The greatest day of the year is almost here. It’s better than Christmas, a lot better than Easter and more romantic than Valentine’s Day.
This year’s Grand Final is no exception. Here is the only guide you need to this year’s game.
It is frequently inaccurate.
Ah, the pre-game entertainment. Where footy meets high school Rock Eisteddfod.
The AFL’s Grand Final entertainment is littered with amusingly terrible performance, and the main reason it’s so funny is the AFL keep trying.
At some point, they should just embrace the awfulness, but instead, they plough on, determined to convince us these aren’t past it performers who need the money or Australian artists who just wanted a ticket (Hi Vance Joy, well played).
This year we have Sting, The Living End and Vance Joy. I give this a chance of being less terrible catastrophe and more unmemorable, boring time filler.
In some ways Sting is a perfect choice, he’s known for delaying gratification, something Bulldogs supporter have been practising, against the will, for 62 years.
If you’re one of the many not at the game (hello real fans), you get to enjoy the Channel Seven commentary. It’s pretty much a national pastime to make fun of them.
The main callers are Bruce McAvaney and Dennis Cometti and are supported by Leigh Matthews, Tim Watson, Luke Darcy, Cameron Ling and Matthew Richardson.
This game will be Dennis Cometti’s last call. It’s a sad day as not only is Cometti the best in the business but the idea that Brian Taylor will be replacing him is terrifying.
It’s like replacing Gary Ablett Jr in the midfield with your annoying uncle.
Bruce McAvaney has struggled this week with the concept Cyril Rioli won’t be playing. Apparently, he’ll be OK, but there’s been a lot of intensive therapy.
Bruce uses the words ‘clever’ and ‘special’ a lot and will occasionally cause a lot of awkwardness by describing something on the field as delicious.
This will be followed by a moment of silence in the commentary box while everyone pretends it didn’t happen.
The Bulldogs last premiership was in 1954, and they haven’t even been in a Grand Final since 1961. That’s a long time not to be very good.
The fifties were another age. Back then we didn’t have marriage equality, and the British Queen was our head of state. How times change!
Under coach Luke Beveridge, now in his second season, the Bulldogs have had a renaissance, and if they win this, he will probably become the patron saint of the western suburbs of Melbourne.
The Bulldogs have had a fair run of injuries this season, none more devastating than a season-ending knee injury to captain Bob Murphy. Murphy is less saint more messiah.
I once saw him turn five loaves of bread and two fish into several slabs of Melbourne Bitter and Chicken Parma’s for everyone. He then handed me some nachos and said: “Take and eat; this is My body.”
They were delicious.
In Melbourne, the Bulldogs have overwhelming support, and you’d be hard pressed to find out who they are playing based on the media coverage. If they win, a big positive is we can all go back to disliking them.
The Bulldogs finished seventh on the ladder with 15 wins and seven losses. Coming from seventh to make the Grand Final is an incredible effort and saw them beat West Coast in Perth, reigning premiers Hawthorn at the MCG and the AFL marketing department in Sydney.
In Round 15, they beat Sydney at the SCG with defender Jason Johannisen kicking the match-winning goal in the dying seconds. It was a terrific game and if this Grand Final is anything like it we are in for a treat.
Marcus Bontempelli- ‘The Bont’ is a 20-year-old star who arrived in the AFL like he’d been playing it all his life. A midfielder, he’s got the size, strength and skills to dominate a game, as Hawthorn learnt a few weeks ago at this very venue.
Easton Wood- The man who has taken Bob Murphy’s mantle as captain is a defender who can take some of the best marks you’ll see. He had his breakout year in 2015, but this season he’s shown he is a true leader.
Caleb Daniel- He’s 5.6ft and wears a helmet, so even if you have no idea about football you can spot him. He was the runner-up in the Rising Star this year and has come along in leaps and bounds this year. See Janet, size doesn’t matter.
Jake Stringer- Stringer is a freak who can do things other players can’t but he struggles to play four quarters consistently. If he goes missing the Bulldogs could be in trouble, but if he fires, well he can do anything.
Coach- Luke Beveridge looks like he could still play. He is fit and is about as intense as someone can be outside of jail.
He’s turned the Bulldogs into a tough, exciting team who never give up, like Port Adelaide if they followed their motto and didn’t just put it in the marketing.
Jordan Roughead has been given an all clear from his ophthalmologist to play. I thought an ophthalmologist was someone who studies birds but apparently it relates to eyes, as Roughead copped a nasty eye injury last week.
Perhaps it is someone who studies birds and Jordan is getting the all clear from a person who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.
“Is my eye OK?”
“Well, I’m an expert in birds so…”
“Just give me a straight answer Doc, can I play?”
“I guess it would be OK. Please stop yelling at me.”
It’s more likely I’m just wrong, and it is an eye specialist.
The Swans relocated from South Melbourne to Sydney in 1982 after they were lost in a game of poker by the then Premier, after a night of heavy boozing (I haven’t fact-checked this).
Once perennial easy beats, the Swans have been consistently one of the better teams this century with a Premiership in 2005 and another in 2012. They have been to three of the last five Grand Finals, and eighteen of their players have played in a Grand Final, compared to none for the Bulldogs.
The Swans success has won them a grudging respect in Melbourne, except for Eddie McGuire who hates them because they sent him Jesse White.
It’s amazing how teams from cities that are overwhelmingly indifferent to them do so well. Look at the Melbourne Storm. I call this the Nicole Kidman effect.
If you’re watching with Swans supporters, always question their genuine loyalty to the club and mention the word ‘bandwagon’ every three to four minutes and ‘fair weather’ on the half hour.
The Swans finished first on the ladder with 17 wins and five losses.
Their finals got off to a terrible start with a thumping at the hands of the Giants.
This apparently reminded them that they couldn’t just let their opponents run through the central corridor untouched and they went on to beat the Crows comfortably before destroying Geelong in one-quarter at the MCG last week.
The Swans strength is a midfield teeming with talent. Look at the Brownlow voting.
Luke Parker almost won the Brownlow with 26 votes despite Dan Hannebery getting 21 votes, Buddy Franklin 17, Josh Kennedy 14 and Tom Mitchell 12.
The Bulldogs are going to need all 22 players performing to compete here.
Buddy Franklin- ‘Buddy’ is a rare case of something expensive being worth it. He is not only a devastating goal scorer but his speed and toughness are weapons in themselves. Watch the way he tackles and barrels through opponents, sometimes several at once. He’s a human battering ram.
Isaac Heeney- Isaac is one of those players Sydney grows in a lab at their academy. He spent a lot of time up forward, but after a rest during the season, he has been moved to the wing with devastating effect. He’s arguably been the star of their past two games.
Luke Parker- As mentioned, getting 26 Brownlow votes is pretty impressive even without considering how many he lost to his teammates. How good is Parker? Well, Bob Skilton thinks he’s a better player than he was. Skilton won three Brownlows, so was a handy enough player in his day.
Josh Kennedy- Personally, I think the star midfielder is the best player in the competition. He is a rock you could build any team around, and he is so consistent that no matter what, the Swans are always a chance around any clearance. Kennedy is so strong he can wrench the ball out of any pack and get it to a teammate. He’s also really handsome, something I think is important in a midfielder.
Coach– John Longmire famously served for eight-and-a-half years as an assistant before taking the top job. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything for eight-and-a-half years except for battling this rather nasty rash.
Longmire’s nickname is ‘Horse’ because he once killed and ate one with his bare hands while hiking in the high country or something like that I can’t remember exactly.
Exciting defender Aliir Aliir will, unfortunately, miss out due to a knee injury sustained last week. It’s a real shame as he’s been one of the great stories of this season and is an exciting player to watch.
Sydney has brought back into the side co-captain Jarrad McVeigh and Rising Star winner Callum Mills. Harry Marsh was omitted.
The Bureau is predicting a top of 18 with showers in the morning, although they should clear for the game.
I predict a narrow Sydney victory. The exciting thing is, I rate the Bulldogs too, and they could easily win it, they have an excellent record against the Swans. It should be a cracker, possibly the best day of your life for some people.
I do want to go on record that like everyone else, I have no idea about what I’m talking about but am supremely confident in my views until I’m not.
Enjoy the game.