2018 AFL Finals Preview – Sydney v GWS
For the second time in three years, the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ will see Sydney take on arch rivals GWS with the winner moving on to face West Coast or Collingwood next week.
The sides played each other just three weeks ago, the Swans taking the chocolates by 20-points, but the rematch should be much closer given the ins for GWS and the pressure that comes from finals footy.
Sydney enter having won three of four, missing out on the top four after going down to Hawthorn in Round 23 by nine-points. Despite an up and down year that saw many in the AFL media questioning whether Sydney had what it took, the Swans showed why they’ve played finals eight years in a row.
GWS won five of its last seven games but finished the year with two disappointing losses; to Sydney in Round 22 and a 45-point belting from Melbourne in Round 23.
The Giants are arguably the most talented team in the AFL with stars across the board, but they’ve failed to reach the grand final losing to the eventual premiers in consecutive preliminary finals.
Can this be the year they go all the way? It’s often said teams have three year premiership ‘windows’ and if that holds true, this could be the last year the Giants have a shot at a flag for some time.
Both sides enter benefitting from a week off, getting key players back that will help get them to as close to full strength as possible.
The Swans regain Luke Parker and Lance Franklin, the latter one of the game’s greatest players and his own individual brilliance able to change matches in an instant.
But the eight-time All-Australlain and captain of the 2018 team enters under an injury cloud, having barely trained all year. If anyone can get up for a huge final it is Buddy, so don’t doubt the champion to have an impact.
The Giants have an impressive number of ins; Toby Greene, Brett Deledio and Zac Williams have been named which gives GWS the edge. Greene’s season has been injury interrupted but there’s no doubting his ability when on song.
The Giants have superior talent and should be considered favourites, but it’s tough to rule out the Swans particularly in a must-win game. If there’s one thing that the AFL media shouldn’t do is rule out Sydney as time and again they’ve shown immense resolve to get the job done when all seems lost.
Sydney’s Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker and Dan Hannebury are contested ball bulls and could swing the game if they have big quarters. Unlike the Swans however, has been the inconsistency they’ve shown in 2018 so which mentality the side enter with could determine the result.
GWS’ elite talent when gelling is nearly unbeatable, but they’ve failed to get the job done in the club’s biggest matches in their short history. A home win against premier Richmond in Round 17 helped shed the label that the Giants were incapable of winning contested and hard-fought games, but whether they can continue to do so in an elimination final is another question altogether.
If Sydney allow Josh Kelly and Stephen Coniglio to rack up effective possessions then it could be a long day for the Swans.
GWS by 22 points.