There weren’t many pundits who successfully nominated West Coast and Collingwood as top four sides in 2018 and their match-up looks set to provide an intriguing contest. While the Eagles were without question the form team in the front half of the season, losing just one of their first 11 games, the Magpies were one of the form teams in the back half winning eight of their last 11. Both enter the finals with in form with three wins from their last four games and it should make for a riveting contest.
Josh Kennedy returns
West Coast welcome back Josh Kennedy and, after a quick look at their record with and without him, you can forgive them for their excitement at the return of their two-time Coleman Medallist. Kennedy played exactly half West Coast’s games in 2018 which provides an interesting snapshot of his value to the team. In the 11 games he played, they were nearly invincible recording a 10 & 1 record and scored at an average of 96 points per game. Without him they were far less imposing, managing just 86 points a game, winning six and losing five.
Collingwood gathered more possessions than any other team in 2018 and finished the year with the third highest percentage of handball per disposal. Where the Magpies relied on handball and uncontested possession to move the ball, the Eagles preferred to dispose by foot. Not only were they the team with the most kicks per disposal in the competition, they found a target more often than anybody else with the most marks in 2018 too.
Collingwood selection surprise
The Magpies pulled a selection surprise by selecting Tyson Goldsack, Adam Treloar and Jeremy Howe. Treloar returns to the side after his bizarre double hamstring injury against Carlton in Round 14 and Howe after requiring after requiring a medical procedure to repair a corked thigh. More surprising, and potentially risky than the other two, is the selection of Goldsack less than six months after rupturing his ACL. A much-loved figure at Collingwood, his fairytale finals return was rubber-stamped after he completed limited minutes at VFL level unscathed.
Optus Stadium Advantage?
Saturday night will be the first final to be hosted at the state of the art Optus Stadium. West Coast settled into their new home ground well this year winning nine of their 12 games at the venue. Despite this more than respectable record from the Eagles, there is something that Collingwood can claim that they cannot. The Magpies won their first game at the new stadium, something West Coast could not after they suffered the same fate as the Australian Cricket Team and Perth Scorchers in losing their stadium openers.
Recognised with All-Australian selection last week for his extraordinary season, Grundy will be one of the most important players on the ground on Saturday night. His ability to get first hand on the ball and to his midfielders advantage will be vital to any hope of Collingwood upsetting the Eagles at home.
Another player recognised for his efforts with All-Australian selection in 2018, McGovern’s ability to read the play and intercept mark will play a large part in deciding the outcome of the game. The Magpies rely on quick ball movement forward which could present McGovern the opportunity to impact the contest in a big way.
Herald Sun: West Coast 14, Collingwood 16.
The Age: West Coast 7, Collingwood 5.
The Pinch Hitters: West Coast 5, Collingwood 3.
Betting: West Coast $1.62, Collingwood $2.35.
With the contrasting styles of play on show, this looms as an intriguing contest. Can West Coast interrupt Collingwood’s high possession game style? Can the Pies stifle the Eagles forward line’s scoring opportunities? Collingwood has exceeded expectations all season but the home ground advantage might prove decisive this time. West Coast to win by 13 points.