It is time for the AFL preliminary finals when Geelong, Brisbane Lions, Sydney Swans and Collingwood will battle it out for a place in the grand final on 24th September.
It has been a gripping finals campaign so far with some closely-fought, exciting games. Hopefully the preliminary finals will be no different.
They were a bit of a disappointment in 2021 with two one-sided affairs that saw Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs go through.
However this year they look more evenly matched and it is tough to make a call on who will go through to the big dance.
This is it, no second chances, it is all or nothing and all four sides will be giving it their absolute all to make to it the grand final that will be played in front of over 90,000 supporters at the MCG. It does not get any better than that in the AFL.
There could be one or two twists and turn regards availability and selection before the two preliminary finals, but with so much at stake let’s take an early look at both games.
What: Geelong v Brisbane
Where: MCG, Melbourne
When: 19:50 (AEST) , Friday 16th September 2022
How to watch: 7mate, Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Geelong 7/25, Brisbane 11/4
Geelong have been the team of 2022 so far after cruising to the minor premiership and they have continued that form into finals.
They had to work hard in their qualifying final against Collingwood but managed to edge their way through when winning by six points.
Chris Scott’s men have had the extra week off and that should play into their hands, particularly with some of the older players like Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood.
The star duo have been managed all season and the week off should mean they will be fit and firing for the clash against the Lions.
The Cats appear to have a clean bill of health and barring any setbacks over the next few days will be able to field their strongest possible side, which is a daunting prospect for the Lions.
However Chris Fagan’s side will not be scared and confidence should be sky high after back-to-back wins in finals.
They may have been in action last week while the Cats had their feet up, but the buzz and confidence gained from the semi-final win over Melbourne should nullify any fatigue. Only time will tell.
The Lions also saw off Richmond in the first week of finals and are building momentum at just the right time.
Meanwhile the Lions have also been handed a massive boost as Jarrod Berry has avoided suspension and is free to play.
He was facing a one-match ban following an incident in the clash against the Demons but the AFL tribunal ruled in his favour and he will now take to the pitch at the MCG.
What: Sydney v Collingwood
Where: SCG, Sydney
When: 16:45 (AEST) Saturday 17th September 2022
How to watch: 7mate, Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Sydney 2/5, Collingwood 2/1
Out of the two preliminary finals this week, the clash between the Swans and the Magpies is the hardest to call and we have a potential classic on our hands.
Sydney beat Collingwood by 27 points in the penultimate game of the regular season but we should expect this to be a closer affair with everything on the line.
The Swans will have had a nice week off after beating Melbourne and should be refreshed and ready to play in front of a packed SCG. It goes without saying that home advantage will be huge.
Swans coach John Longmire says his players had a tough training session on Saturday. Everyone came through it unscathed and should be ready to go.
“It’s always a balancing act between making sure players don’t get injured and having a really good session,” Longmire told reporters on Tuesday. “The players needed to have a good blowout, they pulled up well from it. That’s all you can do to prepare as best you can.”
The Swans will keep an eye on Oli Florent this week after he suffered an ankle injury against Melbourne, but he has been in full training and should be good to go.
Superstar forward Lance Franklin will also be key and Longmire says he has been training well.
The Magpies have had to do it the hard way since losing to Geelong in the qualifying final but they bounced back in fine style when beating Fremantle in the semi-final.
It would appear that lessons have been learnt from the round 22 defeat when coach Craig McRae admitted they did not prepare well enough for the SCG. But he will not make the same mistake this time.
"I believe in setting the players up for certain things, to hopefully make them successful in what we're doing, and I felt that I failed in that," McRae told Fox Footy. "I told the players (on Monday) we'll be better prepared for things like the shape of the ground so we can train on it and be prepared for that.
"It's nothing major, I'm just taking accountability for something I think I can do better."