Finals Week 4 AFL Preview - Grand Final


Last week I forgot that the Brownlow medal count was on.  Normally I would have done some kind of preview for that but given the outcome everything I would have said would have been wrong along with everyone else.  Bookies must have been laughing all the way to the bank as I doubt many would have money on Neale.  The controversy has raged in the days since about unexpected votes and big games with no votes.  Did Lachie really deserve the medal this year? Probably not.  Is he a great champion of the game and one we like to see go out there and do well and deserves accolades?  You bet.  But even Neale himself felt a bit sheepish about the whole thing, coming out on the radio the next day and all but apologising to Bont and Daics.  The controversy was rife though and it took its toll with Dan Andrews resigning the next day.  I believe even the Qantas Chief was grilled about it at the Senate inquiry.

The fact we all have to deal with is that umpires make mistakes.  I would prefer that umpires didn’t have the responsibility of voting as it means this is other stuff they have to think about rather than focus on decision-making.  Just ask Toby Greene.  Rather than looking for a free kick, was the umpire thinking about how good Daicos was when he tried to do an unsolicited chiropractic adjustment of Toby’s cervical spine last week?  But they can’t take the responsibility of Brownlow voting from the umpires as this devalues their contribution to the game, even if they are already one of the most important people on the field.

What this year’s Brownlow should be is a lesson to all punters.  If anything, put your money on one of the expansion teams players to win the Brownlow.  Historically they get more votes than anyone else.  My statistical leviathan doesn’t normally track Brownlow votes, but it was easy to add the data in (I only went back to the start of the AFL though – 1990).  Why didn’t Daicos win this year?  When Collingwood win, they don’t always get all of the six votes on offer.  Quite often the umpires find room for an opposition player in the voting.  This makes sense over the past two seasons as Collingwood have played in a lot of close matches which means that more than likely, there were players in the opposition team that deserved to be amongst the votes.  But that trend isn’t just over the past two years.  In fact, (and it’s now time to put your tinfoil hats on) Collingwood is notoriously bad at getting votes when they win.  The only team marginally worse at getting votes when they win is Essendon.  You can throw Geelong into that mix too as they are about as bad at getting votes as Collingwood.  When it comes to the best teams at getting votes it is, by a long margin, Gold Coast, then Carlton, then Sydney then GWS.  The Western Bulldogs are also great at getting votes so Bontempelli could feel a bit miffed about not winning this year.  The deficit is quite significant.  Geelong, Collingwood, and Essendon only get about 75 – 80% of the votes that Gold Coast get when they win.  It’s an even more startling fact when you consider Gold Coast have never played in the finals and average only 6 wins a season.  Anyway, who ever said this game was supposed to be fair and even…certainly not I and certainly not the people in charge of making it fair and even.

We are finally here at the Grand Final.  The proverbial pointy end.  The tip of the spear.  The point of the pike.  The head of the Halberd.  The tine of the Trident.  The upper-most follicle of the Britney.  This is it.  The game we wait all season to see, and it is the top two teams of the season that get a look at the Cup.  Already we have had the big talking points of injuries knocked on the head early to avoid any further speculation and therefore spare us from 48 articles about hamstrings and such.  Now it is the wait for the teams and the pageantry of the parade. 

Collingwood vs Brisbane                                          MCG                            Saturday Afternoon

We can start by taking a look at last week.  Collingwood had to fight hard to beat GWS.  It was a pulsating contest and the final 5 – 10 minutes was edge of the seat stuff.  For me, it looked like Collingwood adjusted their game style in play in order to overcome a GWS side that were not to be denied.  In the end though a solitary point separated the two teams and a thrilling Grand Final berth for Collingwood.  Brisbane on the other hand had a very different game.  Last week I spent all that time writing a script (I had to do it myself as the Hollywood scriptwriters are still on strike) and then it looked like Carlton didn’t even read it and did a fair bit of ad-libbing in the first quarter.  Some excitement from the AFL as a potential Collingwood vs Carlton Grand Final looked likely.  At quarter time, Fagan asked the partygoers on the train to settle down and the train departed with most patrons tucked quietly in their 4-berth sleepers.  From there it was more of a training run with not much effort expended which should counteract the extra day break Collingwood get.

 With a lack of speculative injuries to cover, the media have resorted to focusing on match ups which is useful, but I won’t go through it all here.  You know where to find that level of expert opinion.  The weather for the day will be a warm spring day with not much of a plan to cool down as the afternoon wears on.  Perfect conditions for fumble-free football.  Brisbane’s main task for the week will be to overcome the speculation around the match being at the MCG and their record there.  Since the Voss era, they have only won 5 times in the past 34 attempts.  However, 5 times indicate that it’s not impossible.  Brisbane got on the front foot early and on Sunday morning the line was, “We’re playing Collingwood, not the MCG.” This sounds like a good line to trot out as Brisbane have won the last 6 straight against Collingwood.  The problem with it is while they’re playing Collingwood, not the MCG, they are playing Collingwood AT the MCG.  In their 6 previous wins they have been 4 at the Gabba and 2 at Docklands.  Collingwood at the MCG is a different kettle of fish.  Brisbane are only 2 from 6 in that match up at that ground (post Voss era).  The ground, despite the corporate nature of ticket sales and club allocations will be well packed with Collingwood fans who, despite their lack of teeth have a nose like a truffle pig when it comes to sniffing out a seat in a final that their team is playing in.  Perhaps not up to the same level as the people’s final (preliminary) of parochial noise, but the MCG will be just as intimidating for Brisbane, many of whom are playing in their first Grand Final.  For Brisbane, the game will be mostly won in between the ears.

 Collingwood’s biggest concern is the concern that they carry with them week to week.  106,000 members and a million or more supporters itching for success is a lot of external pressure to burden oneself with.  As much as they talk about not letting external noise affect them, you can bet there is no way they can shut it all out.  On the other side of the pressure equation, we have the population of Australia minus the Collingwood Supporters all hoping and praying for a Collingwood loss.  While the Volume is enormous, Boyles Law states that the pressure is inversely proportional so the equation balances.  The other thing they need to worry about is even though it’s the MCG, they still haven’t beaten Brisbane in a long while and Brisbane will take some confidence in that.  For Collingwood also, the match will be mostly won in between the ears.

 I think we’re in for a belter.  Both teams have exceptional talents and exceptional coaching with exceptional systems in place.  If Collingwood can get out early, it will be tough for Brisbane to reel them in.  If Brisbane gets the hot start, the crowd will become unsettled, and the only way Collingwood will win is by a trademark final quarter comeback.  The first 20 minutes are going to tell us a lot about how this game goes and the side that settles quickest might just be the victor.  I’m not expecting a blow out like we saw last year.  If you’re putting money on, firstly you’re a fool or you know something, but secondly, put it on Brisbane because the odds are better.  It could really fall either way so I’m going with the Statistical Leviathan and Collingwood by 2 points.

 Whatever happens on the day, put the kids outside to play, place the Engel next to the couch and put a pie in the oven…then the fridge.  Enjoy the spectacle.  If I could find the photo of me as a plucky 5-year-old wearing my Paul Stanley makeup (or did I go with Peter Criss – can’t remember?), I’d insert it here.    With Kiss at the helm, be prepared to Rock and Roll All Nite!

 I also intended to review the Grand Final Sprint, but the runners haven’t been announced.  I reviewed past winners and was quite shocked to see Brendan Fevola won in 2006!


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