Will the Tigers tinker with their game plan?
Probably not. Master defender Dylan Grimes said this week the Tigers are backing what publicly has become known as their “chaos” system, which is fair enough considering they have won 11 straight and have lost only four of their past 38 matches at the home of football. They have opted to not enforce a hard tag through the season but what happens if there is a Giant that “gets off the chain”? Lachie Whitfield had 42 disposals and 10 score involvements in round three. Should he again provide that damaging run across half-back and through the middle, wouldn’t it make sense to employ a run-with role? That has been complicated by Jack Graham’s shoulder injury.
Are the Giants for real?
The Tigers appeared as if they needed the run last weekend, having had the previous week off. The Giants just held on against the Magpies and have done it the hard way through September, having played at home, in Brisbane and in Melbourne – with another MCG date to come. However, you don’t win on the road unless you are of high quality. It’s been a tough few weeks but, like all finalists, they had the pre-finals bye to refresh, and they know what disappointment feels like, having dropped two preliminary finals. They have match-winners and a game plan built for finals. They are a strong contested-ball side and flourish at stoppages, scoring more from the latter than any other side, including 29-8 against Collingwood. Plus they have the brilliant Toby Greene. He will be treated like a villain by the Tiger faithful but that won’t bother him. He can play with an air of freedom, having breathed a sigh of relief last weekend after his controversial suspension had threatened to derail the Giants’ plans.
What are the Giants’ biggest issues?
There are three concerns for me. If they cannot score as heavily as they would like from stoppages, will this have a major impact on their overall potency? It’s imperative that ruckman Shane Mumford, somewhat their spiritual leader, has the better of Toby Nankervis and Ivan Soldo. The second concern is whether the Giants’ defenders can handle the Tigers’ manic pressure inside attacking 50. The Tigers will look to drag the Giants’ half-backs up the ground, then have the likes of Kane Lambert, Daniel Rioli, Jason Castagna and even Martin attempt to beat them through pace when running back inside attacking 50. Co-captain Phil Davis, with a grumbling calf, will need to provide his typical poise. This may be a chestnut but it remains to be seen how the Giants handle the furnace that is the final Saturday of September. The Crows didn’t in 2017 – and the club is still dealing with the fallout.
Are there bigger-picture stakes on the line for the Tigers?
My word, there are. Coach Damien Hardwick was part of the Essendon era of 1999-2001 that jagged only the one flag despite many considering the Bombers the best side over that three-year period. Should the Tigers lose, they are likely to face similar claims, for they fell short last year when crunched by the Magpies in a preliminary final they were expected to win. However, many of their best players are still in the prime of their careers – and Tom Lynch is just emerging as a superstar. Still, football is a rugged caper and premiership “windows” can shut quicker than you think.
Tip: Tigers by 15 points.