Elimination final, Sydney derby, it doesn’t get much bigger than this.
Will the youthful Swans exuberant brand continue to thrive?
Or will the Giants complete their 2019 redemption?
Last time they met
The form guide between these sides is hard to read, with eight players unavailable in their round 18 clash due to late changes to Victoria’s COVID-19 exposure sites.
Still, the Swans came from behind to win by 26 points, lead by four-goal hauls from Lance Franklin and Tom Papley. In fact, Sydney kicked 12 of the last 14 goals in a barnstorming finish. Luke Parker also had a day out with 31 disposals.
For GWS, Sam Taylor was strong down back with 11 intercept possessions despite Buddy’s four-goal haul, while Harry Himmelberg slotted three majors of his own.
For what it’s worth, the Giants bettered Sydney by two points back in round six. Buddy kicked five and Taylor had 13 intercepts, keep your eyes on those two.
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Sydney can welcome Chad Warner and James Bell into their 22, coming at the expense of Braeden Campbell and Callum Mills. Mills will miss with achilles soreness, while co-captain Josh P. Kennedy will miss his second consecutive week with a hamstring injury. Robbie Fox has been named as the Medical Sub.
For the Giants, Kieren Briggs, Tanner Bruhn, Xavier O’Halloran and Adam Kennedy will be making way for Shane Mumford, Sam J. Reid and Tom Green. Last week’s Medical Sub and co-captain Stephen Coniglio returns to the starting 22.
Why Sydney can win
There’s a player called Lance Franklin.
And as if the two-time premiership player didn’t need any extra incentive to perform, he’s eight goals shy of the magical 1000-mark. Has proven he can win games off his own boot.
Then there’s the lack of expectation. Sydney and their fans will of course be desperate victory, and enter the game as favourites, but let’s not forget that this is the team came 16th last year.
They’ve rebuilt in the space of two seasons and regardless of what happens from here on in, 2021 has been a successful campaign for the Swans.
The fearlessness that comes with that can be as dangerous a weapon as any.
Not to mention their scalps this year include the Bulldogs, Geelong, Brisbane, and the Giants themselves.
Why GWS can win
They say old habits die hard, and the Giants have a habit of winning finals.
This is a team that has a chip on their shoulder. They were humiliated in 2019 and many expected they’d never recover, yet here they are.
Seem to be constantly plagued by injuries, yet they’re young core’s stepped up as they’ve scrapped their way to seventh position.
You’d say Sydney have more talent on paper, but that counts for little in a final, and the grit and willpower of this GWS side in second to none.
And while the Swans have a matchwinner in Franklin, the Giants have a matchwinner of their own in Toby Greene, someone who happens to thrive under the bright lights of the big stage.
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Players to watch
He’s already been touched on in this preview, and not much more needs to be said, but watch out for Buddy. It’s not out of his wheelhouse to reach 1000 this week. What a story that’d be.
And he brings us to the Giants key backmen. Nick Haynes is a proven performer, while Sam Taylor’s burst onto the scene in 2021. These two will be central in GWS’ victory hopes, and simply have to be on song.
Then there’s the small forwards, as there’ll be plenty of undersized X-factor zipping around in both forward lines.
For Sydney, Tom Papley’s one to watch as he’ll no doubt provide a handful of highlights as well as headaches for the GWS defence. And we can’t forget Toby Greene, the Giants spiritual leader who has a heart the size of Greater Western Sydney itself.
Another interesting player to keep your eyes on is Stephen Coniglio. Ever since he signed that bumper seven-year contract and was handed the captaincy, his form’s waivered and immense scrutiny’s followed. He’s been restricted by injuries this season, and the mutual observer would love to see him make a statement by putting in a big performance.
It’s a flip of the coin.
The Swans have the talent, more firepower, a better home-and-away record. But the Giants have the willpower, and they always find a way, especially come finals time.
Of course both teams have hunger, but the Swans have a youthful inexperienced hunger, and their elder statesmen have tasted the ultimate success. GWS have a determined and driven hunger, a hunger enhanced by winning finals to no avail and the embarrassment of 2019.
Both sides are in form, having won four of their last five each , but the Giants will get over the line in this one.