A do-or-die scenario awaits Geelong and Sydney who do battle for a Preliminary final berth on Friday night at the MCG. The last Semi-Final between these two sides is remembered as one of the greatest AFL finals moments. Sydney won the thrilling encounter by 3 points after Nick Davis slotted his fourth goal right at the death after trailing throughout the whole last quarter. Many pundits have predicted Sydney to continue their swansong, while Cats fans are praying for their side to rectify their performance in the Qualifying Final.
Geelong succumbed to a Tigers onslaught last Friday night. The Cats conceded seven final quarter goals, being embarrassed by 51 points and now risk going out in straight sets. Geelong’s key contributors failed to fire when the game was in the balance allowing Richmond to exploit their lack of pace and conviction.
In contrast to the Cats, Sydney did not put a foot out of place as they dismantled the Bombers in their Elimination Final. Despite finishing sixth, Sydney sent an ominous warning to their rivals and remain one of the most feared teams left in the finals.
Sydney outscored the Bombers ten goals to two in the second term and never looked like going down from there.
The last time these two sides met was back in Round 19 at Simmonds Stadium. Tom Papley and Nick Hayward contributed with three goals each as the Swans ran away 46-point victors at the Cattery.
Recent history also favours the Swans, having beaten Geelong in all of their past three meetings.
Geelong make two changes to the side which lost to Richmond last week. Daniel Menzel’s return will buoy the Cats, adding firepower to their forward line. Darcy Lang is also included in the side while Cameron Guthrie and Jordan Murdoch make way.
Sydney meanwhile have not made any changes ahead of this contest. Despite concerns, Lance Franklin will be fit to play the Cats after spending much of the final term on the bench against the Bombers. Franklin showcased his freakish ability last week kicking three goals in eight minutes during the second term.
While Franklin has been pivotal throughout the year, much of Sydney’s resurgence has centred around their achievement of on-field balance. Sydney’s mid-sized forwards have been instrumental in the side’s execution on the score board while their abundance of experience in defence has allowed them to effectively shut down the play and implement a defensive style when required.
Geelong have been lauded throughout the season for their immense tackling pressure. This feat was nonetheless undone last week when it was their opposition who applied greater amounts of pressure around the ball. While the width of the MCG may not suit Geelong’s congested style, they will be more evenly matched against the Swans who have only won four of their last eight trips to the MCG.
The spotlight over the past few weeks may be centred on Lance Franklin, but a forward by the name of Tom Papley has been equally instrumental this year. Despite having only played 39 games, Papley kicked 29 goals this season and averaged six score involvements per game. The forward can often go unnoticed in Sydney’s star line up but is certainly a player the Cats should be mindful of when the ball is in Sydney’s forward line.
Likewise, Daniel Menzel could be equally dangerous and pivotal for the Cats. Menzel’s omission had many fans perplexed last week with the 26-year-old kicking 38 goals this season.
A win for either side sets up a Preliminary final against the Crows, while the losers can only ponder on what could have been.