Collingwood wasn't supposed to be here, with pretty much everyone expecting Nathan Buckley's men to fall to West Coast last week. Instead, the Pies produced one of their best finals victories in recent times to keep their unlikely premiership hopes alive. They will be confident of extending their run, too, after accounting for their semi-final opponent Geelong on neutral territory in round seven. The Cats, on the other hand, face the prospect of exiting the finals in straight sets after another strong home and away campaign. They are just 4-12 in finals since winning the 2011 flag.
WHERE AND WHEN: The Gabba, Saturday October 10, 7.40pm AEDT
TV AND RADIO: Click here for broadcast guide
WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR?
Round seven: Collingwood 8.9 (57) d Geelong 5.5 (35)
Jordan De Goey kicked a season-high five goals in his return to the senior side, with his tally matching the Cats' despite them entering the game as the AFL's highest-scoring team. Geelong trailed by only 14 points at three-quarter time and closed within eight, but De Goey kicked all three of the Pies' final-term majors to hold the Cats off at Optus Stadium. Joel Selwood (hamstring) exited the game in the first quarter.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Cats have enjoyed great success making room for Tom Hawkins to work in this year, but the Coleman medallist had just two one-on-one marking contests against Collingwood last time. Hawkins averages more than double that. Jordan Roughead did a good job on him, with support from Darcy Moore and co. How Geelong adapts to Collingwood's highly rated defence will be interesting. At the other end, the Cats will be keen to place an extra defender in front of Mason Cox, who found too much space against the Eagles' much-vaunted backline.
The Pies partnered Brodie Grundy with Darcy Cameron last week against Nic Naitanui (and Oscar Allen), with Cameron starting in the ruck at the start of the third and fourth terms. Cameron was also the man at the crucial final centre bounce. However, Grundy had one of his better games for the 2020 season against the Cats, who played Darcy Fort and Esava Ratugolea that day. Rhys Stanley will be Grundy's main opponent on Saturday night. Expect Grundy to resume taking the lion's share of the ruck contests.
WHAT THE STATS SAY
Geelong is unbeaten in three matches at the Gabba this year – against North Melbourne (round 10), St Kilda (round 11) and Essendon (round 16) – with a 53-point differential in those games. Collingwood's 2020 record at the venue is 4-3.
The top-performing Cats in finals between 2010 and 2020 are Joel Selwood (16.1 AFL Player Rating points) and Patrick Dangerfield (15.5), while Darcy Moore (15.7) and Scott Pendlebury (15.5) are the highest-rating Pies.
Geelong forward Tom Hawkins averages 13 AFL Player Rating points in eight finals wins since 2010, but just 7.9 in 12 finals losses in the same period.
Collingwood won the disposal count by 41 over the Cats in round seven, one of just two occasions Geelong lost that category this season. The Magpies still out-tackled their rivals by 18 – their best differential and the Cats' worst.
Geelong ranks No.1 in the competition this year in disposal differential, contested possession differential and scores from stoppage, but 18th for kick forward percentage.
Nathan Buckley's men recorded the highest mark, play on percentage in the first week of the finals. However, most noticeable was their jump from averaging 19.8 points from stoppage in the home and away season to scoring 39 points from that source last week.
IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR …
This team is built to win now. The experienced Cats have done a fantastic job to remain a contender for so many years, but they've won only four finals in nine years. They had their chances against Port Adelaide last week – and straighter kicking may have seen them emerge victorious. However, the pressure will build on 2011 premiership coach Chris Scott if he can't translate home and away success into the same at finals time.
Finals specialist Mason Cox. Cox was managed when these sides played in round seven, but he was back to his best in a three-goal first-quarter binge that helped stun West Coast. So much was made of the Magpies' offensive struggles throughout the season, but an up-and-about Cox transforms them. De Goey ran riot against the Cats last time, so Cox has the potential to provide a dangerous one-two punch.
PREDICTION: Geelong by 15 points. The Cats have had an excellent season and Tom Hawkins will be desperate to respond to last week's goose egg, as well as the one in round seven.