Ahead of the AFL’s biggest game of season 2014, nothing is of more importance than accuracy in front of the big sticks.
Yes, it’s important to win the ball out of the middle. Yes, it’s important to have more inside 50s than the opposition. And yes, it’s important to have more shots at goal than your opponent. But none of that counts unless the goals are put on the scoreboard.
Finals footy, let alone the Grand Final, is a whole different ball game compared to the regular home and away season. Often it’s a contest of who can settle in the quickest and remain composed.
Inaccuracy in front of goal has been a big factor in recent Grand Finals. Since 2008, three times the losing team has had more scoring shots than their opponents in Grand Finals.
The inaccuracies of both Fremantle, and to a larger extent Geelong, were major contributors in Hawthorn’s two most recent premierships.
In 2008, Geelong scored a staggering 23 behinds and had nine more scoring shots than the Hawks, and managed to lose by 26 points. In 2013, Fremantle was their own worst enemy, kicking 8.14 on their way to a 15-point loss.
Arguably, Hawthorn are lucky to be playing on the last day in September, for had Port Adelaide kicked straight in the first quarter last week, the game could have been game, set and match before the quarter time siren had sounded.
For season 2014, Hawthorn is ranked #1 in the competition for goal kicking accuracy, and Sydney are ranked #5.
While these two teams have proved they are among the best in the league at converting opportunities, nothing matters unless they prove they can do it in front of 100,000 fans at the MCG.
The hype all week has been surrounding champion forward Lance Franklin, arguably in the best form of his career.
Franklin will get chances to kicks goals tomorrow. Often if he kicks straight early, he will set the tone for the day, but he is one player that can get erratic if he doesn’t get going early.
In Hawthorn’s loss to Sydney in 2012, Franklin played a superb game. His only downfall was kicking four behinds next to three goals. If that becomes five goals and one behind, Hawthorn are premiers.
If Franklin kicks truly in the first quarter, watch out Hawthorn.
What the Hawks need is for the ‘Buddy yips’ to return because Hawthorn will make the opposition pay.
Luke Breust and Jack Gunston are two of the most reliable kickers in the league. They must be on song and they must hurt Sydney on the scoreboard.
Never in a game of football, and even more so in a Grand Final, does one team have the momentum for the whole game. Even for three quarters of a game. So when one team has the momentum, they need to kick goals because scoreboard pressure in a grand final is pivotal and is all that counts when the final siren sounds.
Football is a game of inches. Players can just about do it all these days. But the terrific highlights we see week-in week-out are not what will decide the tale tomorrow.
Whoever kicks with better accuracy will be crowned premiers of 2014.