A place in the AFL preliminary final is up for grabs when the reigning premiers Melbourne take on the in-form Sydney Swans at the MCG on Friday night.
Melbourne may not have produced the form they did this time last year, but they still managed to finish second on the ladder to give themselves home advantage against the Swans, who finished in third spot.
The winners of this game will head straight to the preliminary final and will be one step away from the grand final. The losers do get another chance and will face one of the winners from the elimination final in the semi-final.
It is not do or die but the winners will earn an extra week of rest and a place in the prelim so the game is huge for both of these sides.
With that in mind let’s take a closer look at both teams heading into this qualification final.
What: Melbourne v Sydney Swans
Where: MCG, Melbourne
When: 19:50 (AEST) Friday 2nd September 2022
How to watch: 7mate, Foxtel, Kayo
Odds: Melbourne 47/100, Swans 17/10
Melbourne’s inconsistent form compared to this time 12 months ago has been well documented. In 2021 the Demons remained undefeated from round 19 onwards as they went on to win the minor premiership and then the grand final.
However in 2022 they lost three games from round 19 onwards and one or two questions have been raised about their credentials to go back-to-back.
The 115-57 win over the Brisbane Lions in the final round of the home and away season should have gone a long way towards answering those doubters.
But the Swans will be a different test altogether and the critics will be out in numbers again should they slip up at the MCG on Friday night.
That has happened on more than one occasion this season. Indeed the Swans beat the Demons by 12 points at the G back in round 12 and will take plenty of confidence from that win.
A lot has happened since that win and the Demons will have moved on. They will be boosted by the return of Christian Salem who has been missing with a groin injury, while head coach Simon Goodwin faces a big selection dilemma with Tom McDonald.
He has been on the sidelines for three months but following some impressive performances in the VFL is knocking on the door to return and Goodwin has a decision to make.
Key to Melbourne’s chances will be star trio Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver and Christian Petracca. Oliver has been in great form this season and loves playing against the Swans. He has averaged just over 30 disposals against them in the last five meetings.
The Swans could not be heading into finals in better form. Talk about peaking at just the right time as they have won seven games on the bounce and confidence should be sky-high.
Coach John Longmire also has the added bonus of being able to stick with a settled team. He has no fresh injury concerns and is likely to name the same side that beat Collingwood and St Kilda in the last two games.
Sydney managed to beat the Demons at the MCG without Lance Franklin back in round 12 as they showed their strength in depth. Both Logan McDonald and Sam Reid booted three goals each when playing up forward.
Franklin will be in the side on Friday night and is a man to rise to the occasion. He has averaged three goals a game in finals games at the MCG and will be huge for the Swans.
They also have dangerous players in the form of Isaac Heeney, Chad Warner and Tom Papley and can cause the Demons some serious problems.
Warner has only played 37 career games but is already one of the most feared midfielders in the comp and is ranked in the AFL’s top eight for score involvements this season.
He is another player who will rise to the big occasion and can turn the game in Sydney’s favour if the Demons are on top.
The Swans will have to guard against Melbourne getting off to a quick start though. They have lead at quarter-time on 17 occasions this season and it is important Sydney stay in touch.
That’s because Longmire’s men have a great habit of finishing strongly and getting the job done. They have won the final quarter 17 times this season and if this one goes to the death they know how to win.