All to play for, and no second chances. It’s preliminary final time.
Friday night looms as one of the most exciting games of the year when Sydney travel to the Melbourne Cricket Ground to take on Geelong in the second preliminary final.
Both teams will take to the MCG on Friday after extremely different preparations, with Geelong earning the week off following their victory over the Hawks in week one and the Swans coming off of two brutal games against GWS and Adelaide.
Considering Sydney and Geelong finished first and second on the premiership table, its no surprise to see these two facing off in what is shaping as a huge contest.
So who has the bigger advantage in terms of being able to reach a grand final against either the Giants or Western Bulldogs?
There is no question that the Cats will be feeling refreshed and ready following a period that has seen them play only one game over the best part of a month.
Players have had a chance to rest and overcome any niggling injuries that may have plagued them, ensuring they are healthy when they launch their premiership assault.
Lachie Henderson looks like a possibility to return for the Cats after knee surgery and may play up forward alongside Tom Hawkins, with youngster Jed Bews now fit and also pushing a case for selection – which could come at a cost for one of Tom Ruggles or Jake Kolodjashnij.
Either way it will be a fit and firing Cats playing group to choose from when it comes to selection day on Thursday.
The Swans meanwhile received a belting in week one of the finals against their cross-town rivals, GWS, who ran away six-goal winners at ANZ stadium.
The Swans’ pride took a hit during that game, and the following week saw the Swans return to their ferocious best, applying irresistible pressure which lead to a seven-goal opening term in their 36-point win over the Crows.
It was a performance that could only be dampened by the injuries to co-captain Jarrad McVeigh (calf) and speedster Gary Rohan (knee), adding to a frustrating situation that sees Kurt Tippett, Callum Mills and Callum Sinclair on the sidelines.
McVeigh, Rohan and Tippett, however, all seem like possibilities to make a miraculous return against Geelong on Friday night, with all three to travel with the team to Melbourne.
With the Swans waiting anxiously to see if any of those three will be fit to play in time for Friday, they will be relieved to have the core of their midfield in-tact.
The midfield battle will be critical with Geelong’s Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood, Mitch Duncan and Cameron Guthrie going up against Josh Kennedy, Dan Hannebery, Luke Parker and Tom Mitchell of the Swans, to name a few, a contest that will more than likely decide the result.
Geelong were brilliant in and close against Hawthorn two weeks ago, dominating the Hawks in contested possession, which is a focus for the Cats and an area the Swans also excel in.
With the Cats feeling fresh off of a week’s break over the semi-final weekend, it will be an aim for them to heighten their intensity early, and having that extra week may prove decisive in terms who which team runs out the game better.
They will rely heavily on Dangerfield and Selwood to deliver a winning result.
The Swans brought a game last week that would test most opponents and will look to bring that strength and energy around the contest this weekend.
If they are able to, we could see the minor premiers catch the Cats napping early on, especially if Geelong don’t meet them with the same intensity.
The Swans small forwards in Tom Papley and Ben McGlynn kicked seven-goals between them last week, along with Lance Franklin who could help lift his team if their midfield delivers.
Geelong will start as favourites and do have the bigger advantage heading in to Friday night’s game in terms of ideal preparation and playing closer to home, but it is impossible to write-off the Swans at this point.
The teams faced off once against each other earlier this year, with the Swans running away 38-points winners at Simounds Stadium, the odds are it will be a much closer meeting this time around and possibly one of the best games of the season.
Key Players: Patrick Dangerfield (Geel), Lance Franklin (Syd)