The scene is set for a brilliant contest when Geelong and Brisbane meet tonight to compete for a place in the Grand Final.
Ahead of this blockbuster clash and in partnership with Deakin’s Centre for Sport Research, we break down the two teams and look at some of the key areas where the game could be won.
Geelong has named an unchanged line-up, while Brisbane have made one change with inside midfielder Cam Ellis-Yolmen back to take on the Cats.
Midfield Battle Royale
If the first two weeks of finals have reminded us anything, it is the importance of winning it cleanly out of the middle to give your forwards the best chance of kicking a winning score.
That was the difference in the first preliminary final last night with Richmond winning centre clearances (11 to 4) and were far more efficient inside 50 (43% to 20%) as a result, particularly in the final term.
The statistics suggest that Geelong has a slight advantage when it comes to winning it out of the middle this year. They are ranked second for centre clearances with 11.1 per game, compared to Brisbane’s 9.8 (8th). However, stoppage clearances are much closer with the Cats and Lions sitting second and third in the competition respectively.
Coach Chris Scott knows winning this area will be important if they want to reduce the Lions efficiency inside their attacking 50.
“I think they’re potent in their forward half and they have shown the capacity to score this year and most of that is built off the opportunity that their mids give them,” Geelong coach Chris Scott said ahead of his 450th game.
“If they get (uncontested) ball into their forwardline they can be hard to stop, so I think both teams would be looking at the midfield battle, drawing a little bit from the last time we played and thinking the team that gets on top in there is going to have a big advantage.
“It is a bit of a cliché, but I think that’s where it starts and that is probably where the most important battles will be waged, particularly early in the game.”
Brisbane Ruck Duo Dangerous
Another important aspect of winning the midfield battles lies in the ruck.
Rhys Stanley was outstanding against the Pies, particularly early helping the Cats gain ascendancy in the middle.
Stanley was well supported by Mark Blicavs and Tom Hawkins, but this week faces another huge task against the ‘underrated’ Lions pair of Stefan Martin and Oscar McInerney.
Both Martin and McInerney have a won a higher percentage of hitouts to advantage than Stanley this season and is it an area that Assistant Coach Matthew Knights highlighted during his mid-week press conference.
“They play two ruckmen nearly every week which gives (Lachie) Neale, (Dayne) Zorko and guys like that a really good look at the footy – they’ve got really quick feet around the contest and those guys are really damaging when they get out and moving,” Knight said.
“We saw that against Richmond when they got moving and got ahead of the ball at times, they looked unbelievable, so it’s two talented groups, two tough groups going at it and it should be a great clash.”
Fantastic theatre for the game
The All Australian bookends battle between Tom Hawkins and Harris Andrews will be worth the admission price alone on Saturday night.
Hawkins was outstanding in last week’s win and will be important again.
“It’s a great matchup and it is fantastic for the theatre of the game,” Scott said.
“I think that every defender in the comp would say that that they depend on their teammates to an extent, so I don’t think Harris would be aiming to set it up one-on-one with Tom for too long.
The Cats and the Lions will face off with perfect 2020 records at the Gabba ?? Match preview presented by @Deakin.— Geelong Cats (@GeelongCats) October 16, 2020
“We would like to isolate Tom and get him enough one-on-one chances with Harris, but he has shown himself to be more than competent in that scenario as well.”
"Both teams rely heavily on their key pillars. I think Hawkins and Andrews will be a really good battle and be important to the outcome of the game and then up the other end (Eric) Hipwood, (Cam) Raynor and (Charlie) Cameron have been dangerous too, but if you strip that all back a fair bit, it will depend on the quality of ball going to those guys."
Tonight's game will be televised on Channel Seven, Kayo and the AFL Live App from 7.40pm AEDT.