That final day in September is just around the corner as the Melbourne Demons and the Western Bulldogs prepare for Saturday night in Perth.
Melbourne and the Bulldogs held no prisoners in their respective preliminary finals to book a spot in the 2021 AFL Grand Final.
It was a preliminary final weekend that spoke of fairy-tale finishes for two teams, while two others experienced a preliminary nightmare. The Demons smashed an experienced Geelong outfit at Optus Stadium, while the Bulldogs stunned an in-form Port Adelaide side in front of their home crowd.
Both sides will enjoy the two week break before the Grand Final to hit refresh and ensure any injury concerns are dealt with prior to team selection this week. Steven May injured his hamstring in the preliminary final against Geelong, while Melbourne’s Charlie Spargo is taking it easy after injuring his ankle during a training session last week.
The Western Bulldogs seem fit and ready as Cody Weightman will return from concussion and Marcus Bontempelli appeared to have no problems in the preliminary final.
Although Melbourne have some players to manage to ensure their Grand Final selection, both sides should be set to name their best 22 players.
However, team selection is a heartbreaking moment for those players who miss out on experiencing that premiership feeling. Perhaps the most heartbreaking story of this year is Nathan Jones, after the long-time Dee was told he would not be considered for selection.
It’s a story eerily similar to former Bulldog Bob Murphy in 2016 as the Bulldogs pulled off an epic premiership run. Nathan Jones gave his everything to the Melbourne Football Club and led the club in their darkest days. Now, Melbourne are on track to taking home the 2021 premiership cup, but Nathan Jones will never experience premiership glory.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs will go with an almost unchangeable side from their preliminary final demolition with the exception of dynamic youngster Cody Weightman. Luke Beveridge mentioned after their one-point thriller against the Lions that Weightman is an “irreplaceable player” with his versatility on the ground and in the air. No doubt Weightman is itching to play his role on Saturday evening after being forced to stay on the sidelines for the past few weeks.
The Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons are chasing different fairy-tale endings, but it will be a captivating story either way.
Luke Beveridge has cleverly sold an ‘us versus them’ approach to motivate and inspire hunger for his players. The Bulldogs have arrived at the AFL Grand Final the hard way as a fifth spot at the end of the home and away season forced them to play every week of the finals. On top of that, the Bulldogs have quarantined, travelled state to state, and overcome unlikely hurdles to book their Grand Final spot.
Melbourne face a different fairy-tale possibility, but the story would be magnificent. A 57-year premiership drought looms over the Melbourne Football Club, and that drought could be over in a historic Grand Final win. The potential is there, but will the pressure of ending that drought be too much for the Demons?
The coaching staff of both sides had homework to do after Melbourne and the Bulldogs did not hold back in their preliminary final win. The midfield battle will be a priority focus for both sides, as each team’s midfield line-up sets up a fierce contest. Melbourne blew Geelong’s midfield out of the water in the prelim with Geelong conceding 101 points from clearances. Clayton Oliver, Christian Petracca and Max Gawn delivered a midfield masterclass and their uncontested clearance work was unstoppable.
Similarly, the Bulldogs worked Port Adelaide’s midfield beautifully and executed their stoppage work brilliantly. Jonathan Brown mentioned On The Couch that the Bulldogs “like to chain out by hands from stoppage” to create space out the back of the contest.
Melbourne must prevent the Bulldogs from taking them too high at stoppage and centre bounce’s. Otherwise, Melbourne run the risk of conceding easy goals from space deep in the Bulldog’s forward-50. However, if Melbourne play their brand of football the Bulldogs will have a difficult time of replicating their work in the prelim. Melbourne’s closing speed and pressure against Geelong in the prelim was exceptional and forced an experience side to crumble.
Melbourne and the Bulldogs are both in terrific form as the Grand Final approaches, and they should deliver an exciting contest. With the Brownlow Medal count tonight, the lead up to the Grand Final is getting under way and will create an air of excitement for players and fans.
Optus Stadium will light up on Saturday evening and no doubt prove a worthy stage for the AFL Grand Final. It’s the most exciting week of football for players, fans and staff entrenched in the game that is Australian Rules Football. While it is an exciting week for both teams, only one will experience the overwhelming thrill of a Grand Final win.
So, who will be crowned the 2021 AFL Premiers? Don’t miss out on the action for it should be an entertaining battle.