Watch AFL Grand Finale Live West Coast Eagles vs Collingwood Magpies Live Streaming Free 2018 AFL Grand Finals 2018 Online, match will be kick off at Melbourne Cricket Ground Stadium, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia, Saturday 29 September 2018 online, 14:30 pm (AEDT) and its broadcast on Channel Seven, Foxtell.
Not many outside the four walls of West Coast and Collingwood — even their most rabid followers — would have thought September silverware was within reach pre-season, let alone once their respective campaigns fell deeper into despair with the continued loss of key personnel.
That the Eagles (second) and Magpies (third) overcame the attrition to have the last dance on the MCG speaks volumes of the quality of each club’s coaches, fitness programs and lists.
Collingwood was the AFL’s second-worst hit team in 2018 for injuries to players in their best 22, while West Coast too has endured its own injury chaos this season.
The now-retired Eric Mackenzie didn’t play a game in 2018, dual Coleman Medallist Josh Kennedy was restricted to 13, inspirational ruckman Nic Naitanui missed out from round 17 with an ACL while versatile defender Brad Sheppard’s season ended with a hamstring tear early in the qualifying final win over the Pies.
Add the significant ankle setbacks to Jack Darling in his best season of AFL and prolific midfielder Luke Shuey, plus the Andrew Gaff suspension fiasco in round 20 that briefly rattled the club and its brand, and it seems a miracle the Eagles even made it this far.
Long injury lists expose a club’s depth and, left with no other option, West Coast went to the well early in 2018 and discovered talent lurking that could save their season.
Naitanui’s absence was offset by Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy forming an unlikely ruck duo. The pair nullifed Collingwood’s All-Australian ruckman Brodie Grundy in the Perth final and did the same two weeks later against Melbourne at Optus Stadium opposed to the league’s best ruckman Max Gawn.
Collingwood has been equally resilient and brave, and were certainly not expected to cover the losses of Ben Reid, Jamie Elliott, James Aish, Flynn Appleby, Kayle Kirby, Rupert Wills, Alex Fasolo or Daniel Wells and make September action, let alone the ‘grannie’.
Torn ACLs to key backs Matt Scharenberg (round 19) and Lynden Dunn (round 15) later devastated the side’s renovated defence.
But this most unlikely of match-ups on the last Saturday in September is not only a celebration of mind over matter but of the prospect of a rare contest of contrasting game styles that both sides will try desperately to impose from the very first bounce at 12.30pm.
Collingwood’s 2018 brand of footy revolves on a slick midfield that revels in the contest and an unpredictable, selfless attack of medium-sized forwards and one giant Texan, the 211cm Mason Cox.
West Coast by name like to rule the air and their tall timber have soared at either end this year, while the side’s fast, effective creativity off half back and the unmatched conversion rate of its dynamic new attack inside 50 has been refreshing to watch.
Radio 6PR football analyst Kim Hagdorn has analysed as much AFL football in 2018 as anyone and believed some key elements would shape the destiny of the two proud clubs come Saturday.
While Eagles coach Adam Simpson played down the impact of a wet and rainy MCG, Hagdorn believes the ground conditions could significantly sway the game if it allows one side to get the game played on its terms.
“A wet MCG will certainly aid Collingwood, given the depth and quality of their midfield, backed by Brody Grundy,” Hagdorn said.
The Pies midfield is rated first in the AFL by Champion Data and they have protected their undermanned defence well all year. It was no coincidence when the two sides last met in the qualifying final that the Eagles got the better of Collingwood once they won the midfield battle in the last quarter to successfully feed hungry forwards Kennedy and Darling.
“West Coast don’t need to get the ball inside their forward 50 as much as Collingwood … their conversion rate once inside has been the best in the competition this year,” Hagdorn said.
The wider MCG would not faze West Coast as much as previously, given it has played a full season at new home ground Optus Stadium that is similar in dimension to the traditional home of football.
“Simpson has had a whole year to finetune his team’s structures across the ground, so they will feel a lot more confident this time around than in 2015,” Hagdorn said.
Credit should also be given to West Coast’s fitness and conditioning staff, who have given the Eagles some extra miles in the legs to manage the wider expanses of the 60,000-seat Perth stadium and MCG, where the side was unbeaten from two games in 2018.
“The way they used the run of Gaff and Masten from the wing … the team is fitter, and better strategy wise without a doubt this year,” Hagdorn said.
Like Collingwood, the Eagles would have only gained confidence by continually winning while continually losing elite players like Naitnaui and Gaff.
West Coast Eagles:
B: Hurn, Barrass, Schofield
HB: Cole, McGovern, Jetta
C: Redden, Yeo, Masten
HF: Hutchings, Darling, LeCras
F: Rioli, Kennedy, Cripps
FOLL: Lycett, Shuey, Sheed
I/C: Ryan, Duggan, Venables, Vardy
EMG: O.Allen, Nelson, Ainsworth, Ah Chee
B: Maynard, Langdon, Crisp
HB: Howe, Goldsack, Varcoe
C: Treloar, Pendlebury, Phillips
HF: Hoskin-Elliott, Mihocek, De Goey
F: Thomas, Cox, Stephenson
FOLL: Grundy, Adams, Sidebottom
I/C: Sier, Aish, Mayne, Greenwood
EMG: Blair, Reid, Brown, Appleby