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The 2021 AFL Grand Final is finally here!
After a two-week wait since the Preliminary Final weekend, Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs will compete for the title of honor at Optus Stadium on Saturday night.
Who will win and why? See our predictions below:
MELBOURNE / WESTERN BULLDOGS
Saturday Night – Optus Stadium
It’s 1-1 this season, with Luke Beveridge learning a lot from the previous round 11 defeat in the round 19 rematch.
The Bulldogs are now also better equipped in terms of personnel than they were then.
The presence of Stefan Martin should make a difference to their controversial ball troubles against the Demons. Adam Treloar and Josh Dunkley are also handy inclusions from their last meeting.
Simon Goodwin’s side have the best team defenses and will make scoring difficult for the Dogs, but they certainly found a way to score the goals in the qualifying round.
Remember, the Dogs were in the top two for most of the season and topped the ladder after round 20. They shouldn’t be such underdogs.
Tip: Western Bulldogs with 12 points
Most goals: Cody Weightman and Ben Brown (three each)
Norm Smith Medal: Jack Macrae
Luke Beveridge has had two weeks and two previous meetings with Melbourne to solve the Jake Lever/Steven May equation and after successfully neutralizing Aliir Aliir in the Prelim, he will get it done again here.
With the Demons’ backline unable to set up their usual interception game, with both star-studded midfields taking turns in control, it’s up to the frontline team to make the most of their chances.
The Bulldogs’ attackers are more reliable than Melbourne’s. Ultimately, that could be what decides this encounter.
You know what you’re going to get from both teams, but the Dees have a lot more weight on their shoulders. They’ve also had two weeks to reflect on a nearly 60-year drought and the goodwill of a nation of supporters and ex-players ready to pop the champagne.
The Bulldogs have been here and have done this before.
Tip: Western Bulldogs with 19 points
Most goals: Kysaiah Pickett (3)
Norm Smith Medal: Adam Treloar
After splitting the home and away games one apiece, it seems neither side has a clear lead over their opponent. While that sets us up for a potentially classic encounter, it does make it hard to choose.
As a result, I’ll side with the exposed form, and Melbourne has been slightly better than the Dogs, despite their thrashing of Port Adelaide two weeks ago.
The demons set up behind the ball better than any side in the league, and with their forward firing you’d imagine they can score over 80 and keep their opponents down to less than that. With the midfield battle a nil draw on paper, it’s now up to the key positions, with Aaron Naughton needing a big vote if the Dogs are to win.
It’s hard to see the All-Australian duo Steven May and Jake Lever’s form failing them at the final hurdle, and Max Gawn looms as too much of a task for Stefan Martin and Tim English.
Dees to break the drought in a tight squeeze.
Tip: Melbourne with 12 points
Most goals: Bayley Fritsch
Norm Smith Medal: Max Gawn
Everything is falling into place for Melbourne to break their agonizing 57-year premiership drought.
From securing the petty premiership after the siren to having a nearly clean bill of health, there’s a sense of destiny about the demons heading for their first major final in 21 years.
Melbourne’s defences, led by Steven May and Jake Lever, have been a tough nut to crack all season, while Max Gawn’s ruck supremacy has brought out the best in Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver.
One game in 27 days isn’t ideal for a game of such significance and the Bulldogs are experiencing a wave of momentum comparable to their 2016 flag triumph.
But Melbourne’s style of play has held up all year and I don’t expect anything different in Saturday’s premiership decision in Perth.
Tip: Melbourne with 20 points
Most goals: Kysaiah Pickett
Norm Smith Medal: Kysaiah Pickett
We’re finally here after a season that turned out to be just as chaotic and tumultuous as 2020. The top two teams in the league will meet in front of 60,000 raucous fans at Optus Stadium, in a game that will define history and create legacies.
On the face of it, this year’s Grand Final represents the game’s best defense against one of the league’s best midfield groups. Melbourne should be favorites here given their dominance over the course of the season, but they will have to be wary of the Dogs breaking open the game midway through.
If Stefan Martin can control Max Gawn and use Tom Liberatore, Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae for the first time, they have a good chance of winning their second flag in six years.
There is a sense of destiny about these demons and they couldn’t be better placed to break their 57-year premiership drought.
Tip: Melbourne with 31 points
Most goals: Bayley Fritsch
Norm Smith Medal: Christian Petracca
HUGH FITZ PATRICK
What a Grand Final it will be. There’s something about Luke Beveridge and the Bulldogs, the us-versus-the-world mentality that makes me feel like they have something in store for this battle against the demons.
For me, if the Dogs can stop the influence of Steven May and Jake Lever, they will win this game of footy. Beveridge has had two weeks to come up with a plan to stop these All-Australian defenders, and judging by how tactical he is, he must have got something sorted.
In addition, if Stefan Martin and Tim English can split the ruck fight against Max Gawn, with Christian Petracca or Clayton Oliver uneasily bursting out of the center, the strength of the Dogs’ midfield will shine through and the men out. the west will win their second flag in the last six years.
Tip: Western Bulldogs with 22 points
Most goals: Aaron Naughton
Norm Smith Medal: Marcus Bontempelli
Luke Beveridge is about to recreate the perfect fairy tale, five years apart. The Dogs were written off in 2016, just like this season, but the head coach has his side embracing their underdog status.
These sides are so close on paper that it could amount to individual matches and coaching masterstrokes from Beveridge and Simon Goodwin.
Can Bailey Smith replicate his final form thus far and get Ed Langdon off the ground? Can Aaron Naughton announce himself as a key player who will become one of the greats? Can the Dogs’ attackers find a way to fight Jake Lever and Steven May?
There are too many fascinating matches to predict, but when the whips burst, Beveridge’s men may be just a little more in sync than their Demons counterparts.
Tip: Western Bulldogs with 16 points
Most goals: Bailey Smith
Norm Smith Medal: Jack Macrae
Western Bulldogs Melbourne
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