Australian Rules football fans will descend on the Dog Huse tomorrow night to watch The Hawthorn Hawks and the Geelong Cats slug it out for the Australian Football League’s Premiership Cup.
The biggest Aussie Rules match of the year, which will be contested in front of close to 100,000 people at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, will screen live at the Grand Harbour venue from 10.30pm.
Dog House bar manager Troy Cole said if the match goes beyond the venue’s closing time of 1am, the game will be put on outside TVs with audio so fans do not miss out.
Just like last year, Cole expects a big – and likely raucous – crowd of Aussies to turn out for the match and said drink specials will be available throughout the night.
The match already has footy fans across Australia salivating; a replay of the epic Grand Final of 1989 – widely regarded as the best Grand Final of all time – where Hawthorn won by a solitary goal despite a nine-goal haul by Geelong legend Garry Ablett.
This time the situation is reversed. Geelong, last year’s champions and this year’s best side, will go into the match as favourites but aware that anything could happen if prodigious young Hawk Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin has his kicking boots on.
The 21-year-old indigenous star has been a revelation this year – even drawing comparisons to the great Ablett, widely regarded as the game’s greatest ever player – on his way to claiming the Coleman Medal.
Franklin’s 111 goal effort so far this year has made him the first player to kick a ton in the home-and-away season since Tony Lockett, the game’s greatest all-time goal kicker, in 1998.
To strengthen the links to the ‘Battle of 89’, Ablett’s son, Gary Ablett Junior, will take the field for the Cats after another dominant season in which the gritty on-baller was unlucky to be once again overlooked for the game’s greatest individual honour, the Brownlow Medal.
While much of the media attention coming into the big match will likely centre on Franklin and his explosive abilities, the experts know this match will be won and lost at the stoppages, where the league’s best two midfield outfits will scrap it out.
Any game plan that delivers Hawthorn the Premiership Cup will necessarily involve shutting down the younger Ablett and his midfield cohorts, Cameron Ling and last year’s Brownlow medallist, Jimmy Bartel.
But the Hawks will be confident of going step-for-step with the Cats’ runners; Brad Sewell has shown this year he can be devastating in his own right when not assigned a tagging role; Sam Mitchell is maybe the best in-and-under player going around and Jordan Lewis has proven himself this year as a tough but prolific ball-getter.
The Hawks will also be hoping to deliver club champion Shane Crawford his first ever premiership in what could be the last year in his stellar career.
In looking back to the revered ‘Battle of ’89’, many fans will be hoping to see a repeat of the explosives that have come to dominate most memories of that game.
Hawks legend Dermott Brereton was left unconscious with internal bleeding, a bruised kidney and broken ribs by a deliberate clash in the opening minutes, but refused to leave the ground. He vomited as he rose, but kicked a crucial goal for the Hawks just minutes later.
Later clashes left team-mates John Platten with concussion and Robert Dipierdemenico with broken ribs and a punctured lung.
Dipierdemenico played out the match and after triumphantly holding the Premiership Cup aloft, was among a number of players to spend the night hospitalised.
Those clashes have become footy folklore but they are unlikely to be repeated – the game has moved some way from its bloody past as league administrators have sought to crack down on violence that could alienate potential new audiences and sponsors.
Umpires this weekend will be keen to avoid the mayhem that has so come to dominate the first few minutes of recent Grand Finals and will crack down on high hits and flying elbows.
Any study of recent Grand Finals shows it is the team that can hold their nerve and not ‘go the knuckles’ (fight) in the first ten minutes that is likely to prevail.
If Hawthorn coach Alistair Clarkson is to guide his young side to their first premiership in 17 years, he will have to ensure his troops are not overawed by football’s biggest stage and that the pressure does not cause them to cross the line between reasonable and unacceptable aggression.
The Cats learnt those lessons on the way to last year’s premiership and know what it takes. For that reason they will go into the match as favourites, but with the menace of Franklin’s capabilities weighing heavily on their minds.
For more information on watching the AFL Grand Final, call the Dog House on 947-3456.