This will be the first time Collingwood and West Coast will meet in a Grand Final. However, both do have recent Grand Final histories, albeit losses the last time either side played in a Grand Final. The Eagles lost to Hawthorn in 2015 and the Magpies lost to Geelong in 2011 after winning the replay the year before. Speaking of drawn matches, Collingwood and West Coast played against each other in a drawn Qualifying Final in 1990 with Collingwood victorious in the replay. After that game, the AFL decided to add extra time for drawn finals to avoid replays in future finals since it disrupted the remainder of the finals. This did not apply to Grand Finals at that time. After the 2010 Grand Final the AFL decided extra time would be added if future Grand Finals were tied at end of "regulation time". However, 1990 was not the only time West Coast and Collingwood tied in a final. In 2007, the teams met in a semifinal. West Coast looked like a winner with a 23 point lead midway through the third term but Collingwood stormed back into the game to level the scores at full time, then powered home in extra time kicking 3.3 (21 points) to the Eagles' two points.
Just a year ago, the Eagles played Port Adelaide in an Elimination Final. Again, scores were level at full time. Port kicked 2.4 (16 points) to the Eagles' two goals (12 points) for a four point lead with just two minutes remaining in extra time. With the clock ticking away, the Eagles got it forward but in a fierce battle the ball went over the line. There was a boundary throw-in, Luke Shuey got the ball and Port's Jared Polec tackled him but in doing so Polec's arm was over Shuey's shoulder. Polec was penalized for a high tackle and Shuey got the free kick. As he was lining up for his kick the siren sounded. Shuey kicked the goal after the siren to give the Eagles a two point win in a thriller.
Collingwood's impressive win over the Richmond Tigers this past weekend was their first finals win against Richmond in 81 years. Now they go up against the Eagles, who demolished Melbourne the next day. It will be a battle with both sides loaded with talent. The sides have seasoned players in their sides, but West Coast has more players with Grand Final experience, a total of 15. Four experienced players will be missing. Gaff is suspended while Sheed, Sheppard, and Natatui are all out injured. They have young guns in Willie Rioli, Daniel Venables and Liam Ryan. The Eagles are playing at a high level and by all indicators have compensated well for their losses due to injury. That was apparent in the difference between the Round 22 loss to Melbourne and the demolition of Melbourne in the Preliminary Final. In addition, the club has superior experience in finals and more recently in a Grand Final in 2015; that loss will serve as powerful motivation this week.
The Magpies have experience with Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Goldsack Travis Varcoe (premierships with Geelong 2009 & 11) and Chris Maine (losing Grand Final with Fremantle). Ben Reid, Alex Fasolo and Jarryd Blair. The latter trio have been battling injuries and playing in the VFL, unlikely be recalled. Reid (right ankle injury) was ruled out for the season in August. Much can be said for youthful enthusiasm in big games and the Pies have plenty in abundance. There is the 2018 Rising Star winner Jayden Stephenson; Brodie Mihocek who was drafted as a defender but has turned into a dangerous forward, defender Tom Langdon, midfielder Brayden Sier; dangerous forward Jordan de Goey; Darcy Moore if he overcomes the injury which ruled him out of the Preliminary Final; and, not least the seven-foot American ex-basketballer Mason Cox. He was a huge factor against the Eagles in the losing Qualifying Final with his mobility around the ground and kicked three goals in the second term. He took 11 marks (catch of the ball), eight of those contested. The most contested marks in a game by any player this season. It was also two marks short of AFL legend Wayne Carey's record for most contested marks in a single game, and one short of Chad Cornes' (Port Adelaide) record of nine contested marks in a final. He was often also involved in play where he didn't get the ball but brought it to ground for teammates or made sure the Tigers didn't get it and created contests. He was rated as one of the best on ground players for Collingwood in the Preliminary Final against Richmond.
AFL club recruitment of international players is limited but well documented. Only two of those international players made it to Grand Finals with their club: Sydney Swans Tadgh Kennelly (Ireland) and Mike Pyke (Canada). Both are premiership players (2005). There have been four Americans on club lists. One was playing for Essendon's reserves team in the VFL but a paperwork snafu prevented Essendon from going any further with him. Jason Holmes managed a few senior games for the Saints before being delisted. Eric Wallace played some handy games in the VFL and even managed a preseason game or two in the seniors for North Melbourne but was also delisted. This Grand Final;will be an historical first with Mason Cox playing on the big day. With his performance in the Preliminary Final, Fox Footy's Bruce McAvaney and Brian Taylor quipped that it could change the way clubs look at recruitment in the future and boost the profile of Aussie rules here in the United States even further. This remains to be seen as the AFL has not made any moves to change either the recruitment of players from the US or added marketing resources to promote the game here.
With Collingwood ruckman Brodie Grundy in red-hot form and Cox able to pinch hit in the ruck how do the Eagles counter those two? If Cox plays mainly as a forward, who can go with him? His height and long arms will definitely prove a headache for the Eagles. especially with Nic Natanui sidelined. On the flip side, can Collingwood's defense restrict dangerous tall forwards Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling? Not to mention the small but mercurial Liam Ryan and Willie Rioli. Both have a bag of tricks which can prove dangerous and Ryan, despite his small stature, can launch himself for high-flying marks. One of his catches early in the year was a nominee for Mark of the Year and his key mark in the Preliminary Final was the turning point early in the match.
Source: theage.com.au, afl.com.au, collingwoodfc.com.au, AFL Record Season Guide, Fox Footy match replay
Article last changed on Monday, September 24, 2018 - 8:02 PM EDT