Footy

The Vice Sports AFL Grand Final Preview: Sydney Swans vs Western Bulldogs

​Footy's biggest day has finally arrived, with the Sydney Swans and the Western Bulldogs to contest the 2016 AFL Grand Final.
01 October 2016, 1:17am
Screenshot courtesy of yourtube

This grand final looks like something we haven't seen for a long time. It will be the first grand final not to feature Hawthorn since 2011 for one. It is the Bulldogs' first appearance in a premiership decider since 1961. It is the Swans' fifth grand final in eleven years. There is history across the board, but one thing is certain: both the Swans and the Bulldogs deserve to be grand finalists after some brilliant performances in last weekend's preliminary finals.

The question remains: where will the game be won? Here are our ratings.

MIDFIELD

Swans - 9

The Swans boast a star-studded midfield that includes Dan Hannebery, Kieran Jack, Josh Kennedy and Brownlow Medal runner-up Luke Parker. However, the key for the Swans is 20-year-old Isaac Heeney. In only his second year in the AFL, Heeney has forced his way into the Swans midfield despite coach John Longmire using him as a small forward prior to the finals.

Bulldogs - 9

For the Dogs, Marcus Bontempelli has the ability to make a difference both in the middle and on the scoreboard. Helped by Tom Liberatore, Luke Dahlhaus and Liam Picken, among others, Bontempelli will prove to be a nuisance to the Swans defence. The Dogs have arguably the most in-form midfield heading to the grand final. They'll be hard to beat if they get their hands on the ball in the middle of the ground.

ATTACK

Swans - 8.5

The Swans have got forward options both big and small and are the AFL's third-most accurate team in front of goal. Lance Franklin, Kurt Tippett, Sam Naismith and Xavier Richards are all right at home in the Swans' forward 50, with speedster Gary Rohan adding some punch and speed to the Swans attack. Two-time premiership winner Franklin is the obvious choice as the Swans' key forward, as he booted five goals when the two teams met in Round 15. It will be interesting to see who is given the responsibility to mark him.

Bulldogs - 8

Despite the Dogs' tall options mostly limited to Tom Boyd and Zayne Cordy, they are electric on the ground, with Bontempelli, Jake Stringer, Clay Smith and pint-sized Caleb Daniel all capable of sending any team into a spin. Stringer and Tory 'Dead-Eye Dick' Dickson can take fantastic marks in the air, but the Dogs aren't overly reliant on big forwards taking big marks to kick goals. However, the Dogs are ranked 16th (of 18 teams) in front of goal and will need to improve in front of the sticks if they are to be sure of affecting the scoreboard.

DEFENCE

Swans - 9.5

The Swans are the best defensive team in the AFL. They can withstand greater pressure than a wartime trench and can always find a way to limit damage from turnovers. This showed last weekend, when the Swans managed to concede just three goals in their defensive half against Geelong despite turning the ball over 48 times. All-Australian Dane Rampe has been brilliant all season.

Bulldogs - 9

Once the Dogs grab the ball at half-back and get up to speed, they are scintillating to watch. Easton Wood, Jason Johannisen and Matthew Boyd have got a canny knack to dispose efficiently and accurately at speed. When the Dogs beat the Swans back in Round 15, Johannisen made the difference, pushing up from defence to kick the winning goal. A greater counter-attacking team with consistency off half-back is the greater chance to win this game.

COACHING

Swans - 9

Swans coach John Longmire has seen it all before. He was appointed to the Swans top job in 2011 and won a premiership with the club in 2012 - the last non-Hawthorn team to do so. A victory for the Swans will see Longmire become the greatest coach in South Melbourne-Sydney history, for victory would deliver his second flag in his third grand final.

Bulldogs - 10

When it comes to coaching, Dogs coach Luke Beveridge has set the bar extremely high. Beveridge took over the Dogs coaching position with the team languishing near the bottom of the league. In 2015, his first year in charge, Beveridge led them to the finals despite many thinking pre-season that they had their towel on the wooden spoon. Beveridge will enter footballing immortality if the Dogs break their 62-year premiership drought.

MOMENTUM

Swans - 8

The Swans have steamrolled their way into the grand final with two commanding wins over Adelaide (36 points) and Geelong (37 points). The minor premiers, albeit on percentage, the Swans always look to make a fast start to the match.

Bulldogs - 9.5

The Dogs have made an inspired run to the decider. No team wins finals matches against West Coast in Perth, Hawthorn at the MCG and Greater Western Sydney in Sydney, and lives to tell the tale. The Bulldogs are the first team to reach the grand final after finishing seventh on the ladder, the first to do so under the current finals system.

HISTORY

This will be the Sydney Swans' 17th grand final and first since 2014, while the Bulldogs' 62-year premiership drought is currently the longest in the AFL. This will be their fourth finals meeting, with the previous three having all taken place at the MCG. Interestingly, the Dogs won all of them, in 1997, 2008 and 2010. Experience favours the Swans, with no player from the Bulldogs' preliminary final team having any grand final experience. The most telling statistic is that no team has won four consecutive finals to win the premiership since the Adelaide Crows in 1997. The Dogs will have a shot at that record.

LAST FIVE TIMES THEY MET

Round 15, 2016: Western Bulldogs 13.5 (83) def Sydney Swans 11.13 (79) at SCG

Round 5, 2015: Western Bulldogs 11.11 (77) def Sydney Swans 10.13 (73) at SCG

Round 22, 2014: Sydney Swans 20.10 (130) def Western Bulldogs 9.13 (67) at Etihad Stadium

Round 19, 2013: Sydney Swans 21.8 (134) def Western Bulldogs 15.9 (99) at Etihad Stadium

Round 21, 2012: Sydney Swans 26.11 (167) def Western Bulldogs 13.7 (85) at Etihad Stadium