Digby’s AFL Grand Final Preview

Saturday, 30 September

Adelaide v Richmond, MCG, 12.30pm

First things first, let’s forget about the round-six encounter between these two sides this season when Adelaide prevailed by 76 points. It was too long ago and has little bearing on how this encounter, Richmond’s first grand final appearance in 35 years, will be played. The Tigers at the MCG are a formidable opponent, as Geelong and Greater Western Sydney have discovered already this month.

On talent, the Crows appear to hold all the aces. But as we have seen regularly in big finals, talent alone is not enough to guarantee victory. Richmond have overwhelmed so many teams this season with wonderful pressure, especially their ability to lock the ball in their forward half. That is where the skills and poise of Adelaide need to shine through. The Crows have elite ball users and decision makers sprinkled throughout their side and if they can spot up teammates by foot, as opposed to quick handballs which don’t clear the area, they have the capacity to separate the swarming Tigers.

If that occurs, the Crows’ forward line shapes as a real issue for Damien Hardwick and his coaching staff. Taylor Walker, Josh Jenkins, Tom Lynch, Eddie Betts, Charlie Cameron and Andy Otten are capable of applying enormous scoreboard pressure — and rapidly — if supplied with sufficient opportunities. Richmond also have options in attack, but they aren’t as plentiful as the Crows.

The Tigers have been superbly led by skipper Trent Cotchin in the two finals and he will again need to show the way in the midfield and at the stoppages against a Crows on-ball division that has become noticeably harder as the season has progressed. Cotchin and Dustin Martin have a key role to play, as does Toby Nankervis, who needs to dilute the influence of Crows ruckman Sam Jacobs.

Adelaide finished on top for a reason and their form in September has been ruthless. Admittedly, they now need to get the job done interstate against a quality Tigers outfit, but they look to have the profile and experience to handle such an occasion.

Verdict: Adelaide by 25 points.

Norm Smith Medal: Rory Sloane

Best Bet: Adelaide under 39.5 points

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