AFL Grand Final 2010 Preview
Collingwood v St Kilda.
The ‘collywobbles’ and one of the most successful teams in history, against the perennial underachievers and club with the most wooden spoons and the highest losing record of any current team.
But on form, probably the two most impressive teams of this season. Collingwood have been threatening to break through for a couple of years now. They have had some great wins in the regular season, but have always choked at the finals stage, which is nothing new for them. Despite playing in 40 grand finals, they have only 14 victories. The term collywobbles has been thrown at them for some time now, and with only one Premiership since 1958, its something which is hard to get away from.
On the flip side, St Kilda have the worst record of AFL clubs, and only have one Premiership win in their history, that coming in 1966. They too have been knocking about for a couple of years, last year narrowly losing out to Geelong in a classic final.
Both sides have a big tradition in Melbourne, but Collingwood are known as one of the most traditional clubs, and has rivalries with pretty much every club, not just those in Melbourne. They have showcase games against Essendon, Carlton and Melbourne and have lots of high profile games at the MCG on Friday nights. They really are known as the club which most teams hate. Their supporters are known as arrogant cocky sort (Cockingwood is another name for them). One fan (Jeffa something or other) dons a shiny yellow jacket with ‘Game Over’ written on it when its clear Collingwood are going to win. St Kilda pretty much have no real rivalry due to their lack of success over their history. Obviously being from Melbourne there is some rivalry, but nothing on the scale of any of the other Melbourne clubs.
Collingwood have a relatively young side. 8 of their starters against Geelong have yet to play 50 games (with 22 in a regular season, plus finals games, 50 games can be racked up quick enough). They had high picks in the early 2000’s due to really bad seasons and picked up some decent talent to re build the side. Some of the stars of the side who will need to be prominent to lead them to victory are:
Dane Swan – Favourite for the Brownlow Medal (player of the season), but lost out to Chris Judd surprisingly. Has an unreal engine and despite not exactly looking like an elite footballer with his 2 arms covered in tattoos and quite a bulky physique, he gets a load of possessions and is hugely influential on clearances and setting up attacks.
Nick Maxwell – Captain and leader of the defence. Leads by example and shuts down big name forwards. Very mobile and sets up a lot of quick counter attacks from deep.
Harry O Brien – Will be the first Brazilian to play in a grand final. His long stride runs from defence and huge kicks really gets the crowd going.
Alan Didak – The phrase ‘mercurial talent’ was designed for a player like Didak. Can produce utterly sublime individual pieces of skill and flashes of brilliance. His form this season though has been a lot more consistent, and his off field antics have subdued somewhat since he was suspended at the end of 2008 for his role in a car accident with Heath Shaw.
Scott Pendlebury – A big game midfielder, and a perfect compliment for Dane Swan. Pendlebury is a great reader and passer of the ball.
Dale Thomas – ‘Daisy’ is a fierce competitor, and despite his slight frame and build, he really puts his body on the line. Again, has some sublime skills and is a great player to watch.
Travis Cloke – Very much a hit and miss forward, and is very dependant on confidence. A big target in the forward line, and if he gets going, invariably so do Collingwood.
Darren Jolly – The tall ruck man just after transferring from Sydney has the experience of 2 finals under his belt. He started out slow, but his hit outs and clearances from the stoppages are vital to getting a quick ball into the forwards.
Some other players of note are Dayne Beams, Steele Sidebottom, Brent Macaffer, Ben Johnson, and Alan Toovey (when he touches the balls, a loud chorus of ‘TOO’ rings out)
Collingwood will have some selection decisions to make, the main one being if Leon Davis gets over his hamstring injury to be in the frame. Paul Medhurst will probably miss out, and Simon Prestigiacomo will be in the mix for a selection in the full back line.
St Kilda have an experienced enough line up, and play a very tough game, keeping areas of the field tight and restricting the opposition. Sometime they overstep the mark, case in point this year being Steven Baker who got a 12 game suspension for his antics against Steve Johnson of Geelong. But they do have some quality players, but not of the same spark and individual brilliance of Collingwood.
Nick Riewoldt – The captain and inspirational leader of the side. They look an average team without him, and need him to be winning contested marks and getting possessions and scores. Some of the bravery he shows in marking contests needs to be seen to be believed. ‘Saint Nick’ is the heartbeat of this St Kilda side.
Brendan Goddard – A tough durable player who’s surging runs and booming kicks from stoppages set the team in motion.
Nick Del Santo – A good hard running player who gets on the ball a lot and creates a lot for the big forwards.
Leigh Montagna – In a similar vein to Del Santo, but comes up with a few goals on top of his hard work.
Justin Koschitzke – The other big forward with Riewoldt, and is similar to Cloke in that he is very much a confidence player. A big target, expect to see him contesting high balls in around the goal square.
Lenny Hayes – The experienced man around the middle. Gets though a serious amount of possessions and really puts his body on the line.
Michael Gardiner – His battle with Jolly will be a key aspect of the game. He can be hit and miss, sometimes producing great dominating performances, and other times disappearing and not being involved enough.
Steven Milne – The one player with the talent to pull off great scores from the unexpected. Not great on set shots, and prefers to get a mark and play on.
Other players who will be expected to get on the ball a lot will be Sam Gilbert, James Gwilt, Jason Gram and Clint Jones.
As for the game itself, and the matchup of both sides, I fancy Collingwood to win. They won their round 16 encounter by 48 points, and whilst I doubt they can repeat that feat, I think they have enough talent to get past St Kilda. The only thing stopping them is themselves, and the collywobbles. Both sides play a defensive type game and hit hard on the break. Its not unusual to see a player after 3 kicks strolling into an empty goalsquare on his own. St Kilda rely too much on Riewoldt. They need him to perform to his best to be a force, and while he most often does, its too much pressure to be dependant on one player.
So in summary,
· Both finished in the top 4 in the league, in first and third.
· Collingwood haven’t won since 1990, and have a long history of losing finals
· St Kilda have only ever won once
· Collingwood have a really skilful midfield set up
· St Kilda have a huge brave player in Nick Riewoldt
· Collingwood are the most hated team in the league
· Collingwood are favourites, but St Kilda only lost the final by 2 goals last year.
My own prediction, Collingwood 94, St Kilda 78
Norm Smith medallist – Dane Swan, to make up for losing out on the Brownlow.