CAN WEST COAST BURY THE DEMONS OF 2015 OR WILL THE MAGPIES RULE THE ROOST
WEST COAST V COLLINGWOOD
Saturday September 29 at MCG
AND then there were two!
After a bizarre weekend of preliminary finals which saw the defending premiers bounced and the Demons trounced, we are left with the powerhouse from the west and the pride of Victoria squaring off in a decider no one saw coming but everyone is pumped about.
The West Coast Eagles and Collingwood Magpies lock horns again just three weeks after a qualifying final clash which had us all on the edge of our seats and whetted the appetite for an epic decider.
The Eagles were on the big stage just three years ago and were humbled by Hawthorn. No fewer than 12 of the men who swallowed that bitter pill are back to try and make amends, including Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling, Shannon Hurn, Jeremy McGovern and Mark Le Cras.
The Magpies last played in a grand final in 2011 and they also suffered the pain of defeat, going down to Geelong. The two remaining members of that side are Scott Pendlebury and Steele Sidebottom, both of whom could hold their heads high in a beaten side.
Travis Varcoe, Tyson Goldsack and Chris Mayne have also been part of footy’s biggest day and their experience will be invaluable as the Pies look to complete a fairytale season which very few experts saw coming at the start of 2018.
Going into last weekend’s prelim against the rampant Tigers, Nathan Buckley’s men were given little hope, but they produced a stunning first-half blitz to lay the platform for a famous victory.
Sidebottom was at his inspirational best with 41 possessions and five clearances while Levi Greenwood laid 10 tackles to nullify the Tigers attack but the undoubted star the show was Mason Cox, who pulled down 11 marks, including eight contested. The giant American was simply unbeatable in the air and if he can have a similar influence this weekend then the Pies could be on their way to a first premiership since 2010.
Cox now has 58 contested marks for the season, second only to the Eagles’ immovable force McGovern (64).
Third on that list is Demon Max Gawn, who could manage only one contested mark in Perth last Saturday as he was shut down by Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy, who now face the massive task of a doing a job on Brodie Grundy.
If Lycett and Vardy can at least break even with Grundy and ensure a reasonable supply to Kennedy and Darling up forward then the Eagles can put the icing on a superb season with the club’s fourth premiership.
The Eagles are a perfect 12 from 12 with Kennedy and Darling in the same side in 2018 and they were at their powerhouse best against the Demons with 14 marks and seven goals between them.
At ground level the Eagles will look to the in-form Liam Ryan, whose 28 sprint efforts against Melbourne was 11 more than the next best Eagle Jamie Cripps, and Willie Rioli and X-Factor Lewis Jetta, who knows all about the last Saturday in September having won a premiership with the Swans in 2012.
Sensational one-on-one battles all across the MCG will ensure this grand final makes up for a flat prelim final weekend which delivered two blowouts.
When the pressure as its highest, watch Jordan De Goey and Sidebottom and Pendlebury lift for the Pies. And when the Eagles need inspiration you can be sure Kennedy and McGovern and Jack Redden will answer the call.
Sit back and enjoy a classic contest between two sides who can be underestimated no longer.
FFF STARS OF 2018
These are the players from West Coast and Collingwood whose stellar deeds this season earned them a spot in Fit For Footy’s weekly tributes to the leaders who inspire by their deeds and the gut runners who simply never give up the chase.
FIT TO LEAD
Collingwood: Nathan Buckley (rd 22), Brodie Grundy (rd 12), Scott Pendlebury (round 10)
West Coast: Liam Ryan (rd13)
Collingwood: Steele Sidebottom (rd 20), Josh Thomas (rd 15), Adam Treloar (rd 5), Brodie Grundy (rd 4)