Blindside’s AFL writer Nick Davis takes a look at the mouthwatering Sydney vs Greater Western Sydney matchup in his latest AFL Predictions.
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As we all know, Sydney has been extremely dominant on a league-wide basis in the second half of the regular season. They’re poised and well-composed play through the middle of the field has been absolutely exquisite, and now they set their sights on the Grand Final. A team of this calibre that has won the minor premiership will certainly look deep into September to achieve the best they can, and they are in no better position than their current one to do it. A strong regular season has prepared them well for their 2016 finals campaign, officially launching this Saturday.
Greater Western Sydney
A surprising outfit for Leon Cameron and his boys in orange this season has seen an unanticipated completion, rising above three quarters of teams and finally finishing 4th on the ladder after 23 rounds. Now, for the first time ever, the young Giants will face September and look to launch their finals campaign with a red hot crack against a dominant Swans outfit. So far, the boys proved to be resilient enough to finish the season in outstanding form, but now comes the real test.
Meetings This Year
Round 3 – SCG: Sydney by 25
Round 12 – Spotless Stadium: GWS by 42
In this more recently formed version of a local town derby, the two teams have not had much experience against each other. Nevertheless, the two teams treat it as a century-long affair, and look to steal the title back and forth for the best in New South Wales. This year, the two teams met twice; first in Round 3, where the Swans bested the Giants by 25 and then in Round 12, when the Giants hit back to square the ledger at 1-1. Needless to say, it is a tough matchup to pick. This match will be played at ANZ stadium – which is neither team’s home ground – meaning that a 1st vs 4th matchup could genuinely be an even one. In terms of performances in either of these previous matchups, GWS’s efforts to put away the Swans in round 12 was a valiant one, proving to the league that Sydney is not a one-sided AFL town. Furthermore, the performances of Toby Greene and Callan Ward definitely shook the flow of the Sydney game, as they racked up 46 disposals and 4 goals between them. Both sides have the right ingredients to put their opponent away early, but time will tell which side can grab the upper hand first.
Without a doubt, the biggest matchup on the field will involve Buddy Franklin. For two teams of this calibre, each of the coaches look to put away the key players early in the game to prevent any ball from passing through their hands. The teams and matchups haven’t been announced as of yet, but I can guarantee that coach Leon Cameron will assign experienced back James Kelly to ensure Buddy gets the least amount of ball possible. We’ve all seen what the amazing Buddy can do with the ball anywhere within 75 metres of the uprights..
Another key matchup comes in the midfield, where young Swan Tom Mitchell will look to put the locks on Callan Ward, as his roving defence is poised to be one of the keys to defeating the Giants this week. Both key midfielders are capable of taking the game into their own hands and amounting massive disposal counts to help their team efficiently move the ball out of the ruck and up forward to hit the scoreboard. Where this matchup will be interesting, however, is if Ward starts well and Mitchell is forced to take his eye off getting the ball and focus on preventing any ball through Ward’s hands.
The last key matchup should be up forward for the Giants this time, as we will most likely see key defender Dane Rampe take on the agile, athletic, young key forward Jeremy Cameron, who will play his first ever finals footy this Saturday. Cameron is more than capable of taking over a game, leading well to his efficient midfielders and racking up more than three goals in a solid performance. Rampe, however, is an All-Australian defender more than capable of eliminating the best forwards of the game from the contest, seeing little if any ball travel through their hands. It should be an extremely interesting matchup.
Where the Match will be Won
Simply put, we love these teams for their quick, fast-paced ball movement through the middle of the field, as their key midfielders amass huge numbers of handballs to ensure efficient delivery to the wings and, in turn, to the forwards. This match will be won straight away in the midfield. And, when one of these teams grabs the upper hand here, we will see a one-sided affair throughout. Much like their last matchups, expect one side to jump out early and hold that lead for the full four quarters. In my opinion, what GWS doesn’t have that Sydney most definitely has is extraordinary midfield defence, when their major ball winners can switch modes almost instantly and lock the ball up accordingly. I believe this will be important for the Swans, because in their round 12 loss they were unable to switch to this defensive mode like they were almost every other week. This ultimately led to the demolition of their interior ball movement, and saw the fast-paced Giants speed away and deliver to their forwards truly.
Due to their extremely hot form and overly efficient play-styles, I believe the Swans should get the better of the Giants on Saturday afternoon. The minor premiership winners should hold truly from the start, hungry for another shot at the Grand Final this year. The Giants will play valiantly and they will be back in the second week of finals to play Adelaide, but it will be extremely difficult to be a team on such a hot streak as the Swans.
Sydney by 31