AFL Grand Final Preview 2014 – Hawthorn v Sydney Swans

Every Grand Final Preview essentially is trying to crack the question: who will win the big game? This simple yet somewhat challenging question can baffle even the most expert minds. And at the end of reading these previews you can be scratching your head, seemingly no closer to understanding why Expert Person A has tipped Sydney by 12 points, or why Expert Person B has picked the Hawks in a nail-biter.

Who won’t be fake-smiling at 5.30pm on Saturday?

So Mike or The Don are here to help! We have tackled the key questions and areas that will ultimately decide the game; so not only will you know who will win the game, but you will be able to – at great length – dissect the game with even the most professed minds around the BBQ on Saturday.  So, without further ado..

Form

Sydney’s is good, Hawthorn’s is not as good. Well, apparently so. Hawthorn last lost a game on August 17 and has lost once this season at the MCG. Sydney have lost only twice since Round 5 this season, however, one of those was to Hawthorn. Sydney have also had a ‘softer’ finals series as they didn’t have to play a red-hot Port Adelaide and demolished North Melbourne last week in what can only be described as a training run. Hawthorn on the other hand did play Port and won only just (by 3 points) last week. Read into all of that what you will. But although Hawthorn had a tougher game last week, both teams have very good form on their side.  So there’s not much here to tell us who is going to win. Onto the next category!

North Melbourne’s defense – thus Sydney’s ‘easy’ win last week needs some context

Head to Head record

Sydney won when these two teams played in Sydney in Round 8 (by 19 points) and Hawthorn won in Round 18 when the game was at the MCG (by 10 points). In Grand Finals Sydney have a 1-0 head-to-head record having defeated the Hawks in the 2012 decider. So, that all amounts to not much at all, really – we know both teams can beat the other and we have only a sample size of 1 Grand Final. We aren’t getting a clear decider here…

Statistics

Statistics alone can’t tell you with any great certainty the result of an upcoming match. So if you were looking for full-blown statistical analysis then you’re in the wrong spot. However there are some curious stats that are worth considering prior to this year’s Grand Final. For example, Sydney are ranked 16th in the AFL for kicking efficiency. That’s right – only two teams are worse in their ability to kick the ball where it is supposed to go more often than not (I’m sure that’s the technical definition). This is staggering. Surely in FOOTball you have to kick the ball where it is supposed to go more often than not to be crowned the “best” team? Perhaps not.

On the flipside, Hawthorn are 18th for tackling efficiency and 18th for kicking forward percentage (i.e. they kick the ball backwards the most of any team). Who would have thought you CAN go backwards to go forwards? – evidenced by the fact Hawthorn are 1st for points per game. So the next time someone tells you that kicking, tackling or even going towards the end you are supposed to be attacking are important in footy, you can throw those doozies at them and see how they like them apples.

But seriously, on afl.com.au Champion Data have analysed all statistical categories based upon both teams performances this season and have spat out a 4-point winning margin to Sydney, so there’s really nothing to separate these teams statistically. This is starting to get tough!

AS far as we are concerned you can add ‘Statistics’ to this list of useless things

Intangibles

The little bits and pieces so many people overlook. Like the weather. Or whether breakfast will sit well. Or whether each team can control the roller coaster emotions of Grand Final Day. Or whether Tom Jones and/or Ed Sheeran will pump up one team (or players) more than another. These are the things you will have to consider. Well, except the last one – as every player is going to be so pumped up with this year’s pre-match entertainment they’ll run through brick walls and sprint onto the arena before the coach can give his pre-match address. Again, we are still even.

Even the jumper couldn’t decide

Team colours, song and mascot

We are having to dig really deep here. Colours is a clear winner to Sydney as any team wearing colours resembling human waste cannot win this category, against anyone. However the Hawk mascot is clearly a more powerful, threatening creature than the Swan so a tick to Hawthorn there. And as for team songs they are both pretty upbeat and catchy – the Swans with the Notre Dame Victory March-based ‘Cheer, Cheer the Red and The White” and Hawthorn with “We’re a Happy team at Hawthorn” sang to the tune of The Yankee Doodle Boy. Looks like we are still tied.

Still can’t split them…

The X-Factor

So, just like every other analysis out there (probably) the result of the game will be decided by the X-factor. But who is the X-factor in this game? Even Google can’t help us decide a winner as the search results of potential AFL Grand Final X-factor players lands on Cyril Rioli and Buddy Franklin – one from each team!

So I guess picking the winner isn’t that easy. So for no reason other than gut feel I will pick the following:

First goal: Paul Puopolo

Norm Smith Medallist: Josh Kennedy

Result: Sydney by 1 point

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