The 2013 Australian Football League climax is set to produce major drama at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. This year’s Aussie rules Grand Final serves up a classic dose of David vs. Goliath as favourites Hawthorn Hawks look to overcome the underdog threat of Fremantle Dockers.
Who: Hawthorn Hawks vs. Fremantle Dockers, 2013 AFL Grand Final
Where: Melbourne Cricket Ground, Victoria, Australia
When: Saturday Sept. 28, 2:30 p.m. AEST, 4:30 a.m. BST, 12:30 a.m. ET (U.S.)
How to Watch: Check out the domestic and international TV/radio listings courtesy of ABC right here.
With both teams looking to end the AFL season in style, it’s time to preview and predict the upcoming encounter.
Will Hawthorn Face Heartbreak Once Again?
Reaching the AFL Grand Final with the favourites tag for a second consecutive year, Alastair Clarkson’s Hawthorn Hawks will be determined to avoid another shock defeat on the big stage. Last season’s loss to Sydney Swans remains a significant blotch on the record of a team that has consistently shown itself to be best across the last two seasons of AFL action.
As written by Andrew McGarry of ABC, only a gambling man would bet against the Hawks overcoming recent disappointments to claim the prize:
Hawthorn has shown clear improvement on last year, putting together a 12-match winning streak on the way to a 19-win season, before beating Sydney and Geelong on the way to the MCG.
On paper, the Hawks' big-match experience, their spread of attacking weapons and ability to overwhelm defences make them almost irresistible opponents.
Having outlined themselves as the competition’s No. 1 offensive team, Hawthorn will be suitably challenged when coming up against a Fremantle side that has worked tirelessly to match up against their opponents as the No. 1 defensive side.
Fremantle are drilled to exert relentless pressure on ball-carriers and will need to quickly close down space if they are to stifle the Hawks’ attack. As reported by Mark Ricciuto of Perth Now, once this plan is put into effect, Fremantle have the chance to highlight their prowess with a forward line that boasts an underrated amount of talent:
Hawthorn has an amazing forward line, one of the best we’ve ever seen when it’s on fire…
But Fremantle’s forward line is elite too. Matthew Pavlich is starting to get into some nick now and has kicked 21 goals in his past four games at the MCG - including six in last year’s elimination final win against Geelong.
Aaron Sandilands and Zac Clarke really stretch smaller defenders and then you’ve got Chris Mayne, who I think is the most underrated player in the AFL.
He broke the record for pressure acts against the Swans and laid 13 effective tackles which is just unbelievable for a key forward. He’s also a great kick for goal, going at 68 per cent accuracy this season.
The Tale of Two Brothers
Once all is said and done at the MCG, the parents of Brad and Stephen Hill are going to experience some extremely conflicting emotions. One of their sons will be an acclaimed AFL champion, while the other will suffer the heartbreak of a final loss.
With seemingly less to lose, Fremantle's Stephen Hill has enjoyed jesting his brother in the Australian press this week. As reported by ABC, the 23-year-old suggested he will easily outsprint his sibling if the contest throws up a foot race:
If I've got a chance I'll try to burn him off. I think I've got him covered.
Mum's really proud and happy and really looking forward to this week. I think she might have a bit of Hawthorn and Freo colours on. She'll be supporting both of us. I'm looking forward to it.
Somebody separate the two when Christmas comes.
If Fremantle are to emerge victorious, it's players such as Zac Clarke who'll need to rally the defensive effort from the front.
Hawthorn continue to wear opponents down with possession-based football and will meticulously pass the ball around without fear of making a mistake. Should Fremantle stop this rhythm from flowing in the early stages, a seed of doubt will be placed in the minds of Hawthorn players who will be frightened of suffering another Grand Final loss.
Ross Lyon's men will only win this one if they can produce a repeat showing of the 99-74 win over Sydney Swans. Paterson's Stadium witnessed a team performance of admirable quality that night, with the likes of Nathan Fyfe and Michael Walters leading the standout displays.
Should Walters get the chance to burst forward like he did against the Swans, Hawthorn will be in real trouble.
Fremantle have waited 19 years to appear in a Grand Final. Considering last year's disappointment for the Hawks, and the similarity of the opponents they face this year, the Dockers' defensive work will prove too powerful a force, even against this attack.
Fremantle to take a surprise win.