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The big questions for the Grand Final

Magpies defender Tyson Goldsack could have the all-important job again on Eagles star Josh Kennedy - AFL,West Coast Eagles,Collingwood Magpies
Magpies defender Tyson Goldsack could have the all-important job again on Eagles star Josh Kennedy
West Coast v Collingwood

Will the Eagles carry scars from the 2015 pummeling at the hands of Hawthorn?

Jack Darling's dropped mark in the third term of the 2015 decider was a howler, but he wasn't alone on a dark day for the Eagles. Elliot Yeo had five touches, Josh Kennedy was blanketed by James Frawley for nine disposals and Dom Sheed and Jamie Cripps had little influence. They are among 12 Eagles backing up from the club's last Grand Final appearance and while the club will be confident it will have no effect, they won't really know until 2.30pm on Saturday. Lewis Jetta's time at Sydney makes him one of 13 Eagles with experience on football's biggest stage, while the Pies have five who have been there before – Steele Sidebottom, Scott Pendlebury, Tyson Goldsack, Travis Varcoe and Chris Mayne.

Do the Magpies roll the dice on Darcy Moore, Ben Reid or Jack Madgen?

Twin towers Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling combined for eight shots on goal after half-time in the Eagles' qualifying final win over the Pies. Throw in the resting Nathan Vardy or Scott Lycett and the Eagles' forward line has a distinct height advantage over the Pies. The decision to back in Tyson Goldsack, Jeremy Howe and Tom Langdon, or opt for more support, will be Nathan Buckley's biggest headache at the selection table this week. Ben Reid is finally fit and was named an emergency alongside Jack Madgen in the Pies' preliminary final victory, while Darcy Moore looms as the x-factor now he's over his hamstring woes. Simon Goodwin dropped Bayley Fritsch for Joel Smith in an attempt to cover the Eagles' talls, but Buckley doing the same with a James Aish or Chris Mayne appears a long shot. 

Can the Eagles' ruck duo claim another scalp?

Scott Lycett and Nathan Vardy had eight days to go to school on Max Gawn ahead of the preliminary final. Now they've got the next six days to work out how to bring down Brodie Grundy. Making Gawn accountable when floating across half-back limited the All Australian's influence and stopping Grundy's work as another Pies' midfielder will be next on the agenda. Grundy's follow-up work around stoppages is the best among ruckmen in the competition, however Lycett and Vardy preventing him from providing a link-up option around the ground will go a long way to the Eagles winning. Grundy made a mockery of the Tigers' lack of a second ruckman on Friday night. He won't be afforded the same luxury on Saturday. 

How much has Mason Cox changed his contested marking in three weeks?

Speaking after the Eagles' preliminary final win, Adam Simpson admitted he saw things in Cox's performance on Friday night that he hadn't seen this season. Held to two marks against the Eagles (none contested) just two weeks prior, Cox clunked 11 marks, including eight contested, against the Tigers. Jordan De Goey's presence deep ensured the Tigers couldn't free up a loose man and replicating that structure in attack against the Eagles will be crucial. Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass are two of the best intercept marks in the competition and will need to study Cox's improved leading patterns where he gave himself more room to run and get a clean jump. Cox missed the round 17 clash against the Eagles with a hamstring complaint and his only other performance against West Coast was his second AFL game in 2016.

Mason Cox was outstanding against the Tigers. Can he deliver on the big stage? Picture: AFL Photos

Does the Eagles' record at the MCG matter anymore? 

Ever since moving home games to Optus Stadium where dimensions are similar to the MCG, the Eagles are 2-0 at the home of football. In the six matches prior, they were 1-5, including the 2015 Grand Final loss. Jeremy McGovern admitted to the psychological concerns the MCG presented after that loss to the Hawks, but three years on, it shouldn't factor into their thinking. Like Greater Western Sydney before their semi-final, the Eagles will get the opportunity to train on the MCG on Friday. 

Where does Mark Hutchings go? 

Adam Simpson confirmed Hutchings would tag on Saturday but stopped short of confirming where he'll be sent. It would be a shock if it wasn't Steele Sidebottom after yet another blistering finals display on Friday night, collecting 41 disposals at 85 per cent efficiency. Hutchings went to Sidebottom after half-time in the qualifying final and did his best to quell his influence, but the Pie was still his side's best. When they met in round 17, Hutchings kept Sidebottom to 12 touches in their 68 minutes together. Hutchings went to Jack Viney against the Demons, Simpson's plan to stop the skipper and the rest dries up. While Scott Pendlebury copping a tag would be a surprise, Adam Treloar is another option.

Who does the weather forecast favour? 

Tipped to be 13 degrees with a 70 per cent chance of rain, the small men will come into the contest if slippery conditions eventuate. Can Mason Cox take as many contested marks or can the Eagles' run-and-gun style stand up in wet conditions? One thing is for sure, both sides will take confidence from winning the contested ball count in their respective preliminary finals – the Pies +6 over the Tigers and Eagles +13 over the Demons. 

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs