This is it! The biggest game of the AFL season is just around the corner!
Western Bulldogs v Sydney Swans
All these are clichés you've probably heard from Sydney and the Bulldogs this week. But the reality is, Saturday afternoon's clash at the 'G is more than just another match. It's a contest between the Swans' big-game experience and the Dogs, who are riding a wave of nostalgia and emotion in September. It's a battle of the Bloods' tried-and-tested, composed style versus the Bullies' running game.
And unfortunately for punters, it's bloody hard to pick.
Let's start with the first goal-kicker, and we reckon it's hard to go past Lance Franklin. The Swans star was in great touch last week against the Cats, booting two majors. He also knows what grand final day is all about. He's already played in two premierships with the Hawks, and Saturday's clash will be his fifth Grand Final. We're all over the $7.50 bet365 and Sportsbet are offering for him to slot the first snagger - he booted five against the Dogs earlier this year, and the bloke he did that on, Marcus Adams, is not playing this weekend due to a foot injury.
While both sides have forwards capable of turning it on, we think the smart money is going to be on the Norm Smith Medal going to someone from the winning side's engine room. Midfielders have won best-on-ground honours in seven of the past nine grand finals. Luke Parker and Dan Hannebery are our picks from Sydney. Both polled extremely well on Brownlow night with 26 and 21 votes respectively. For the Bulldogs, the Bont - Marcus Bontempelli - is our best bet.
Swan Ben McGlynn has booted 24 goals in his 17 games this season and we’re on the $3.40 bet365 are offering for him to score at least two majors this Saturday.
So, who's going to win? Sydney were outmuscled by GWS in the opening week of September action, but have hit back hard since then. Their pressure in the first quarter against Geelong in their preliminary final last Friday night was outstanding and they put the game to bed early. Expect the Swans, who boast considerably more Grand Final experience than the Dogs, to make a statement in the first quarter again. The Swans have 18 players on their list who have run out in a Grand Final before while the boys from the west have only one. We’re on the first score of the game to be a Sydney goal, which is paying about $3.25 with most corporates.
The Bulldogs have spent the finals campaign proving everyone wrong. They went to Perth in week one and smashed the Eagles in a game they were given little chance of winning. They then disposed of three-times reigning premiers Hawthorn in week two and showed plenty of fight to come back from more than two goals down in the final term against the Giants and claim a narrow victory.
But did they play their Grand Final last week? Unfortunately for the sentimental favourites, we reckon their fairy-tale run will come to an end this weekend. One stat is particularly damning: since the current finals system was introduced in 2000, no team has won the Grand Final from outside the top four.
With that in mind, we are on the Swans to lead at the end of every quarter ($2.40 with Sportsbet).
The Swans have the AFL's most stingy defence this season, conceding an average of just 68 points per game, while the Bulldogs let through only 73. Grand Finals can often develop into arm-wrestles and we think the total points scored in the match will be 150 or less, which is paying $3.50 with Sportsbet.
These two teams have met only once this season, at the SCG in round 15. Thanks to a last-gasp Jason Johannisen snap, the Bullies won by four points. That day, Parker and Josh Kennedy both racked up 34 touches for the Swans, while Matthew Boyd had 32 for the Bulldogs. Boyd is paying $10 with Unibet to have the most disposals on the ground, which we reckon is good value seeing as his side average a total of 412 disposals per game - the highest of any club in the AFL.
There's no getting away from the fact the Bullies will carry the biggest bandwagon of supporters into Saturday's clash, and many 'neutral' fans will be behind them. The Bulldogs have played in only two Grand Finals before. They are trying to break a 62-year flag drought. But sentiment doesn't win premierships, or bets, and the smart cash is on the Swans.
Sydney's forward combination of Franklin and Kurt Tippett will stretch the Dogs' defence and their midfield Rolls Royces like Parker, Hannebery, Kennedy and Kieren Jack are also going to be tough to stop.
But the really telling factor will be their experience. Last year, we saw Hawthorn blow the Eagles away in the big dance, despite the Eagles having beaten them earlier in the finals. The Hawks had been there and done that on the big stage before. And so have Sydney.
Our tip: The Swans by at least 15 points, which is paying $2.03 with Luxbet.