Cats, Swans embrace AFL grand final hype

·2-min read

For many years there were AFL coaches who tried to downplay finals, even grand finals, as "just another game".

But the old strategy aimed at keeping everything as normal as possible is no more.

Now, conventional wisdom dictates grand final combatants confront the unique challenges of the biggest week of the season head-on.

Even Chris Scott, who famously avoided the traditional grand final parade as a player in 2001 - opting instead to play golf with his brother and then-teammate Brad - agrees.

The former Brisbane defender has urged his Geelong troops to take a vastly different approach leading into Saturday's grand final against Sydney.

"I used to think, 30 years ago or whenever it was, that you could just isolate yourself from the week and just treat it like another week," Scott told reporters.

"If that was possible then, it's impossible now.

"You've almost got no choice but to embrace it, which is the right way to go anyway.

"It's so hard to get to this situation.

"The only way you can muck it up is to try to hide away from it, I think, so embrace the moment."

Geelong fielded the oldest starting 22 in AFL/VFL history in their preliminary final trouncing of Brisbane, and boast significantly more finals experience than the Swans.

That Cats team entered the penultimate week of the season with 339 combined finals matches to its name, compared with Sydney's 142 ahead of their thrilling one-point win over Collingwood.

Geelong will field about 14 players in the grand final who played in the 2020 season decider against Richmond and Sydney will pick about half that number from their most recent grand final of 2016.

But Swans coach John Longmire has no concerns about his younger side's ability to handle the occasion.

It has been heightened this year by the grand final's return to its traditional home at the MCG for the first time in three years, with a tick over 100,000 fans expected.

"A lot of those blokes hadn't played prelim finals, let alone grand finals, so they're experiencing it for the first time," Longmire said at his post-match press conference on Saturday night.

"It was red-hot (against Collingwood), as it was against Melbourne (in the qualifying final).

"That's what this time of the year's about, experiencing that really red-hot pressure.

"I thought our blokes generally handled it alright (against Collingwood).

"This week will just be a reminder of doing our basics well and our fundamentals in the game, getting them right.

"That's what we'll focus on."

Sydney scheduled a function at the SCG for Sunday night's Brownlow Medal count. They will travel to Melbourne on Thursday.

The two sides will come together for the grand final parade in Melbourne on Friday before meeting at the MCG in the traditional Saturday afternoon timeslot.