Grand Final Preview...

"And the barrister picks up the football, balks the clerk of courts, what a run! He spins, sells the rival counsel the dummy and unloads a l-o-n-g kick towards the man in the wig. Oh yes, His Honor leaps over the bench and takes a magnificent chest mark, only inches above the wood paneled floor. The jury roar their approval as the Judge picks himself up..."

Footy, once again, has the key action taking place inside a courtroom.

Yesterday (Thursday) the Sydney Swans successfully petitioned the Supreme Court to have Andrew Dunkley's AFL tribunal hearing postponed until AFTER Saturday's Grand Final.

And do you think that has caused some debate around the traps. What If this and What If that. A cable TV network produced footage of the Dunkley incident from a different angle than network TV had. It, well, shows what looks like a punch or two to the head of Essendon's James Hird.

The upshot is that the Swans are free to play Dunkley on Saturday. As a consequence they have named an unchanged side from that which defeated Essendon by 1 point last Saturday.

North Melbourne made one change and have now hoisted the title of The Unluckiest Man in Football upon the shoulders of Matthew Armstrong. Stuart Anderson has recovered from his hamstring injury that kept him out of last weeks game. He comes into the squad at the expense of Armstrong. The Roo's coach, Denis Pagan, described having to tell Matty Armstrong the bad news as a "terrible process".

It seems certain North's Corey McKernan has recovered from his bruised knee. He performed well at the final training run last night and the crowd of 5,000 North fans were most appreciative. Corey is "jumping out of his skin" to play. Wayne Carey is looking fit and is also rearing to go.

The Big Game per se has had its start delayed by 15 minutes and will now kick off at 2:45pm AEST. The reason is to allow for a longer pre-match entertainment show. The good news is there will be no half-time show this year, so I'm sorry, but you'll just have to go without the usual "Australia Embarrasses Itself before the Whole World" spectacular.

However, it could just be that the pre-match show is the best entertainment we'll get all day. Oh for a close game! We haven't had a tight Grand Final since 1989. And before that...ummm, 1984. The doomsayers have the quills out and are penning in "North by a mile" already.

To give you some idea, The Age newspaper has polled 13 of it's football writers (not the celebrity tipsters!). 12 out of 13 say North. Half of the 12 have the Roos by more than 40 points. One tips Sydney by 6 points.

I find it hard to disagree with their logic. North have played both their finals at the MCG (their home ground as well). Both were thrashings. As in wipe up the blood afterwards.

Compare and contrast with Sydney. They have played their two finals at the SCG and have just fallen over the line both times. What was the combined winning margin? 7 (Seven) points.

Yes, the beat North earlier this year, but that was on Optus Oval, which is almost the same (small) dimensions as the (small) SCG. Put Wayne NoLastName and Corey McNoKneeWorries out in the big paddock at Jolimont, add a dose of Allison and Archer and stand back. These boys know and love the MCG and will have a field day.

Michael Martyn, North's tough full back, will have the hardest job of his already distinguished career. He has to mind Tony Lockett. Now, I don't know if these numbers are correct, but the newspaper has Lockett at 191cm and 110kg, whilst Mick is shown as 190cm and 100kg. Does that really justify calling Plugger "Big Tony", the Behemoth and the Leviathan? Well, it won't stop me.

'Ayers Rock on Legs' is key to the Swannies chances full stop (.) If Mick can frustrate Tony then I reckon it's all over for the red and white. Other battles to watch out for include Scott v Kelly (run run run) and the ruck duels of Stafford v McKernan. I avoid cliches like the plague - they are old hat - but this game will be won out of the center.

On the other side of the ledger, Wayne has the greatest prize firmly within his sights. It's hard to believe the dude is only 25. 10 years younger than me. Well , I'd best call Rodney Eade and say I've done a hamstring and can't play.

It looks likely that Andrew Dunkley will court Wayne on Saturday. Despite appeals from his coach, I judge Wayne to win this one.

Of course Sydney aren't without hope. If they can play that close man-on-man game that they used to shut out Essendon, they may just be able to swing things their way. In this area Rodney Eade, on a short term basis at least, out-coached Kevin Sheedy last week. North's coach, Denis Pagan, has less finals experience than Sheedy, so who knows.

Being realistic, I can't see anything that encourages me to swim against the tide. I'm confident North will win by 45 points or more.

In Other News

The current odds (12:20pm, Friday) are Sydney 5/2 and North 1/4 (yes, $4 on to win $1, plus your $4 back)

The usual Grand Final parade is just starting to wind its way through Melbourne's main streets. A crowd of 100,000+ is watching the players etc in fine weather.

The forecast for Saturday is also fine and sunny, with a slight wind.

Last nights TV show "The Footy Show" was a roaring success. Over 10,000 people were in the audience at the huge Melbourne Tennis Center. The live telecast in Melbourne was the highest rating show in 1996 thus far. It rated a 47. It beat the Olympics.

No matter what happens the New South Wales town of Wagga will be jumping. Not only do they have the Australian Cricket captain as a local lad, both North Captain (Wayne) and Sydney's Captain (Paul Kelly) are Wagga boys. Either way a son of Wagga will be holding up The Big Cup at 5pm on Saturday.

Or it could be a draw.

David Sidwell
(Melbourne, Australia)

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Last Updated: 27 September 1996
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