Collingwood held top spot on the ladder for almost the entire season, finishing minor premiers, while the Brisbane Lions steadily closed the gap to eventually finish runners-up. On Saturday, natural justice has been served, with the two teams playing off in the big dance for the biggest prize.
The Lions have had the easier passage into the grand final, while the Magpies have ground out narrow wins against Melbourne and GWS. Can Collingwood hang on, or will the Lions finally run over the top of them?
Last time they played
Round 23: Brisbane Lions 19.10 (124) d Collingwood 15.10 (100) at Marvel Stadium.
Will Collingwood bottle the game up?
This Collingwood team forged its reputation in late 2022 and most of 2023 playing football that could induce whiplash, based on lightning rebound from half-back. Lately, though – as the competition has caught up, and with Nick Daicos out for six weeks – they’ve looked more like the Sydney Swans under Paul Roos, grinding out close wins with highly contested play.
The Lions, conversely, are used to playing fast and loose football on fast tracks, and Saturday will be hot and dry. Heat won’t bother the Brisbane Lions, but will the Magpies force them into a war of attrition? If that’s the case, expect the power runners from both teams – Collingwood’s Steele Sidebottom and Jack Crisp, the Lions’ Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry – to exert more influence in the second half.
If it’s close, Collingwood have shown over and over again they can defend a narrow lead to the death, or score quickly if required.
Can the Lions break their MCG hoodoo?
On paper, the numbers don’t look good: the Lions have won at the MCG just once in their last 15 outings, going back to 2014. But let’s keep that in perspective. The Lions don’t get many opportunities to play at the home of football, and their last victory there was massive, defeating Melbourne by 13 points in last year’s semi-final.
The Lions have been on the verge since 2019. They’re older, smarter, better balanced and have had the rails run this September. They’re also not facing the intimidating pro-Collingwood crowd they would have encountered if they’d met the Magpies at the MCG in a preliminary final.
In short, they’ve never been better placed. If they go down, the venue should have nothing to do with it.
Can the Magpies break their Lions curse?