The final chapter in another storied season of the AFL is about to be written when the 2022 AFL Grand Final is played on Saturday.

The Sydney Swans and Geelong Cats will do battle, both striving to win their first grand final since 2012 and 2011 respectively. 

The AFL is anticipating the game to be a sell-out, with over 100,000 fans expected to be in attendance as the fixture returns to its traditional home after two years away due to lockdowns. 

Central News breaks down the key matchups and everything else you need to know about the big game. 

Where and when

2.30pm on September 24 at the MCG.

Team news

Despite being in doubt all week, both Sydney’s Sam Reid and Geelong’s Max Holmes will play. 

Reid picked up a groin injury in Sydney’s 1-point win over Collingwood, while Holmes injured his hamstring in their prelim against Brisbane. 

Geelong are unchanged for the clash, however, Sydney have dropped forward Logan McDonald in a selection bombshell. 

McDonald, who has played 17 games this season, has been looked over in favour of Hayden McLean, who will play his first game since round 8.

Coach John Longmire said of the selection shock: “It’s tough to go out of the team at any time, but particularly for a Grand Final.

“We just felt with Hayden McLean coming into the team this week, that was the specifics we needed from him so we made the decision.”

Key matchups

Jeremy Cameron vs Paddy McCartin

This is the biggest test of Paddy McCartin’s career. Cameron, a 2022 All-Australian, has scored 63 goals this season and is arguably the best forward right now. His speed and ability to find space make him a key target for the Cats, and it appears McCartin will have the job of nullifying him. 

McCartin’s path to the grand final is one of many tribulations. He was a former number 1 draft pick, joining St Kilda in 2014. However, he was delisted after five years filled with concussion and injury. With his AFL dream fading quickly, the Swans took a chance on McCartin, signing him to the VFL squad in 2021. McCartin is a strong defender with great intercepting abilities, and he’ll need to be at the top of his game to shut down Cameron.

Lance Franklin vs Sam De Koning

Stopping the 5th greatest goal scorer of all time is a job far easier said than done. Far easier. Buddy was well handled by Steven May in the Swans week 1 final, but got the better of the slightly smaller Brayden Maynard last week. 

At 204cm, De Koning is 5cm taller than Buddy and has great spoiling ability, but the job can’t be underestimated. 

No player has demanded as many headlines as Lance ‘Buddy’ Franklin. Joining the Swans on a 9-year, 10 million dollar deal in 2014, Buddy has been the centre of the media’s headlines for all that time. Along the way, there were plenty of questions about his fitness, his age, and whether his deal was worth it if they didn’t win a flag. But here he is, in the final year of that 9-year journey, preparing to try and silence the critics once and for all. 

Buddy announced during the week he has signed a one-year extension with the Swans, saying: “When I first got here people were knocking that I wouldn’t get there, I wouldn’t make it.

“[They said] I’d play for four or five years and that would be it. So I’ve definitely proved them wrong, haven’t I?”

Patrick Dangerfield vs James Rowbottom

Geelong superstar Patrick Dangerfield, who after 302 games, a Brownlow medal, and 316 goals, is still hunting for his first premiership. 

After a two goal, 28 disposal display in the prelim, Dangerfield is in great form and desperate to win a flag. 

When asked about what a premiership would mean to him, Dangerfield, speaking to ABC News said: “It’s everything. It’s what you play footy for.

“There’s not too much more to it than that to be honest. That’s why you play the game.”

The difficult task of containing ‘Danger’ has seemingly fallen to James Rowbottom. 

Having made his debut in 2019, Rowbottom has become a crucial member of the Swans squad with his high workrate and disposal count. It’ll be the biggest test of the young Swan’s career, so don’t surprised if he receives assistance from the likes of Luke Parker or Callum Mills, but Rowbottom is definitely up for the task. 

Who wins and how?

For Geelong to win, the recipe is simple. Do as you’ve done all year and don’t let Sydney get under your skin. 

The minor premiers have won their last 15 games straight and, according to Fox Footy, are first for points against, points for, and points difference off turnovers, as well as second for scores inside 50 since round 16. This was shown last week in their 71 point dismantling of the Brisbane Lions. 

The important thing to focus on is maintaining their structure and not letting Sydney get under their skin. Last week, the Swans were able to upset Collingwood’s rhythm early by frustrating them and it’s important the Cats don’t fall into the same trap. 

If Geelong are victorious, expect Patrick Dangerfield, Jeremy Cameron, or Joel Selwood to claim the Norm Smith medal. 

For Sydney to win, they need to put on enormous amounts of pressure and sustain it for the whole game. 

In week one of the finals, the Cats nearly lost their qualifying final to Collingwood when put under the most pressure they’ve faced all season. However, the Pies’ pressure faded in the third quarter and Geelong recovered enough to win.

Champion Data’s pressure gauge shows the Pies recording a pressure rating of 195 – second only to the Swans who recorded a huge 200. 

In week 1 of the finals, the Swans didn’t let their pressure fade. Instead, they recorded their highest pressure rating of the game – a mammoth 219 – in the final quarter of the game to upset the defending premiers. For the Swans to win, they must place lots of pressure on Geelong, and refuse to relent until the final siren. 

If Sydney lift the trophy on Saturday, look for Callum Mills, Luke Parker, or Tom Papley to be wearing the Norm Smith around their necks. 

Speaking via The Round So Far, former Port Adelaide star Kane Cornes said “He’s [Papley] a player that loves the big stage and could well be a Norm Smith medalist next week”. 

Ultimately, a winner will be decided by who has more gas in the tank at the end of the game. The Swans last week got out to a big lead, but Collingwood were almost able to produce an incredible comeback. No matter the lead, Geelong can’t be counted out, and it’ll be incredibly difficult to chase them down. They’re the favourites for a reason.

Main picture by Philip Malone/Flickr.