AFL Grand Final Permutations

Points-to-prove, things-to-play-for and other external factors



While skill is important, the difference between winning and losing a Grand Final often boils down to motivational one-percenters.


Hunger and desire usually prevail. And how often do we see the underdog get up? In that regard, playing without pressure of expectation aids calm focus, and that an opponent is seen by others as better, adds a target.


Success doesn’t live in a vacuum – it’s how we are measured and acknowledged in relation to others. On one level, it’s a form of seeking attention, on another it reflects the social nature of humans. We strive to be recognised and to belong. That’s true of collectives within a society and of individuals in a collective. Ascetics may beg to differ.


Am not entirely sure of the relevance of the above, but I like the sound of it.


Below are 14, and by no means exhaustive, motivational one-percenters that could make a difference on Saturday night.


One: Richmond wants dynasty status, to be acknowledged along with previous Geelong, Hawthorn and Brisbane teams. It adds pressure, but isn’t the same as getting first runs on the board. It will be a factor driving them, though.

Geelong just wants to win a flag (and send off stars on a high note). Was the prelim win the Cats’ grand final? It was a major hurdle to overcome and emotional energy was invested in it – how they recover and reset will decide.


Two: History can be motivation. Richmond owed Geelong for a superior home and away record that may still be in back of minds, but has been diminished by recent success.

The Cats, meanwhile, owe the Tigers for last year’s prelim and, to a lesser extent, for recent home and away losses.

Going back further, Richmond has a superior win-loss finals record, especially against the Cats – of the eleven finals they played against each other, the Tigers have won nine. That won’t be a motivational factor unless highlighted and/or the Geelong players are made aware of it, but you could say the Cats are the Tigers’ finals bunny. Will the 1967 Grand Final be used as motivation? I doubt it.


Three: Further to #2, the Cats performance in their recent home and away match against Richmond was poor – the potential silver lining was that Chris Scott may have held strategic cards close to his chest. Cam Guthrie’s recent analysis didn’t offer a lot of confidence the players knew – he thought they may have erred in trying to play like Richmond. Perhaps he was holding cards too.


Four: Richmond are the bookies favourite, but Geelong is receiving the bulk of media attention – it has the stories with Ablett’s retirement etc, and is the relative new kid on the grand final block. Flying-under-the-radar in the hub has possibly become a fishbowl this week, particularly for Geelong, given the above media focus. They can both stake a claim for underdog status – Richmond is dynasty underdog, the Cats are when it comes to odds. Attention can give the impression of success, but doesn’t equate to it in this instance.


Five: The Tigers have a clear edge in Grand Final experience. The degree that’s counteracted by COVID circumstances is hard to gauge, but it normally matters. Inexperience could mean Geelong is more nervy at the start – early goals will help.


Six: In my opinion, it’s a Furphy that the Gabba favours Geelong. Richmond also has a good record there. But if you believe it, that could help confidence, and Scott is trying to create that perception, Perhaps the stadium vibe is more GMHBA than MCG, but…


Seven: Of more importance is the weather: rain could suit the Tiges, because of game style, and also because they played in the wet last week, which might have muscle memory advantage, countered a little by the Cats having more recent memory of the Gabba.


Eight: Richmond will probably have a crowd support advantage – they have more members generally, and ones who likely had the confidence, given recent flag triumphs, to make their way via NT quarantine to QLD. Neutral supporters might be more likely to barrack for the Cats, but it remains to be seen how many of them there are. Locals could align with Scott and Ablett because of their Queensland connection. Shouldn’t be a big factor.


Nine: Words matter. Chris Scott’s comments earlier in the year about Richmond’s dynasty credentials became current media fodder. Regardless of context and circumstances then, or the degree he’s since changed his tune, the Tigers will no doubt try to use it as a weapon.

Paddy Dangerfield said in a presser yesterday something about ‘bringing the cup down the highway where it belongs’ I doubt he meant it with hubris, but some things are best left unsaid.


Ten: Happy clubs are winning clubs. Both teams appear calm and self-assured, though Paddy adopting ‘serious face’ after winning the prelim suggests he could be putting unnecessary pressure on himself?


Eleven: Occasions and milestones are with the Cats: Selwood’s 200th match as Captain; Ablett’s retirement, and maybe Harry Taylor’s; Henderson reprieve when he thought his career over.


Twelve: Talent (departing somewhat from psychology): both are highly skilled. Richmond is the more balanced team. Geelong, despite improved depth, possibly still needs their stars more or have more players with question marks, which can itself be point-to-prove motivation . The Tigers having two mobile tall forwards could be telling. Both have great defences. Too many match-ups to mention here, but…

Paddy v Dusty. The latter’s kicking skill gives him an edge, Paddy offers better defensive pressure. If Paddy is over-hyped he will spray kicks, which might not matter if it rains. But he also has a powerful boot and is capable of banging one through from well beyond fifty – who knows when that might be needed late in a tight match?


Thirteen: Game style: the control v chaos theory is simplistic in my opinion, a convenient pigeon hole the media embraces so they don’t need to engage cerebral faculties. Geelong has been at their best this season when taking the game on – sometimes the control has alternated with or followed that. But if they get bogged down playing tempo footy the Tigers will make them pay. The Moggies have been the highest scoring team in the comp this year – blitzkrieg is best.


Fourteen: Miscellaneous extraneous – Cameron seeking a trade to Geelong etc can be a distraction at this time, but that can be in a positive or negative way. Being a destination club is a buzz aspiration now, so it could be a positive.


However, all the above are just some external observables (some say fear of losing is the great motivator). What happens on the inside among players and coaching staff are the imponderables.


During this finals series so far, as a Cat fan, I’ve had fairly strong hunches about results. I’m not yet getting any definite indications regarding the Grand Final. There are so many variables this year – evidenced in my over-thinking?


Superficially, comparisons can be made with 2011, but for the Moggies, places are reversed. Richmond is after dynasty vindication now, and Geelong has the stories and farewells like Collingwood did back then.


At this point, my head suggests the Tigers, but my heart says the Cats, and hopes the mind is applying reverse psychology.




For more from Paul Spinks, click HERE.





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About Paul Spinks

I have writing published and performed in various mediums, but usually not enough of it to pay the rent. Had many jobs, travelled a lot, so I think this experience allows a broad perception of society. I'm not an academic, though did complete a BA as a mature-age student. Below are links to some published written pieces.


  1. Paul Spinks says

    P.S.: On reflection, I reckon one-percenters can get the Cats over the line.
    Enjoy the game.
    And may your emergence from Covid be a good one.

  2. John Butler says

    Paul, I wonder if the Cats will feel this as one last time the band gets together? And will Chris Scott allow them to feed off that?

    An intriguing contest awaits.

  3. A thoughtful analysis, Paul.

    I am a great believer in #10, and NOT adopting the “serious face”. Just doing this saps too much energy and effort: go with the flow, man. I recall Nick Riewoldt, prior to one of the St Kilda grand finals, sitting with Ross Lyon in a presser. His face was like stone. I thought “You are trying too hard to show everyone how serious you are, mate. You won’t win this.”

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Thanks for this piece, Paul.

    I’m a Cats supporter – but historically I’ve found them such a difficult team to “read” in relation to particular games. Quite often, when I have a strong conviction that they’ll win, they don’t; on the other hand, when I believe that they’ll lose, they are good at proving me wrong.

    In terms of Saturday’s match, it seems that a good start is a key to ultimate success for Geelong.

    But who knows?

  5. Paul Spinks says

    G’day, fellas:

    Good points all.

    John: that will be in the back of minds, but probably not the focus. Who knows? Scott might find a need to draw on it during the match. I hope the ‘control’ is used sparingly. Four quarters of 16 minutes left for the year – if there’s time to deploy full-on full throttle it’s now.

    Interesting observation, Smokie. There was also that famous image of Grant Thomas with the Saints players following a pre-season comp triumph, so perhaps that’s where it began. Nathan Buckley compared to the demeanor of Michael Voss leading up to 2002/03 grand finals also comes to mind.

    Agree, Kevin: a good start is essential, probably more so for the lack of GF experience – don’t have to be on top – but should be in touch and keeping pace.
    Based on your comment – hone that losing conviction :)
    GO CATS.

  6. Football Analyst says

    If Geelong are to beat Richmond in tomorrow night’s Grand Final, Geelong must continually pressure and tackle Richmond when Richmond have the ball and then Geelong must take the game on at all costs. Geelong did not do that at the end of the home and away season when they last played Richmond. If Geelong don’t do that, Richmond will win the game easily, like they did at the end of the home and away season. Otherwise, Richmond will be the only team that does the winning game style of tackling and taking the game on. The slower keepings off possession game may work against most teams, but not Richmond.
    If it’s broken fix it, and Geelong must fix their broken game plan and game style against Richmond, otherwise it will be more of the same. Geelong also must put a hard tag on Dustin Martin when Martin is both in the midfield and up forward. Martin, is the match winner for Richmond, and has 2 Norm Smith Medals. I believe Martin was the difference for Richmond beating Port Adelaide last week. If Martin hadn’t played last week, Richmond would not have won.
    I would also play Asafa Ratagukea as the 2nd tall in the forward line and as a pinch hit ruckman. Hawkins was well held by Richmond’s tall backline the last time they played.
    Geelong are very fortunate they don’t need high draft picks to win premierships. So many players from other league clubs are playing for Geelong tomorrow, plus 4 father and sons. Geelong are also fortunate that many of these players from other league clubs grew up in Geelong, or not that far from Geelong.

  7. Football Analyst says

    Smokie, I think you are being harsh on Nick Riewoldt and St Kilda, who I believe will win their very long awaited 2nd flag by 2025, under Brett Ratten, a great leader of men.
    If you are referring to 2009, St Kilda lost that Grand Final to Geelong due to poor kicking for goal in the 1st half. St Kilda on that wet day had ample opportunities to sew that game up in that 1st half.
    If you are referring to the 2010 Drawn Grand Final, then an unlucky bounce of the ball to Stephen Milne in the dying minutes of that game deprived St Kilda of a goal to win that Grand Final.
    If you are referring to the replay of the 2010 Grand Final, well even Daryl Baldock and Ian Stewart at their peak would not have saved St Kilda as it has since been revealed, they had nothing left to give after the drawn Grand Final.
    It’s all about the game plan and execution of the right game plan and game style to beat that opponent on Grand Final day and Grand Final night.
    That’s what Geelong must do, execute the right game plan to beat Richmond on Grand Final night. To me, everything else is far less relevant.

  8. Smokie, I think the most distinct “serious face” or rather, serious-whole-body-experience was in 2017, with Richmond’s chummy and jovial attitude in stark contrast to Tex’s Power Rangers. Bit in that I reckon.

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