It’s Christmas for Australian sports lovers this weekend as the AFL Grand Final pits a red hot Richmond up against the resilient GWS Giants.
The Tigers knocked off the Cats in the preliminary final and have been one of the best teams in the competition over the majority of the season.
The Giants, on the other hand, faced troubles with form and injuries heading into the finals before impressively defeating the Bulldogs, Lions and Magpies on their way to their maiden Grand Final birth.
With both sides having a lot to prove it should be an exciting encounter.
While the consistent form of Richmond over the second half of the year combined with the advantages of a final at the MCG may entice punters, the Giants still have a few tricks up their sleeve.
Toby Greene will return from suspension this week, adding aggression that will serve the Giants well during the typically helter-skelter start to a Grand Final.
Lachie Whitfield’s return brings elite kicking from halfback potentially allowing the Giants to have another x-factor to break the game open at crucial times.
When these teams met in Round 3, Whitfield played a starring role with 42 touches in a blowout Giants victory.
However, Whitfield is coming off appendicitis and only being limited to laps at training on Tuesday means any contribution may not be sustainable for the full four quarters.
Overall, the Tigers are settled and hungry for glory after a tough preliminary final loss last season.
The Tigers rank number one in the competition for scores from turnovers compared to the 18th ranked Giants.
The pressures of a Grand Final may mean a GWS team in its first-ever big dance may commit a few extra turnovers, allowing the Tigers to play to their strengths and make the young Giants pay.
While a competitive Giants performance would make it more entertaining for the neutrals, the Tigers are too hard to beat.
Tip: Richmond win @ $1.38
As of Thursday afternoon, the line sits at -17.5 in favour of the Tigers.
Everything is going right for Richmond at the moment with a VFL Premiership at the weekend, adding to an 11-game winning streak.
However, the Giants’ game plan could pose some challenges for Richmond’s typically rock-solid defence.
First of all, while the Tigers rank last in scores from clearances across the league, the Giants rank number one in the competition in the same category.
With this added potency around the ball, the Giants’ forward line could get first use during the early stages of the match.
Should Coleman medalist Jeremy Cameron get off the leash early, GWS may re-open the old wounds from Mason Cox’s dominant aerial display in the preliminary final last year.
However, the Tigers have an average winning margin which is slightly above the line, sitting at 23.7 points across the year.
With the Giants battling injury issues over the past month as well as playing an extra game, the Tigers look primed to run away convincingly in the later stages of the match with their fresher legs.
Tough to pick, but the Tigers may run away with it.
Having already picked the Tigers at the line, the question is now whether they win between 1-39 or by 40+.
Looking back on the Round 3 encounter between these two clubs in Sydney, Jeremy Cameron was one of the big differences between the two sides.
The boy from Dartmoor in Victoria’s south-west booted seven goals and could’ve had plenty more, kicking five behinds also.
His performance will likely be key in determining Saturday’s game.
If you don’t think he will perform on the big stage, maybe look at putting a little on the higher odds of a Richmond win by 40+ ($3.40).
However, given the consistency of the Coleman medal winner over the past couple of seasons, Cameron will likely play well on the weekend.
Combined with the ball-winning qualities of a GWS midfield with the likes of Greene, Kelly and Taranto, the Giants should be able to keep this one relatively competitive.
Yet the freshness of the Tigers and their ability to capitalise on mistakes makes Richmond still well suited to comfortable take this one out.
Presuming the Tigers win, Dustin Martin will likely be in contention for best on ground.
However, Martin really hasn’t replicated his 2017 form across this finals series and with Matt De Boer proving to be one of the best taggers in the competition, he will have a much tougher time than his previous Grand Final against the Crows.
With Phil Davis still sore from the weekend, the Giants’ backline may be a little thinner than usual on Saturday.
Considering this, Tom Lynch may prove to be the difference between the sides.
The former Gold Coast forward is hungry for success after being starved of it for so long in Queensland and has form against the Giants, booting a solid total of seven goals in games against GWS this year.
Tip: Tom Lynch @ $11