We start our build up to the AFL Grand Final with a look at why each team can win on the day, starting with West Coast Eagles.
1. The web
A well-educated type informed us a fortnight ago that the key to beating the Hawks, or at least getting close to them, is to deny them the footy, which of course is easier said than done. To do so, a side needs to either pinpoint their own possession, as Richmond have done, or make it nigh on impossible for the Hawks to move it, as per the last time these two sides met in the opening week of the finals. No side spins ‘the web’ better than West Coast and implementing this strategy successfully will be critical to the Eagles’ chances this weekend.
2. Scoring capacity
We’ve bleated on all year about sides needing to be capable of scoring 100 points to win a Grand Final against the Hawks. The Eagles are one of the few sides in the AFL capable of doing doing so, and have figured as the only other side in the “magic quadrant” all season. With the Hawks averaging 109 points a game and the Eagles 104, accurate kicking will be at a premium at the “G” this Saturday.
It goes without saying, but a forward line domiciling Josh Kennedy, Jack Darling, the delicious Frenchman and Josh Hill is well capable of stretching the Hawks much vaunted backline and kicking a total big enough to win. After all, Josh Gibson can’t man up on all of them.
3. Knock out Sam Mitchell
Unlikely, but after 35 and 36 possession games against the Eagles in the past two months, it wouldn’t be the worst move to have someone take one (in 2016) for the team this Saturday.
We haven’t seen a vicious, bloodbath of a Grand Final for a while – probably since 2004 – but I don’t reckon we’d be alone in suggesting that it would be nice to see big Jack Darling coming in off the square at full tilt with nothing other than the diminutive Hawks star in his sights. Kapow!
Short of actually knocking Mitchell out of the game, West Coast must find a way to neutralize the Hawthorn ball-magnet. We already spoke about the Eagles need to deny Hawthorn the ball, and it all starts with Mitchell.
4. The weather
The Hawks have racked up more frequent flier points in the past month than Bronwyn Bishop, travelling to Perth twice en route to the big dance. They’ve also not rested in this period, having to win a home semi-final against Adelaide in between trips west to face the Eagles and Dockers.
Hawthorn appeared cooked late in the third term and early in the fourth in their Preliminary Final as Fremantle looked to mount a comeback, yet the two-time defending premiers escaped thanks to Ross Lyon. Facing an older list that has fought through an arduous finals campaign, if the Eagles can keep it close, the sapping 30 degrees forecast for Saturday might come into effect as the game reaches its climax.
5. Nic Nat
West Coast have Nic Nat, Hawks don’t. End of.