KEYSTOTHEFINALS

Inside Sport - - HOT SHOT -

In this fi­nals se­ries, a num­ber of go­liaths of the goal­square – and be­yond - will have a say in the way their team per­forms. Here are the ones who will be most in­flu­en­tial:

GWS: JEREMY CAMERON, RORY LOBB, JONATHON PAT­TON

Which of this trio will dom­i­nate de­pends on the cir­cum­stance. It’s un­usual for a team to have triple tow­ers stand­ing up front, but they seem to work to­gether well, their en­tire for­ward en­vi­ron­ment is pro­duc­tive and ex­pe­ri­enced, and GWS have the funds to keep them play­ing to­gether – a huge bonus. It’s enough that this trio can feed one an­other as well as kick goals. But then you add the ge­nius of the out­go­ing Steve John­son, the im­mense ex­pe­ri­ence of Brett Dele­dio, and all-Aus­tralians like Toby Greene. Con­nect them all to a po­tent mid­field, and it’s easy to see these three big men hav­ing their re­spec­tive days out in the fi­nals se­ries. Lobb’s sav­agery is hard for a coach to rein in. He’s so good up front, ruck­ing is prob­a­bly a waste of that tal­ent. Pat­ton is a po­tent pres­ence, whose ball­get­ting, goal-kick­ing and phys­i­cal­ity are made for fi­nals. If he comes back from his ham­string in­jury in time for the fi­nals, Jeremy Cameron might be the most ef­fec­tive of all. He can kick bags, and his gen­eral workrate is the more im­pres­sive of the three.

ADE­LAIDE: TAY­LOR WALKER

As with GWS, Ade­laide’s for­ward struc­ture is re­liant upon its thrust­ing mid­field, led by Sloane. Walker is not as in­dus­tri­ous in other ways as many of the for­wards we’ve dis­cussed, but he stands in a for­ward line that is one of the busiest and most dan­ger­ous around. Betts – ob­vi­ously – Josh Jenk­ins at full-for­ward and Tom Lynch are for­wards of the high­est qual­ity, and Mitch McGovern is a supreme aeri­al­ist who might prove crit­i­cal in the big mo­ments. But it’s Tex, with his dom­i­nant con­tested mark­ing and straight kick­ing, who will get the Crows over the line in the big games.

SYD­NEY: LANCE FRANKLIN

Franklin can ei­ther act as a tall tar­get, or nour­ish the tall tar­gets. Ei­ther way, this ver­sa­til­ity has al­ways proven a boon come fi­nals time. It’s dif­fi­cult for op­pos­ing sides to counter, and it im­pacts ei­ther di­rectly on the score­board or on other talls, like Tip­pett and Heeney.

GEE­LONG: TOM HAWKINS

The Cats have had some dif­fi­culty with that tran­si­tion from the cen­tre to the for­wards, but the amaz­ing im­prove­ment in Tom Hawkins’ out­put, and the at­ti­tude that has driven it, have been a rev­e­la­tion. He’s still kick­ing goals while his out­put has in­creased sig­nif­i­cantly. This will have a rip­ple ef­fect on men like Danger­field in the mid­dle, and Men­zel and Cock­a­too up front. If Hawkins gets this right, and uses his big pres­ence to hus­tle some ball, he might prove to be the an­swer Chris Scott has been search­ing for these last few years.

PORT ADE­LAIDE: CHAR­LIE DIXON RIGHT

Thanks to Char­lie, Port Ade­laide have be­come dan­ger­ous dark-horses. The stats that im­press about their for­wards are not the sort that once would have been ap­pli­ca­ble at all: in­ter­cepts, stop­pages and min­utes in the for­ward line. Dixon’s in­dus­tri­ous­ness has en­abled Port to free them­selves up to per­form in nu­mer­ous other po­si­tions. Now their mid­field is fir­ing, Dixon’s work­load is count­ing for more. His dis­pos­als have of­ten be­come goal as­sists. The 200cm, 100kg Gold Coast ac­qui­si­tion seems to have grown even big­ger since his as­so­ci­a­tion with Port, and Ken Hink­ley, be­gan. He’s one of the league’s best con­tested marks and has kicked some sig­nif­i­cant goals this sea­son. His high-mark­ing, straight­kick­ing, high-hoik­ing game seems al­most un­stop­pable when it comes to­gether, and his work-rate for a big man, even de­fend­ing, is prodi­gious. Of­ten an op­po­nent has trout­slapped about on the deck un­der his weight. Dixon has made all the dif­fer­ence, and with men like Gray, Win­gard and Tren­gove as sup­port, the phys­i­cal, large and mo­ti­vated for­ward might prove an ad­van­tage. At his best, Char­lie can now tear aside a team with the im­pact of an as­ter­oid, as he has done sev­eral times this sea­son, no­tably against West Coast and Hawthorn – two strong fi­nals con­tenders at the time.

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