AFL GRAND FINAL MATCHUPS
Matt Priddis (West Coast) v Sam Mitchell (Hawthorn)
It was only fitting that Monday night’s Brownlow Medal voting went Nat Fyfe, then Priddis and Mitchell. They’re the pre-eminent AFL midfielders, with Priddis and Mitchell to have a huge say in how the grand final plays out. Mitchell long ago mastered the art of extracting the ball from stoppages and feeding it with unerring accuracy to teammates. Priddis is West Coast’s version of Mitchell and, they’d argue, just as good at it. Mitchell and Luke Hodge also are superb at going into defence and playing what amounts to a quarterback role.
Nic Naitanui v David Hale and Ben McEvoy
AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan has joined in widespread expectation that this is the crucial duel of the grand final. “Nic Nat” is a freak with his big leap, sublime skills and athleticism. On paper, he’s too good for Hale and McEvoy. But the Hawks ruckmen are smart operators who play to their own strengths. They’ve had a crucial role in the finals wins over Adelaide and Fremantle. Although their hitout stats haven’t looked great, they’ve made the stoppages predictable for their teammates. Naitanui can put on a ruck clinic, but it might not mean much unless the Eagles ground-ball players can feed off his work effectively.
Josh Kennedy and James Frawley
Hawthorn’s experiment of playing Frawley in attack ended abruptly during the qualifying final loss to the Eagles. He looked all at sea. The former Melbourne defender then returned to the back line and claimed Adelaide’s Taylor Walker and Fremantle captain Matthew Pavlich as huge scalps in the past two matches. It’s a good thing he’s on a roll, because now comes probably Frawley’s toughest assignment. Kennedy is the Coleman Medallist and he’s continued his outstanding form through the finals. After kicking three against Hawthorn, he contributed two important goals in the preliminary final win over North Melbourne.