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Op-Ed: AFL Grand Final 2021 – Start biting your nails now, this will be epic

Australian Rules football is two hours of stop/start high-intensity contact sport every week against 17 other 18-player teams who don’t like losing.

A man sits in front of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in Sydney. People are still allowed out for exercise, shopping, health care and essential work. — © AFP
A man sits in front of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House in Sydney. People are still allowed out for exercise, shopping, health care and essential work. — © AFP

One of the reasons Aussie Rules fans don’t believe there are any other types of football is about to happen. The Australian Football League Grand Final clash between the Dees (Melbourne Demons) and Dogs (Western Bulldogs, formerly Footscray) is likely to terrify the nation.

(For foreign readers who have missed the meaning of life and don’t know anything about AFL – It’s a great game to play, but you’ve got to be very good indeed.

Australian Rules football is two hours of stop/start high-intensity contact sport every week against 17 other 18-player teams who don’t like losing. AFL players don’t wear armor and there’s no “offside” in Aussie Rules. You can and will be tackled from any direction on the ground and in the air.

In the air, you may find yourself competing with up to about five 200lb+ guys the size of basketballers who know the ball belongs to them. One guy, Royce Hart, spent more time in the air than on the ground. He played for over 10 years, and the sky was pretty crowded that decade.

You can play marbles with your feet at the World Cup or do the usual highly paid, highly padded 15 minutes in the Super Bowl if you like. We don’t consider that to be any form of football. We see that sort of game as more like knitting, but much less dangerous and far less interesting.)

Both teams are coming off seemingly easy wins against top-liners. The Dees wiped out an uncharacteristically lost Cats team on Friday. The Dogs beat the Power (Port Adelaide) in their characteristic role as underdogs.

There’s quite a lot at stake here. The Dees are after their first grand final win since 1964. The Dogs are after some further vindication as an always-tough, good team which puts up a hell of a fight in every game.

You have to wonder. The Dogs are as bad as Collingwood (that’s almost impossible) when it comes to beating top teams against all odds. They can win one game all season, and it’ll be against the team that wins the Grand Final. It looks like they beat the Power simply by playing their uncompromising style of game.

The Dees have reinvented themselves time and again, and finally made the final. The team that beat the Cats did a lot of good work, against a very good side. They simply outclassed them in that game, pretty convincingly.

The styles of the two teams are different enough. The Dogs have always been in-your-face-all-the-time. The Dees are fast, often slick, and against the Cats, they were very penetrant against a side which had a good defense all year. In fact, both teams beat teams with a better defense than their own during the season.

The big clash is likely to be on the ground, just getting the ball. The Dogs are famous as sloggers on the ground. Both teams won their last five games of the season.

Percentages are anyone’s guess and could mean anything for this game. The Dogs have more For, and more Against, points. The Dogs have a higher percentage; 132.8 vs 130.8. Melbourne has the best defense in the league in points against, the Dogs have the second-best attack.

The thing to know about AFL finals, however, is whether the wheels fall off.  “Invincible” teams do well until the final, then turn to jelly. Underdogs struggle all year, then suddenly become super-teams.

It’s almost as bad as the Melbourne Cup.

This year, it’s tougher than ever to pick a winner. These two teams have fought long and hard to get to the final. If both sides are on top of their game, there’s likely to be one point in it at the very end. It’ll be a fantastic game.

Written By

Editor-at-Large based in Sydney, Australia.

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