Grand Final 2014: seven crucial talking points



With just five days until the 2014 AFL Grand Final, the fans and the media are awash with talk of every possible aspect of the biggest day on the Australian sports calendar.

Buddy vs Hawthorn: grand final heaven

Here are the seven talking points you need to know about.

Lance Franklin

Franklin possesses the longest, most lucrative contract in the sport’s history – $10 million over nine years. If he could have a dollar for every time he’s mentioned in the media this week, he’d probably earn another million. A year after winning a second premiership with the Hawks, Franklin is primed to claim another flag with the Swans. He’s the ace in Sydney’s pack but the game’s biggest name is yet to dominate on the game’s biggest stage: a total of six goals in his three grand finals, despite an influential display in Hawthorn’s 2012 loss to Sydney. Can Franklin turn on his superpowers in a likely duel with his great mate, Hawk Josh Gibson? The premiership may hinge on it.

Josh Kennedy

Josh Kennedy. Photo: Getty

Josh Kennedy

Sydney’s ball magnet is now entrenched among the elite but couldn’t crack it at Hawthorn – where his father and grandfather made their names. His father, John Kennedy Jnr, won four flags with the Hawks; his grandfather John Kennedy snr coached Hawthorn to their first three premierships. Josh managed just 13 games for the Victorian club in two seasons before being traded at the end of the 2009 season in return for Sydney’s pick No.39 in a national draft. The Hawks used that selection on Sam Grimley, who has managed just three AFL games, while Kennedy has played 120 games for the Swans, including their 2012 premiership. He’s a Sydney club champion, All Australian and now a perennial Brownlow medal favourite.

Rioli’s hamstring

Cyril says he’s fit after playing his first game in three months in the VFL on Sunday – but he only played about 65 per cent of the match. Rioli, who was sidelined with a torn hamstring, will test the oldest adage in grand finals: you don’t take a risk with injured or underdone players. Rioli was quiet in Hawthorn’s 2008 premiership with just 10 disposals but did kick two goals; and only 14 touches and goal-less in the 2012 loss to the Swans. But such is his exquisite talents, Hawk coach Alastair Clarkson will be tempted to gamble on the potential game-breaker.

Alastair Clarkson

Alistair Clarkson. Photo: Getty

Clarkson’s legacy

Only 15 men have coached three or more premierships – and Clarkson could make it 16 with another grand final victory. A shrewd mentor with tactical nous and an undoubted ruthless streak, Clarkson has rebuilt the Hawks in his 10 years in charge. After missing the finals in his initial two years, he’s now into a third consecutive grand final – no mean feat in this era of equalisation. Clarkson’s specific recruiting has been pivotal: he’s pinched Shaun Burgoyne, Gibson, Brian Lake, Jack Gunston, David Hale and Matt Spangher from rival clubs.

Goode’s farewell?

Will the finale be the curtain call for Adam Goodes and one of the most storied AFL careers? Goodes is seeking a third premiership. He’s a dual Brownlow medallist, four-time All Australian, triple club champion, triple club leading goalkicker, AFL rising star, AFL indigenous team of the century member – and he’s the current Australian of the Year to boot. Goodes celebrated his 350th game in the preliminary final with an influential display. He’ll turn 35 in January and has publicly said he’ll decide his future at the end of the season. But surely another flag would be a fitting end to a remarkable journey.

McGlynn’s chance

When Sydney won the 2012 flag, Ben McGlynn was in tears – half-joy, half-agony. He should have been playing, but tore a hamstring and missed the decider. When Hawthorn won the 2008 flag, then-Hawk McGlynn also was a spectator, having been overlooked for the side. But now the clever forward-midfielder, who transferred to Sydney after the 2009 season, has a chance of redemption – he’s a certain starter for the Swans on Saturday. “There hasn’t been a day where 2012 hasn’t come across my mind,” McGlynn says.

Attack of defence?

Hawthorn, the AFL’s best attack, meet Sydney, the AFL’s best defence. In the home and away season, the Hawks were incredibly potent: they banked 278 more points than the next best, Port Adelaide. And Sydney’s renowned defensive strangle of opponents was unrivalled: they conceded a league-low 1488 points, some 258 less than Hawthorn. The Swans were also the fourth highest scoring team in the regular season, with Hawthorn boasting the sixth-best defence.

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