As the Tigers look to win three premierships in four years will the Cats ruin the party and send off Gary Ablett with a flag in his final AFL game? Here are The Wolf’s tips for the 2020 AFL Grand Final.
Finals underperformers for almost a decade up against a team looking to make it three premierships in four years – what an AFL Grand Final we have in store!
Richmond has won five of their last six games against the Cats including Round 17 where they were simply dominant as underdogs in a 26-point win. Since that Round 17 clash, the Tigers will add key players Dion Prestia and Shane Edwards to the line-up, while the Cats add some potency up forward with Gary Ablett, Gary Rohan and Rhys Stanley, plus their skipper, Joel Selwood.
The theme in Grand Finals of late has been the story of the underdog – they’ve won four of the last six Grand Finals, including three of the last four. This has played a significant part in the winner clearing the line in the last ten Grand Finals.
With the MCG being a discussion point regarding Geelong’s finals record for the last eight years, it doesn’t appear it has such issue at the Gabba. They’re 5-0 there this season with an average winning margin of 53 points per game, while Richmond has played most of their footy at Metricon Stadium whilst in Queensland, their Gabba record 2-1 with wins over Sydney and Gold Coast.
Finals provided the first time teams would play an opponent for the second occasion in season 2020, and there’s a clear trend emerging – teams responding from a loss. In the eight finals games played so far, six of the teams that won lost to that very opponent during the home and away season – this includes Richmond beating St Kilda and Port Adelaide, and the Cats beating Collingwood.
Richmond are deserving favourites – they’ve got the runs on the board with two flags, but are they necessarily playing the better football entering this clash? Geelong’s last fortnight has been dominant with two 40+ wins, but was this a result of the disappointing performances of their opponents?
The Wolf thinks the Cats can once again dictate terms and dominate possession in this one, turning the tables on their Round 17 clash and winning their first premiership since 2011.
Everything in this one is pointing to the total points falling short – from the expected weather conditions in Brisbane on Saturday night, to the total points record in Grand Finals. In six of the last seven Grand Finals the total points have gone unders, including the last five.
When we look at how these two teams have matched up over the journey the unders trend continues. It’s gone unders in the last three games between these two teams including the Round 17 clash, with the total points going under extending out to eight of the last ten clashes between the Cats and Tigers.
With the likelihood of rain on Saturday Night along with these insights, you can almost lock in a low scoring, high-pressure Grand Final.
Winning the ball against the Cats in season 2020 has been extraordinarily difficult. Against Geelong teams average disposals 10.9% below the average, due to the Cats ability to win the ball at clearances and slowly build from the back half whilst maintaining the football. For context, the Giants were the second most difficult for teams to win the football against in season 2020 – but against GWS it’s just 4.6% below average.
Dion Prestia has now been back three games for Richmond returning from injury that affected most of his 2020 season and is yet to go over the 20.5 disposal line notching 20, 17 and 19. He didn’t feature in Richmond’s Round 17 win against the Cats, but not one Tiger had 20 touches for the game – Dusty the best with 19.
Richmond isn’t a high-possession team as it is, but against a team like Geelong, you can expect disposal numbers for all the Tigers’ players to be below their average.
Genuine X-Factor for the Tigers in what has been a huge season for Shai Bolton. He’s played most of the 2020 season on the ball, but with the return of Dion Prestia to the line-up, he’s spent much more time of forward during the finals.
Bolton kicked three goals against the Saints in the Semi Final, and had plenty of chances in the two other finals – he kicked a point against the Lions where he shaved the post from the boundary line and then managed two behinds against Port Adelaide in the Preliminary Final.
He’s capable when the ball is in the air or on the deck, and a very dangerous forward option for the Tigers. I’m expecting Bolton to hit the scoreboard.
When you think of Geelong’s ball winners you think Dangerfield, Duncan, Menegola and Guthrie – but Tom Stewart may be the most consistent of the lot.
Stewart has secured 20 touches in eight of Geelong’s last ten games – this is two more occasions than Menegola and Guthrie who have done this in six of the last ten.
Averaging the most disposals for the Cats over the last five games, Geelong love getting the ball in Stewart’s hands from the back half to set-up their slow gradual forward movement, or alternatively when they’re rebounding quickly from defense.
Group 2 features Joel Selwood, Brandan Parfitt, Zach Tuohy, with none of them able to have 20+ touches since Round 13, while Richmond’s Jayden Short, Kane Lambert, Shane Edwards and Shai Bolton disposals will be down against a possession-dominant Geelong.
Norm Smith Medal
As explained in my value bet, Stewart has been ultra-consistent off half-back for Geelong across the entire season as a ball winner, but he’s much more than that.
Stewart will do a defensive role for the Cats negating one of the many Richmond small forwards, plus is outstanding at reading the ball coming into their defensive 50 with his intercept marking playing a crucial role in Geelong’s Grand Final run.
When the two teams played in Round 17, Stewart was the leading possession winner on the ground and Geelong’s best with 25 possessions which included 20 kicks, as well as taking eight marks as the second highest-ranked player on the ground.
He has a big role on Saturday night – if the Cats win he’ll be in contention.
I might have a nibble at Gary Ablett in his final AFL game as well. The sentimental vote from the panel could be overwhelming if he’s among the best few on the park.
I could quite easily just write “Dustin Martin” and not saying anything at all, but I think everyone knows if the Tigers win it’s probably going to be Dusty’s medal. So what will it take for someone else to claim Norm Smith honours if the Tigers win?
With the possession count likely to be low for the Tigers, I’m looking at game-winners and Shane Edwards fits the bill. Edwards doesn’t need a lot of football to have an impact and can hit the scoreboard which will count for a lot in a low-scoring game.
Edwards was one of Richmond’s best in their Semi Final against the Saints with 21 disposals and 2 goals, something he’s more than capable of replicating. His two Grand Final performances to date were impressive with 25 touches against the Crows in 2017, and 21 touches including six clearances in last year’s win.
It’s a big ask to upstage Dusty, but Edwards is one of the few capable of doing it on the big stage.
Same Game Multi
Jack Riewoldt Anytime Goal Scorer / Bachar Houli 15+ Disposals / Tom Stewart 20+ Disposals / Mitch Duncan 20+ Disposals = $5.00
Riewoldt kicked four against the Cats in Round 17 claiming two Brownlow votes, and his Grand Final experience will carry a lot into this clash. Bachar Houli is a proven Grand Final performer with the $1.30 on offer for 15 touches a nice SGM anchor. Tom Stewart has had 20+ in eight of his last ten games, while Mitch Duncan appears to be playing more midfield time in the finals having 30 and 22 touches in Geelong’s last two wins.