2018 AFL Finals Preview – Melbourne v Geelong
In what will be the third clash between the two clubs this season, Friday night football could play host to a thrilling battle if the regular season meetings of the Cats and the Demons are any indication.
Geelong won by three-points in Round 1 and two-points in Round 18 with a Zac Tuohy goal after the siren, but Melbourne’s first finals appearance in 12 years could throw up anything with the duck off their back.
Two of the most divisive teams this season with seemingly every football fan and media analyst having an opinion, how the matchup plays out could go in 100 different directions.
The Demons enter with two huge wins against West Coast and Greater Western Sydney, the former meaning Melbourne enter the finals for the first time since 2006.
The Cats enter in scintillating form having knocked off Fremantle by 132-points and Gold Coast to the tune of 102-points in consecutive weeks.
Both sides feature talent across the field; Geelong led by the ‘Holy Trinity’ of Gary Ablett, Patrick Dangerfield and Joel Selwood while Melbourne feature captain Nathan Jones and 2018 All-Australians Max Gawn, Clayton Oliver.
Melbourne has dominated Geelong during periods of both matches this season and if they can continue that they’ll be a good chance. They will need to deal with their late-game yips that have plagued them at various times this season.
Geelong enter with a relatively clean bill of health, Rhys Stanley the only player under an injury cloud with a calf injury.
Jack Viney’s inclusion is huge given the incredible talent and hard work that he possesses, however it will be interesting to see his form given it will be his first game since Round 16.
Melbourne are almost at full strength and have covered the loss of key defender Jake Lever earlier in the season well, but Jesse Hogan’s foot injury that will keep him out of the finals is a massive loss as he gives the Demons an added dimension up forward but also further up the ground and in the midfield.
One of the harder matchups to pick in the first week of finals, Geelong boast 209 games of finals experience to Melbourne’s 44. While it isn’t a necessary ingredient to win in September, particularly after seeing what the Bulldogs and Tigers have done in the past two season, it will be a factor. When the game gets tight and steps up a level, can the Demons take that step and show why they deserve to stay alive?
The Cats have a slight edge as they have a knack of getting the win when the game is all but over this season, but an inspired Melbourne is a different animal altogether.
Geelong’s advantage comes from its backline having conceded the fewest points of any team this season, led by All-Australian Tom Stewart and Zac Tuohy.
The loss of Hogan will hurt most in the finals and the Demons will need Tom McDonald to continue the form that has seen him become a key player for Melbourne.
Tom Hawkins will need to use his body against the smaller Oscar McDonald, and if he can kick several goals early it could be a long night for the defender.
If any team can withstand Melbourne’s blistering offensive numbers, finishing the season number one in points scored and forward 50 entries, Geelong can. Their back six have shown the capability to stand up under enormous pressure, but if the Demons can get on a roll they will be hard to stop.
Melbourne sit mid table in points allowed (10 out of 18 teams) which is why Geelong should get over the line in a titanic clash.
Geelong win by 16 points.