Three key duels for the first preliminary final between Fremantle and Hawthorn at Domain Stadium.
*Nat Fyfe (Frem) v Sam Mitchell (Haw)
It’s unlikely these two players will spend much time on each other, but the influence they exert for their respective sides will play a key role in deciding the outcome. Fyfe has been the competition’s best player this season, but Mitchell has developed a knack of cutting Fremantle to shreds. Adding to the intrigue is the pair’s run-in earlier this year in Tasmania, when an errant Mitchell knee resulted in a massive corked thigh for Fyfe. The setback sparked a run of leg injuries for Fyfe. If the star Docker hold a grudge, don’t be surprised to see him unleash a sneaky punch to the midriff.
*Ben Stratton (Haw) v Michael Walters (Frem)
Walters has become somewhat of a barometer for the Dockers this year. Against Sydney in the qualifying final, his three goals proved crucial in victory. The 24-year-old has booted a team-best 41 goals this season, and his ability to create scoring chances for others has also been critical. Fremantle aren’t a high-scoring team, so if Stratton can limit the influence of Walters, it will put Hawthorn in the box seat for victory. If Stratton doesn’t go to Walters, he is set to get the job on the equally-dangerous Hayden Ballantyne.
*Zac Dawson (Frem) v Jarryd Roughead (Haw)
Dawson is a shocking kick of the ball, but he’s one hell of a spoiler. The former Saint will need to play out of his skin if he is to keep the dangerous Roughead at bay. With Hawks forward Jack Gunston still injured, Roughead will be priming himself for a big game. Dawson looks lackadaisical at times, but he has rarely let coach Ross Lyon down over the journey. Dawson gave away a few crucial free kicks opposed to Sydney’s Kurt Tippett a fortnight ago, so he’ll have to be careful in the one-on-one battles.