Darcy Moore, Eric Hipwood, Jordan De Goey, Josh Dunkley. Pictures: AFL Photos

BRISBANE and Collingwood's two home-and-away clashes in 2023 offer clues about how the teams will utilise key match-ups to try and negate each other in Saturday's Grand Final.  

The Magpies' approach to several match-ups will be dictated by how they replace injured key forward Dan McStay, while the more settled Lions have a decision to make on how they handle star Magpie Jordan De Goey.

Using match-up data from clashes in round four and round 23, supplied by Champion Data, these are key contests that could play out on Saturday and shape the decider.

1) Lachie Neale v Tom Mitchell
The 2023 Brownlow Medal winner spent the majority of the round 23 clash opposed to Mitchell (73 minutes) and had the edge in clearances (6-3) and contested possessions (8-7) in a more influential performance. Scott Pendlebury is another option for the Magpies to stay close with Neale at stoppages, having done the job for 30 minutes of the round four clash and edged the Lions star for clearances (3-2) and disposals (8-6). Neale's ability to turn first possession wins into attacking chains is elite and one of these two Magpies will be trying to limit the damage he can do while having an influence themselves.

Tom Mitchell is tackled by Lachie Neale during the match between Collingwood and Brisbane at Marvel Stadium in round 23, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

2) Darcy Moore v Eric Hipwood
While there could be a surprise with the key position match-ups, the most likely scenario is for Moore to start alongside Hipwood before rolling into support and intercepting positions. The star Magpie did not play in round 23, but he spent 80 minutes of the round four clash with Hipwood as his nominal opponent, conceding two goals in that time. Hipwood, who has kicked two goals across two finals, booted three goals in round 23 and the Lions will want him to keep Moore as accountable as possible and away from intercepting opportunities.

3) Joe Daniher v Billy Frampton
There is every chance the Magpies opt for Frampton as McStay's replacement and send him into defence while Jeremy Howe swings forward, as he did against the Lions in round 23 for two goals. Frampton and Daniher locked horns in both games this season, for 80 and 104 minutes respectively, with Daniher kicking two and three goals. His five-goal qualifying final performance showed how dangerous he can be on his day and, in this scenario, the Magpies would have Moore as an option if the former Bomber gets off the chain.

Billy Frampton and Joe Daniher in action during the match between Brisbane and Collingwood at the Gabba in round four, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

4) Jordan De Goey v Josh Dunkley
Another star Magpie who didn't play in round 23, De Goey looms as the most dangerous midfielder in this Grand Final after an electrifying preliminary final performance. His longest match-up in round four was against Hugh McCluggage, with the pair spending 40 minutes opposed to each other. That is unlikely to repeat, and it is more likely the Lions will send Josh Dunkley to De Goey in an accountable role, knowing their man can still win the ball in that role and have an offensive impact. Preventing De Goey from getting momentum out of stoppages and breaking tackles as he did against GWS will need to be a focus for the Lions.

5) Mason Cox v Oscar McInerney
Cox has been in terrific form in the ruck through the finals and it is likely the Magpies would prefer to keep him there, rather than swinging him forward as McStay's replacement. McInerney is also a dangerous prospect for the Magpies after strong games in round four (43 hit-outs and 11 clearances) with no Cox, and round 23 (41 and five) against a Cox and Darcy Cameron combination. With Cox in good form, the expectation is for a relatively even battle of the big men. The onus is therefore on one of them to produce the unexpected and try to provide a match-winning edge in the middle.      

Mason Cox and Oscar McInerney contest the ruck during the match between Collingwood and Brisbane at Marvel Stadium in round 23, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

6) Charlie Cameron v Isaac Quaynor
Cameron has been the Lions' biggest asset across the two matches against Collingwood this season, kicking six goals in round four and four goals in round 23. The Magpies tried both Quaynor and Brayden Maynard as opponents in round four, with Quaynor getting the job to himself in round 23, conceding four goals in 93 minutes. He has made his name doing these jobs, so it is likely the Magpies will back the 23-year-old again. It is a significant match-up that could have as large a bearing on the result as any, given Cameron's impact in two wins and the opportunity that presents for Quaynor to strip the Lions of an asset.

7) Harris Andrews v Brody Mihocek
A spoil from Andrews can sometimes be as effective as a disposal as it flies out of the danger zone. The challenge for Mihocek if this match-up eventuates again will be to compete hard in the air and bring the Magpies' small forwards into play without allowing Andrews to assert himself in the air. The pair spent 115 minutes and 70 minutes opposed to each other in the two clashes this year, with Mihocek booting three goals across that time and five goals in total across the two games. His role will be critical without McStay in the team.    

Brody Mihocek marks the ball against Harris Andrews during the match between Collingwood and Brisbane at Marvel Stadium in round 23, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

8) Bobby Hill v Brandon Starcevich
Hill didn't play in round 23 and booted two goals in round four, with Starcevich and Keidean Coleman as his main opponents. The Magpies might have other plans for the dangerous Coleman after his influential preliminary final, leaving Starcevich as a likely match-up for Hill. Finding more goals is crucial for the Magpies to beat Brisbane and a repeat of Hill's three-goal performance in the qualifying final against Melbourne would be very helpful to their cause. Starcevich, however, will make things very difficult if this match-up plays out.