Low-key replay fine by Saints, Magpies - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Low-key replay fine by Saints, Magpies

By Sam Lienert 01/10/2010 07:48:59 PM Comments (0)

It has been the most low-key AFL grand final build-up in recent memory, and Collingwood and St Kilda are not complaining.

A series of spotlight-grabbing announcements at other clubs, and no functions such as the Brownlow Medal count and grand final parade have allowed the Saints and Magpies a strangely quiet preparation for Saturday's replay.

Collingwood coach Mick Malthouse said avoiding the hectic schedule that preceded the initial drawn grand final had been a boon, particularly for Magpies stars such as Dane Swan and Scott Pendlebury.

"We know it's a grand final. Has it felt like it? The trimmings aren't there, are they, all the Brownlows and parades and that sort of stuff, they're not there," Malthouse said.

"The one or two who will benefit most of all are Swan and Pendlebury, because they were involved in nearly everything - so many media commitments and sponsor commitments and public commitments and club commitments.

"Now we just had a week where they felt very comfortable in their preparation, which was terrific."

The two key Magpies midfielders both had less impact than normal in the 68-all draw.

Swan had to deal with entering last Monday night's Brownlow function as hot favourite, before being upstaged by Carlton's surprise winner Chris Judd.

Malthouse expected the star pair to show the benefits of the smoother week in the replay.

Unlike last week, when Collingwood drew huge crowds to two open training sessions, this week's only open session, on Friday, attracted just a few thousand fans.

Malthouse said the players found it easier to focus this week.

"St Kilda will be the same, but it's been a better week for us, our preparation for match-day strategies and so forth, more is going to be absorbed," he said.

"Even the crowd today, as great as it was ... the player group just seemed to (treat it) like they weren't there, whereas last week we knew they were there."

Malthouse also said it was "fantastic" to have had the spotlight elsewhere, given James Hird's appointment as Essendon coach, Gary Ablett signing with Gold Coast and Geelong coach Mark Thompson's likely exit.

Saints coach Ross Lyon was more ambivalent about the stark change in atmosphere, but identified one notable benefit of the quieter second week.

"Sleep. More sleep. You always get your preparation in, the only thing sacrificed is sleep," he said of the function-packed first week.

"We certainly enjoyed the traditional grand final week, the parade's outstanding, exciting and brings Melbourne to life.

"The Brownlow Medal's always a great event. All it is, is some extra load on you but it's certainly enjoyable.

"This (week) has been more routine, obviously, if you can call a grand final replay routine. So I have no preference but I've enjoyed both weeks."

The younger Collingwood side also expected to benefit from the grand final experience picked up last Saturday, something most Saints already boasted from last year's grand final loss.

"That's great preparation for young players, to sample the physicality off the ball, the intensity at the ball, the noise, the closeness of the game," Malthouse said.

"You can never duplicate that on the training track nor tell players that.

"It really has to come from sampling it and they've sampled two hours of the hottest football we've seen for some time."

Both sides made one change for the replay, the Saints replacing injured Michael Gardiner with fellow ruckman Ben McEvoy, while the Magpies added defender Tyson Goldsack in place of serial grand final underperformer Leon Davis.

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