Clas­sic ri­valry bursts into life

Sunday Mail - - SPORT - GLENN MCFARLANE

IT’S the fi­nals match-up that has been 13,873 days in the mak­ing and it might just burst the MCG at its seams.

For the first time in 38 years, since that one-sided 1980 VFL Grand Fi­nal, Rich­mond will meet Colling­wood in the heat of fi­nals footy, as the two bit­ter sub­ur­ban ri­vals pre­pare to square off on Fri­day night in a pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal.

It won’t be the grand fi­nal pair­ing that many had an­tic­i­pated through­out much of the sec­ond half of 2018, but it will be for a spot in a pre­mier­ship play­off, no less.

These two clubs, his­tor­i­cally di­vided by the strip of bi­tu­men along Vic­to­ria St, will bring their vast armies to the MCG.

This ri­valry has pretty much laid dor­mant for more than a gen­er­a­tion now, be­fore stir­ring back into life this year.

Yes, the reign­ing pre­miers held sway in both en­coun­ters — by 43 points in round 6, and by 28 in round 19 — but the Mag­pies will like their chances af­ter a strong per­for­mance to knock off Greater Western Syd­ney in last night’s semi­fi­nal. The fi­nal mar­gin was 10 points. If Nathan Buck­ley’s team had been cleaner, it could have closed the game out by quar­ter-time.

Still, Colling­wood will have to over­come eight decades of his­tory if it is to up­set Rich­mond. In­cred­i­bly, the Mag­pies haven’t beaten the Tigers in a fi­nal since the 1937 semi, when Harry Col­lier, Al­bert Col­lier, Gor­don Coven­try and Jack Re­gan ruled.

The last time the teams met in a pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal was in 1973, when the Tigers brought in­jured su­per­star Royce Hart off the bench to change the game, beat­ing the Mag­pies by seven points af­ter Colling­wood had led by six goals at half­time.

Two of the AFL’s best mid­fields will square off. In one cor­ner, we will have Steele Side­bot­tom, Scott Pendle­bury, Tay­lor Adams, Adam Treloar and one of the game’s most dom­i­nant ruck­men, Brodie Grundy. The Tigers will back their men in Dustin Martin, Trent Cotchin, Dion Pres­tia, Shane Ed­wards and the equally tough Toby Nankervis.

Jor­dan De Goey has a long way to go, but in some ways he re­sem­bles Dustin Martin in his early years — brutish in his at­tack on the ball, dam­ag­ing when iso­lated in at­tack, and ca­pa­ble of turn­ing a game.

Colling­wood’s patched-up but tough de­fence will face its sternest test against the mul­ti­lay­ered Rich­mond at­tack.

The Pies’ at­tack, too, is a dif­fer­ent one, mod­elled on the Tiger pro­to­type from last year.

Then, there’s Buck­ley. The coach that so many out­siders wanted out of a job a year ago, is into a pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal show­down with Damien Hard­wick.

GO­ING NOWHERE: The Giants’ Ja­cob Hop­per is tack­led by Colling­wood's Scott Pendle­bury dur­ing the Mag­pies’ semi-fi­nal win at the MCG. Colling­wood now will face Rich­mond in a Fri­day night pre­lim­i­nary fi­nal.

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