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Match preview: Grand Final - Hawks v Eagles

SUMMARY
Hawthorn will chase history on Saturday as it attempts to win a third straight premiership. The Hawks have taken the long road to their fourth consecutive Grand Final after losing to the Eagles in Perth in week one of the finals. But after thumping Adelaide they kept up the momentum with a road win against minor premier Fremantle to qualify. Meanwhile, the Eagles are one step away from completing a fairytale season and winning the club's fourth flag after disposing of the Kangaroos. They last won in 2006 and, despite beating the Hawks just three weeks ago, will start underdogs this time.

WHERE AND WHEN: MCG, Saturday October 3, 2.30pm AEST

TV, RADIO AND BETTING: Click here for broadcast guide 

WHO'S MISSING
Hawthorn: The big story in the early part of the week will be whether forward Jack Gunston can overcome the ankle injury that kept him from playing the Dockers. Taylor Duryea (shoulder) and Luke Hodge (leg) both copped knocks, but will be fine.

West Coast: Chris Masten (hamstring) struggled for form but got through against the Kangaroos and will ensure a near full strength Eagles team. They've well and truly learnt to cope without key defenders Erik Mackenzie (knee) and Mitch Brown (knee) who have missed the entire season. 

THIS YEAR
Second qualifying final, Subiaco Oval: West Coast 14.12 (96) d Hawthorn 9.10 (64)
The Eagles suffocated the Hawks for three quarters and raced to a commanding 50-point lead before easing home. Without injured Matt Priddis the new premiership favourites shared the work as Josh Kennedy and Josh Hill kicked three goals each.

Round 19, Subiaco Oval: Hawthorn 13.10 (88) d West Coast 11.8 (74)
Hawthorn moved towards the top two with a hard-earned victory in wet conditions. Sam Mitchell (36 disposals) and Jordan Lewis (30) led the way as the Hawks overturned a four-point deficit at three-quarter time. Andrew Gaff had 36 touches for the hosts.

PREVIOUS MEETINGS (the five meetings prior to 2015)
R12, 2014, Hawthorn 19.9 (123) d West Coast 12.7 (79) at Aurora Stadium
R13, 2013, Hawthorn 19.9 (123) d West Coast 16.7 (103) at Etihad Stadium
R2, 2013, Hawthorn 23.10 (148) d West Coast 15.8 (98) at Domain Stadium
R23, 2012, Hawthorn 14.11 (95) d West Coast 10.10 (70) at MCG
R4, 2012, West Coast 5.21 (51) d Hawthorn 5.16 (46) at Domain Stadium

THE SIX POINTS
1. West Coast set up its qualifying final win with a seven goals to two first half which extended to a 50-point lead by the final change. Josh Kennedy and Josh Hill kicked three goals each, while Sam Mitchell had 35 disposals for the Hawks.
2. The two highest scoring teams this season, the Hawks have kicked 109 points a game and have four players with 40 or more goals. West Coast has averaged 104 points a game and has two players with more than 40 goals.
3. Hawthorn will be playing in its fourth consecutive Grand Final and will be aiming for their third straight premiership. West Coast has played in five previous Grand Finals for three premierships, the most recent of which was a one-point win in 2006 over the Sydney Swans.
4. The Hawks hold a big advantage in Grand Final experience with 24 currently listed players having played in at least one decider and 15 in three or more. In contrast West Coast has only four to play in at least one Grand Final.
5. Hawthorn is the number one uncontested possession team in 2015, averaging 259 a game compared to the Eagles who are ranked eighth. In contested possessions though, the Eagles are third and the Hawks 13th.
6. Hawthorn has a staggering 12 players ranked in the top 100 of the AFL Official Player Ratings, with Jarryd Roughead ranked highest at No.12. West Coast has seven players in the top 100. Nic Naitanui is the highest at No.8.

The Eagles toppled the Hawks in Perth in the first week of the finals. Picture: AFL Media

KEY MATCH UPS
1. Matt Priddis v Sam Mitchell
The two midfield prime movers finished second and third in the Brownlow Medal and will be pivotal to their teams' success. Aside from the two expansion clubs, Mitchell averages more disposals (28.8) against the Eagles than any other opponent. Priddis loves playing the Hawks too and racks up an identical 28.8 touches.

2. Isaac Smith v Andrew Gaff
This mouth-watering match-up of wingmen pairs a couple of players that can change the game's momentum in the blink of an eye. If the midfields battle each other to a standstill, it's the run-and-carry and quality ball use of Smith and Gaff that could open the game and prove the difference for their respective teams. 

3. James Frawley v Josh Kennedy
After a rough first final against the Eagles, Frawley has really found his feet in the past fortnight. While Brian Lake could also spend some time on Kennedy, Frawley appears the better matchup with the pace and the tank to match the Coleman medallist.

IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR …
Hawthorn: Alastair Clarkson
The Hawks coach will already go down as one of the game's greats, but a third straight flag would put him in rare air. Just four clubs have achieved the feat in VFL/AFL history. It would also mean a fourth premiership for Clarkson and truly put him among the coaching immortals. 

West Coast: Mark LeCras
The classy Eagles half-forward has waited a long time for this. Drafted by the Eagles in 2004, LeCras played the first final of the 2006 premiership campaign but was left out for the preliminary final and Grand Final. At 29, and having been through some horrific injuries over his career, LeCras now gets that chance to win a flag.

WHERE THE HAWKS CAN WIN IT
Everyone knows what the Hawks can do – it's just a matter of stopping it. Their ball use is the best in the competition, and as they showed last week against the Dockers, any mistake gets punished. They love to dominate possession, and when they do, are very hard to beat. After three straight Grand Finals there's no risk of stage fright, so expect the Hawks to bring their absolute best, which is usually good enough.

WHERE THE EAGLES CAN WIN IT
Less than three weeks ago, Adam Simpson's men showed the type of suffocating pressure that can upset the Hawks. The much-vaunted defensive 'web' limits the opposition's time and space and can create turnovers en masse. In Kennedy, Jack Darling, LeCras and Josh Hill, the Eagles have a forward line that can stretch the Hawks.

PREDICTION: Hawthorn by 15 points