Is your mouth wetted in anticipation as yet?
Well lets fully quench our collective thirsts by delving fully into what could turn out to be a classic........
As always in Finals times, both Teams saw some hard luck stories as emphasised by the Hawks loss of under rated veterans in Brent Guerra and Clinton Young. Then Collingwood as all of the football World expected brought back Chris Dawes from the footballing wilderness after one week of penance for some abject form
Firstly on the Hawks, the loss of both Guerra and Young are under rated blows. With Guerra having one of the best years of his career and being a real silent gun in the star studded line up with his sublime skill and old style toughness. The same can be said for Young, who with his pace and relentless gut running has often been a measure for Hawthorn's prospects. His lethal long kicking will definitely be missed. Their replacements in Xavier Ellis and Thomas Murphy are indeed worthy and able, but offer a different look that takes a cutting edge away from the Team. Murphy being that old style small defender has obviously been ear marked for a role against the bevy of Pies smalls or conversely might sit on Nick Maxwell like he did last time.
As for the Pies, the inclusion of Dawes was forced on them with them having no other viable 2nd ruck option. So though Dawes has stinked up much of the Season with his lack of form it was a move that was always going to be made.
The Keys to the Game
I must admit the coverage in the lead up to this game has been rather disappointing and simplistic with its focus mostly being on Colingwood's Travis Cloke and his 'return to form' against Essendon and whether Ryan Shoenmakers can quell him.
Im sure I will ensure Cloke blitzes tonight by saying this, but the more I see of him, the more he reminds me of Josh Fraser in regards to having one great year and then flattering to deceive there after.
4 factors will decide this Final, and are as follows
1, How Can Collingwood deal with a full strength Hawks forward line?
The Hawks have easily accounted for Collingwood both times this Season despite the fact that in both games they were missing keys from their forward line. In the opening round with Jarryd Roughead being out and in the second clash Buddy Franklin being absent.
In this Final all of the Hawks forward guns will be there making you question the Pies ability to control them all.
Ultimately the midfield duel will have a huge bearing on this with it controlling the amount of ball that gets into the Hawks 50 and with how accurate it gets delivered. If the Hawks rule there- to lend a quote from the Icon Lou Richards 'Put down your glasses......;- game over!
For it will be tough for the Pies to zone off as it is with the amount of class they need to guard, but if they are faced with quick accurate entry a blow out could occur.
I just have a feeling after seeing him with rarely seen focus after his appalling treatment while injured that one Buddy Franklin might decide to turn this Final on its ear tonight with a master class
Reid/ Tarrant versus Buddy- The Pies ideally would want to give Tarrant the job, but as seen in his play this year and with him announcing 2012 will be his last it seems the big hearted Tarrant has lost a yard of late. So playing him on Buddy would be a huge risk
Brown versus Roughead/Hale- Brown is the logical match up for the resting ruckmen, but he will have to be at his best to control them
Toovey versus Bruest- Toovey is the Pies best lock down man for smalls and needs to control the this very able little crumber
Maxwell versus Gunston- I am tossing up whether the Hawks will play a lock down type on Maxwell like Whitecross or Murphy or merely lock him up by playing a dangerous type like Gunston on him. For with Gunston it would be very unwise for Maxwell to pay him scant respect by playing his normal zone off role. For Gunston is a very fine forward and then is lethal with his creativity and accuracy
O'Brien versus Rioli/ Puopolo- O'Brien will be busy as a Baghdad bricklayer dealing with these very skilled and super quick forwards
Shaw/ Johnston versus Lewis- I have a sneaky feeling that the Pies might play Shaw forward to try to give them more forward clout. So this clash might not happen
2, Can Hawthorn Control Collingwood's lethal Midfield?
Honestly when they all perform, the Pies midfield is every bit as classy and lethal as the great Brisbane Lions 'guts' from their glory years. As we go into this game much of the focus will be on the trio of Swann, Beams and Pendelbury, and justifiably so with them being crucial
Most Teams just put the three down for 100 possessions and 5 goals between them and then just nullify the rest
Making a key for the PIes being their support cast with two names in Darren Jolly and Dale Thomas needing to lift.
Looking at the two you see in Jolly a player that has been like the little girl with the curl this year. One week fantastic, next week ok, and damned horrid there after. But few doubt his calibre in being a game changing Ruckman that could dominate in a manner to be decisive.
It will be very tough for Jolly against the very fine Hawks duo of Hale/Roughead, but he has that in him to play a gem.
Thomas like Jolly has that potential to be a real influence if he can fire, but has resembled his Ruckman in his Season of inconsistency. Maybe with the weather looking wet and grim and it being a game for small men a surprise might be pulled with him being a de facto forward. Where he can be deadly dangerous as shown in the past.
3, How can the Pies kick enough Goals to Win?
This is a huge question for a lot will fall on Cloke, and despite the Pies faithful celebrating his 'return to form' last week against the Dons. Well no disrespect to Essendon, but they are a rubbish Team and the performance was very much a 'cheapie'
He could lift, but does anyone have any faith in that he will???????
Making it a question of how the Pies will find enough goals to win
I think this will see a few smokeys thrown through the forward line like Shaw, Pendelbury Swann and Thomas. Who are all very tricky customers and play big over head with their marking skills. Also do not be surprised if the Pies roll Darren Jolly though there too. Who would present a match up nightmare for the under sized Hawks defence.
All have the potential to be factors, but will find it tough against a very accomplished Hawks back 6
4, Sadly the Umpires..........................
I have watched the game a long time and can honestly say I have never seen the standard of Umpire be so appalling. It is not just their oft bizarre decisions that drive you to drink, but the fact that the very interpretation of a rule can differ so violently even within a match.
I fear it will cost a huge match for someone that will make all Hell break loose.
Let us hope it does not unduly influence tonight match!
The Hawks go into the match running like a fine Swiss watch, but weakened by the loss of two key personnel.
Whereas the Pies have had questions about them and have been lacking in certain departments for most of the season. With them winning enough to get a double chance, but being shown up when confronted by the better Teams
Under the cauldron like atmosphere of a Final it is not a place to find those answers .
Duly, I think they will be found out again as the Hawks will coast to a 30 point win