Intrigue adds to AFL grand final buildup - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Intrigue adds to AFL grand final buildup

By Roger Vaughan 24/09/2010 05:37:35 PM Comments (0)

Selection intrigue has become a major theme of this drought-breaking AFL grand final, with at least one late change likely early on Saturday afternoon.

There are two big question marks over St Kilda's current 22 and Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse is also doing nothing to dampen speculation about the final makeup of his side.

But whatever ruses are underway and whoever wins, history will be made on Saturday - the last grand final before the league expands again from the 16-team competition that has existed since 1997.

St Kilda are in their second-straight grand final and aiming for their first premiership in 44 years.

The Magpies have not won a flag since 1990, when they famously broke their 32-year "Colliwobbles" era.

The Magpie army and good weather noticeably swelled the crowd for Friday's grand final parade through the Melbourne CBD.

One of the features of this finals series has been the soccer-style "Colling-wood" chant and on Friday it drowned out Saints captain Nick Riewoldt when he was presented to the crowd after the parade.

"A nice sign of respect there - that's great," a miffed Riewoldt said.

Much of the focus at the parade was on the ins and outs announced on Thursday night.

While it was no great surprise that the Saints brought back Steven Baker, young ruckman Ben McEvoy was a stunning omission.

Collingwood opted for experience, recalling Simon Prestigiacomo and Leon Davis for Nathan Brown and Tyson Goldsack.

The two queries about St Kilda's named 22 are the fitness of key forward Justin Koschitzke and what McEvoy's axing does to their ruck options.

Coach Ross Lyon has denied persistent rumours that Koschitzke is in doubt with at least one cracked rib following a collision during the preliminary final.

"He's certainly 100 per cent, he'll definitely play," Lyon said.

McEvoy's omission means Michael Gardiner would be their only recognised ruckman.

Since round five, the Saints have always played two ruckmen as well as Koschitzke or another big man.

Significantly, the Saints' emergencies feature two ruckmen - McEvoy and Rhys Stanley - as well as Jarryn Geary.

"Anything can happen, but as it is, it's selected and that's the way we've gone, we think it will give us best opportunity," Lyon said.

Malthouse waited until after the grand final parade to tell his players the final 22.

Their emergencies are Nathan Brown, Goldsack and Tarkyn Lockyer.

"The three boys (emergencies) will carry their bags tomorrow - as Ross said, between now and then, strange things have happened," Malthouse said.

"You have to be careful - our 25 are picked to play."

The two coaches spoke of how dramatic mishaps can befall players on the eve of the grand final, prompting Magpies captain Nick Maxwell to wonder about his safety.

"Now I'm just nervous about pins and food poisoning, to be honest," Maxwell joked.

Minor premiers Collingwood will deservedly start favourites, but the Saints are backing their disciplined game style.

"I would say there wouldn't be too many sides that go into a grand final who aren't confident," Malthouse said.

"The word over-confident would not apply to us.

"Are we cautious? Yes we are, we know we're playing against a side that has been a dominant feature for two years, probably three.

"It's a two-horse race, looks like it's going to be good conditions, it should be a good game, but you never get too caught up in who's favourite, who's not.

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