Almanac Footy: Grand Final preview – We deserve this



Melbourne has a traditional structure. Of course, it’s Melbourne.


Two big forwards, two big backmen. The best ruckman in the game, with a swarm of tough, gut-running onballers and wingers at his feet.


Against Geelong last round, Oliver got a whack to the head in the backline, got up, goaled on the run, then went off for treatment. The comeback was on. That’s leadership.


Max was Farmer-like against the Cats in the prelim. It helped that C. Scott doesn’t rate rucks and left him to run amok. Still, five goals is five goals.


It was fitting the game was in Perth where Polly’s spirit roams.


I see Maxy walking the streets of Collingwood with his dog. Ultimate hipster. But with his beard and cheeky grin, he reminds me of the gangs who ran those streets and laneways back in John Wren’s time.


The Dees have x-factor and x-factor can win flags. Think of Akermanis and Stevie J.


Fritsch can win them the game. Might kick four from eight kicks. Spargo as well.


Early in the season I dreamt Browny kicked 4 or 5 and wonthe flag for the Dees. But the game was at the ‘G and I was in the stands, not in Perth. Might be a message in that.


I was in the Members’ the day the late Dean Bailey swapped the forwards and defenders like in an Under 12s game. Give everyone a kick.


And I was there the day Jurrah had kicked a few against StKilda to get the Dees back in it and was dragged and sat on the bench for the remainder of the match. How would Bailey have explained that to him? No wonder Liam couldn’t understand the game down here.


The faithful shook their heads and fists. They knew. They’re not stupid.


But it wasn’t only Bailey’s fault. There was pressure coming down from all sides.


I wonder if Gil – ‘I don’t know what tanking is’ – gives Dean a thought this week.


I picked the Dogs to win the whole thing in 2016 from the start of the season.


Bevo brought the over-the-head handpass and belief. And they had X Factor everywhere. I liked Dickson. He kicked the opening goal of the granny.


The Footy Gods rewarded the Dogs for playing the beautiful game.


Then they fell in a heap like the poor family who won the lotto and couldn’t cope.


They got rid of a few but held onto one despite everything – Libba. Heart and soul. Like his dad, just better.


Bont is great – special – but Libba does the hard work and gets the ball to him.


I didn’t think they were good enough this year. Holes in the forward line, too short in defence. Injuries. Unsettled.


But Bevo kept moving the chess pieces.


Kept pushing the us against them narrative. He’s one of the smartest coaches we’ve seen.


Macrae is a thinker. Reads the play so well. He’s quiet, unassuming, but knows which side of the pack to be. How was his goal in the last term against the Lions? Clutch.


Bailey Smith was educated by Bachar earlier in the season on a Friday night at the G. Play in front, keep your eyes on the ball, commit your body when you need to. He learnt. His final term against the Lions was brilliant.


The Dogs are a mystery. Difficult to get a handle on.  That’s their power and beauty.


The week-off will benefit the Dogs after three knock-out finals. They’ll be looking to do a hit and run job like they did against Port.


The Dees have only played twice in four weeks – both convincing wins. They must be ready for the early onslaught.


All said and done, Maxy may be the difference. English and Martin are no match.


Just like the Dogs’ faithful in 2016, Dees members deserve this. They’ve waited too long.


The AFL has outrun and dodged COVID all season. Local and country footy started, stopped, started again and then stopped for good.


This should be the Grand Final all footy people deserve.





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  1. Terrific summary Starks. Logic says the Demons are the better side. Gawn is the one player where there is no match up.
    But I thought the same about Buddy in 2016 after he had a dominant finals series, and he twisted his ankle in the first term. For all the Bulldog spirit I still think that wink from the footy gods was the deciding factor in the game.
    I like Naughton and doubt May can run with him. His running to contest kick ins and then back forward was a feature against Port. Will he have his kicking boots on?
    No-one motivates or does tactics like Bevo. In a one off game the internal pressure on the Dees will be enormous. The Bulldogs are more finals hardened – several with a flag. IF the Bulldogs can get a fast start and be 4 goals up at quarter time there will be enormous pressure on the Dees. We saw Port reduced to fumbling fools against that tide of pressure.
    There are multiple match winners on both sides. Hope its a great contest. But one off Grand Finals are like Forrest Gump chocolates “you never know which one you’re gonna get”.

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