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AFL Grand Final preview

Something a little bit special in this year's AFL Grand Final - it's the first appearance in the big she-bang for the Western Bulldogs (nee Footscray) since 1961, and only their third playoff for the flag. Their premiership drought has lasted since 1954 and one would expect 90% of the neutral supporters to have a soft spot for the Bulldogs. The Swans suffered a 72-year dearth of premierships until 2005, but now most clubs are jealous of them - four Grand Finals (two flags) in the past 11 seasons, very difficult to achieve with a rigid salary cap and draft system.

With the honours to preview the Grand Final of the greatest game of all, it's over to the experts at AFLRatings - @aflratings.

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2016 AFL Grand Final Preview
by @aflratings / aflratings.com.au

Sydney v Western Bulldogs
Saturday 1st October, 1430 AEST, 0530 BST
MCG, Melbourne


Sydney have taken the long road to get to the 2016 Grand Final, embarrassed in their first final by GWS, the Swans have bounced back in a big way with an average winning margin of 36.5pts against the Cats & Crows. Sydney have jumped out of the blocks in both of their finals wins kicking seven goals in each first quarter virtually deciding the game in 30 minutes, the Swans are one of the best travelling teams in the AFL and have a host of Premiership and Grand Final experience amongst their playing list with many still suffering the bitter taste of defeat to the Hawks in the 2014 Grand Final decider.

Not since 1961 have the Western Bulldogs played in an AFL Grand Final, in the late 1980s the club nearly merged with Fitzroy and subsequent financial struggles again in the late 90s and 00s have had the club on the brink of extinction. There is no doubt the Bulldogs are the romantic story of 2016 especially if they can win from seventh position on the AFL Ladder, their entry into the Grand Final has not been easy with two wins interstate and a win against Hawthorn two weeks ago at the MCG. The Bulldogs play a contested brand of football that will have them in the game for a sustained period of time, if they do happen to win they will break a 62-year premiership drought.

Sydney will again look to jump out to a fast start against the Bulldogs on Saturday, in their only meeting this year in Round 15 at the SCG the Swans had seven scoring shots finishing with an inaccurate 2.5.17 in the first quarter. Unfortunately for the Swans they were unable to put away the Bulldogs and lost a thrilling game on the siren by 4pts, the Swans finished with 24 scoring shots to the Bulldogs 18 in a losing effort.

The Bulldogs have been resilient throughout the year and especially in the Finals overcoming deficits in each game, defensively they have been outstanding conceding an average 73.1pts per game this season. The Swans are the number one defensive team in the AFL conceding just 68.1pts per game, remarkably they have conceded an average of 64.0 Inside 50s in the Finals (H&A Season Ave: 51.2).

The Bulldogs are likely to get a fair amount of Inside 50s but turning those entries in to a winning score won’t be easy against the Swans, the counter attack for Sydney will be interesting and players such as Gary Rohan and Lance Franklin could benefit greatly if the Swans can break the Bulldogs' press around half-back.

Hopefully the last two contests are a precursor for what is to come in the Grand Final, the Bulldogs have won the last two games each by 4pts at the SCG. Expect a brutal contest for the majority of the game, the team that converts their chances up forward early will be in a strong position to win.

Sydney finished on top of the ladder at the end of the H&A Season, so will stick with them narrowly to win the 2016 Premiership especially if Lance Franklin has a big day (Norm Smith Medal tip). If the Bulldogs were to win expect an emotional post-game celebration, they are more than just a chance.

Win: Sydney

Norm Smith Medal: Lance Franklin

DFS Player to watch: Dan Hannebery

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