Grand Final predictions often make fools of us all. Last year I was on Sydney before they were unceremoniously trounced by 63 points. Therefore, to avoid the possible blowback later, I will premise this by acknowledging that Hawthorn are without doubt one of the greatest sides of the modern era. Should they storm out and take the 2015 premiership in a flurry of goals, one will hardly be surprised.
However, I believe the Eagles will get the job done tomorrow. The game will be tight for the first three quarters, before West Coast pile on some junk time goals to run out 34 point winners.
Three weeks ago, West Coast limited Hawthorn to only 54 marks around the ground, their lowest for the year. When the Hawks win it comes off the back of dominant field marking. They are number one for uncontested possession around the ground. The Hawks’ precision on foot is extraordinary, and the key for West Coast will be playing a zone behind the ball and manning up through the middle of the ground, which they have done well all season.
The West Coast forwards are going to be a headache for Hawthorn. Kennedy and Darling have them covered in one-on-one match ups, and the traditional forward set up allows for their multiple small forwards to lead into open space. LeCras, Cripps and Hill hurt Hawthorn last time, and an occupied Hawks’ defence means less floating intercepts from Lake and Gibson. It will also neutralise any half-back drive from Birchall and Smith.
Missing from discussion this week has also been Nic Naitanui’s advantage in the ruck. He is more mobile at ground level and he should have Hale and McEvoy’s measure. These key areas of the ground will be telling.
Hawthorn also have the disadvantage of battle fatigue. Two trips to Western Australia within three weeks could be telling if the scoreboard is tight in the final quarter, which I expect it will be. The heat will also predictably favour the Eagles.
Yet the risk for West Coast is that the occasion could get the better of them against a battle hardened outfit. If they go into their shell and play defensive it will be game over by half time. Run and attack. The Hawks struggle against teams that run at them and take the game on. This is why Geelong had their measure for a number of years, and why Port Adelaide managed to pip them twice this season.
Finally, if you’re looking for a Norm Smith Medal smoky, place your money on Shannon Hurn paying $67. One of the best on ground last time they met, and if the Eagles get up expect their captain to have a strong game in defence.
Whichever way it goes, it should be a cracking game. The two best sides of season 2015 are squaring off for the last dance, and hopefully footy will be the winner.