THE grand final parade is done. Bring on the grand final.
It has been a big week, culminating with the parade yesterday. It was a pretty ordinary sort of day but that really doesn’t matter because of the atmosphere.
It is all very exciting for the players. You want to experience the excitement but equally you don’t want to get too distracted by it all.
There is a lot more external noise around the club. Usually, the media is buzzing around nine games and 18 teams during the year and now it’s all focused on one game and just two teams.
Obviously, I have some experience of this in 2008, but four years seems a very long time ago.
To be honest, I don’t have a recollection about my last grand final parade. Perhaps, the second time around you appreciate the week more. You already know what to expect and what you can and can’t do. Everyone wants to enjoy the week _ you don’t know the next time you are going to get the opportunity _ but you have to think about all the important things that will matter on game day. Diet, training and planning - it doesn’t stop just because it’s grand final week. What helps is, those things don’t actually change. The game build up is the same, the difference is filtering out all the noise while you are doing it.
That’s not as impossible as it sounds. The club handles all the media engagements to make sure that Lance Franklin and Cyril Rioli don’t do 100 interviews each. There are, of course, a little bit more nerves this week because it is a grand final, even compared with the preliminary final last week which wasn’t our best effort.
We knew what we had to do last week but we just didn’t play well. What we’ve been saying among ourselves is that it might be a good thing to get that poor game out of our system in a preliminary final rather than a week later in a grand final.
Sydney, meanwhile, had a strong run into the grand final. For a very long time we’ve been thinking about Sydney as one of the teams capable of being there on the day. Our game against them in round 22 was one of the highlights of the year to date.
It wouldn’t have changed our thinking much, whether we were going to play Collingwood or Sydney. If you get to this point of the season by playing a certain way it obviously works. I think Sydney would be of a similar view.
Some commentators have suggested one area Sydney has an edge is in the ruck. I don’t necessarily agree with that. Shane Mumford and Mike Pyke been very good all year but ‘Roughy’ (Jarryd Roughead) and David Hale haven’t got the credit they deserve for the year they’ve had.
I think we might have more scoring options than them. The Swans, meanwhile, might feel their strength is in defence. All things considered, I think both sides are very even. We’ve shown in patches what we’re capable of and if we all show up we’ll be difficult to beat.
Finally, for those taking an interest in the Norm Smith Medal, one worth thinking about is Shaun Burgoyne. I think he’s a bit of a dark horse who might be a winner.