possessions or less.
Newsroom’s tip: An absolute classic – Sydney by 13. – Patrick Boddan
Top photo from Charlievdb’s Flickr photostream.