With an extra week to prepare, the tactical aspects of this year’s Grand Final have been examined harder than ever.
And while we may have the two best teams of the year left, they both have flaws that can be exposed on Saturday night.This is your ultimate Grand Final preview, with why Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs both can and can’t win the premiership.
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Melbourne coach Simon Goodwin spoke on Fox Footy before the preliminary final against Geelong and said the key to the game was “just be us”. It sounds like a pretty basic comment, but he’s totally right.
If the Demons just get to play the game the way they want, they should win, because they have an edge in almost every category over their
That doesn’t mean they can be complacent, of course. Melbourne has to decide whether to back in its system on the biggest stage, or whether to worry about a red-hot Bulldogs midfield, and trying to negate their strengths.
“It’s not a dilemma, it’s a decision; how do I approach the game, backing in our strengths and what we’ve done really well all year, against what the Bulldogs are really good at?” Nick Riewoldt said on Fox Footy’s On the Couch.
“We heard from him a few weeks ago, let’s just ‘be us’. If we can just ‘be us’, we’ll just be fine, and that’s been true so far.”
They have allowed opponents to score on just 35 per cent of their inside 50 entries; the lowest rate ever recorded. And they’ve allowed their fewest points since 1964, when as you might’ve heard, they last won the flag.
As you’ll see below, the Bulldogs are likely to have the edge in the clearances, but that’s essentially by design.
This season, the Demons have given up the fourth-most clearances in the AFL, but conceded the second-fewest points from clearance – that’s their system at work.
Melbourne has won the clearance battle in 10 games this year, and won scores from clearances in all of them.
“If they win clearance, and they win scores from clearance, they’ll win this game by some margin. That’s as critical as you can make it for the Dogs,” David King said on AFL 360.
So if they win the clearances, the game is theirs. But if they lose the clearances… well, it’s about by how much.
After all, the Demons’ star-studded midfield isn’t perfect, and their Round 16 loss to the Giants helped prove that.
“Melbourne were happy to be compromised at stoppages to have an extra number behind the ball,” Nick Riewoldt explained.
“So the Giants send a half-forward up, they had an extra at stoppages, they were able to win it and then really importantly what they did was chain out from stoppage.”
But this is a particularly big problem for the Demons, because the Bulldogs love to chain out of stoppage with handballs more than anyone in the AFL; they do it 58 per cent of the time, No.1 in the league.
“Last week, what Port Adelaide said was ‘hey, you can have the extra at stoppage, we’ll back ourselves to win it back’,” Riewoldt said.
“Well guess what, they got their hands on it the Bulldogs, and then they didn’t blast it; Port Adelaide didn’t touch it. They said we’ll back our system, we’ll let the Bulldogs have their great strength and we’ll back our system to beat the Dogs; they got blown off the park..”
So the question is simple; do the Demons care more about their own game, or stopping that of the Dogs?
The risk would be allowing Luke Beveridge’s side to get its game going; and as we’ve seen at times this year, when the Bulldogs are in full flight, they’re utterly unstoppable.