Contested kings to meet in GF
Photo Source: AAP
There is rarely much room for razzle-dazzle football in an AFL grand final, when contested ball is key and fierce pressure is the norm.
But even by those standards, Saturday's clash between Sydney and Western Bulldogs is shaping as a brutal dogfight.
The Swans have averaged a league-best 164 contested possessions per game this year.
The Bulldogs rank fourth in the same statistic but have taken things to another level in finals, especially against Hawthorn when they had 50 more contested possessions.
"It's going to be a huge contest, there's not going to be any easy footy ... it''ll epitomise what finals footy is all about," Swans battering ram Josh Kennedy said.
"We'll have to earn every kick, handball and goal that we get. On the flip side we'll have to make them earn every kick, handball and goal.
"They've epitomised the way to go about it (finals footy) with their pressure and contested footy."
No player in the competition has tallied more contested possessions this season than the 409 won by Kennedy.
Swans midfielders Luke Parker, Dan Hannebery and Tom Mitchell also rank in the league's top 10 for the key stat, while wonderchild Marcus Bontempelli is the Bulldogs' only representative in the top 30.
"He's got the ability to have a big impact without having too much of the ball," Kennedy said of Bontempelli.
"He's one of a number of guys that can turn a game for their side. We'll have to put a lot of time and effort into him and a few others."
The Swans have combined their grunt work under packs with some slick ball movement this year, especially during the past fortnight when they booted seven goals in the opening quarter of knock-out clashes with Adelaide and Geelong.
Kennedy won't mind if things turn more scrappy at the MCG and a total of seven goals in four quarters is enough to get on the premiership dais.
"As long as we're the seven. You don't try and think about that too much, you think about each contest," he said.
Swans coach John Longmire noted earlier this week the Bulldogs' pressure around the ball in their preliminary final against Greater Western Sydney was as good as he's ever seen.
Hannebery called the Bulldogs "the best handballers as a group" he's ever seen, while Kennedy was also full of praise for the opposition.
"They've obviously got a huge amount of belief and trust in one another and they're playing a good brand of footy which has stacked up," he said.
HOW THE GRAND FINAL ENGINE ROOMS FARED IN 2016
SWANS Josh Kennedy (409 contested possessions, 1st in AFL) Luke Parker (344, 6th) Dan Hannebery (332, 7th) Tom Mitchell (302, 9th) Kieren Jack (235, 29th) BULLDOGS Marcus Bontempelli (274, 16th) Liam Picken (220, 34th) Luke Dahlhaus (216, 36th) Tom Liberatore (215, 38th) Lachie Hunter (204, 45th)