By
Ross Stapleton

Everyone’s got an opinion as to who will win the 2005 AFL Grand
Final and this
year the crystal ball gazing is heavily skewed by the fact that almost everyone
outside Western Australia is willing on the Sydney Swans as sentimental
favourite. The big game also
seems to be a classic match up between a team of a few champions and a team
that, if it wins the premiership, will go down in history as a champion team.

Sydney’s primary worries are essentially in the centre with the Eagles boasting intimidating champion big men and array of
stellar mid-fielders led by captain Ben Cousins and the man who’s inheriting
James Hird’s crown as the coolest head in heavy traffic, Chris Judd. The Eagles now boast the last two Brownlow
Medals between them and it could have so easily been three if Daniel Kerr could
have shared the award this year after almost pinching it from his captain.

The big doubt
has always been the Eagles’ forward line which lacks genuine firepower
other
then reconstituted ruckman/full-forward Michael Gardiner, and lacks the
quality and depth of the Swans target men led by Barry Hall, Nick Davis
and Michael O’Loughlin; and Jason Ball going forward. The
Eagles usually rely on fast movement of the ball out of the midfield and
a rebounding
defence to scramble goals every which way, but this Swans defence is
disciplined.

You could argue that such is
the strength of the two backlines they cancel each other out but the Swans’
forwards are more potent. The game should come down to the Swans trying to partially shut
down that diamond-studded Eagles midfield, plus coach Paul Roos making sure the
likes of Dean Cox and Gardiner up forward are always put under maximum pressure
in the air where they’re most dominant.

If Sydney could run
West Coast to within just five points of beating them at the “house of pain” at
Subiaco in the second qualifying final, after also being on the receiving end
of some poor umpiring decisions in that vital last quarter – then the MCG holds
no fears for the Swans. But they also
failed to negate those will-o-the-wisp Eagles midfield maestros who should be
coming off an even bigger high coming into this game.

I’m tipping Chris Judd to show us
his full compliment of party tricks and win the Norm Smith Medal for best afield. While that doesn’t
augur well for a Sydney victory, the Swans work incredibly well for
each other at maximum
intensity. Their fitness is a major plus
as they have shown in their two finals games to get here. If
destiny counts for anything the momentum is definitely with the Swans.

Let’s hope the AFL’s best team song is belting out at the end of
a titanic struggle that’s tested all our tickers.

Crikey AFL Grand Final global readers survey –
where are you?

It’s a Crikey tradition to invite our overseas readership to email us with their post-Grand Final
accounts of how and where they celebrated the Grannie, with the best accounts
published. The more left-field your
access or circumstances the better.

Given Tadgh Keneally’s
Grand Final fairytale as a pivotal player for Sydney, it would be especially welcome to get some
feedback on how the Irish themselves are treating the prospect of the son of
possibly their greatest ever Gaelic footballing legend now running around the
MCG on the other side of the world.

Email us your stories at [email protected].

Peter Fray

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