The last time Brisbane played in a preliminary final it was against – you guessed it, Geelong, in 2004. On that occasion the Lions were forced to 'host' the game at the MCG against the young Cats, but this time around it'll be held at the Gabba. Geelong is fresh off a demolition of Collingwood that saw all of its prime-movers in peak form, while the Lions put their feet up for a week after breaking a 15-game hoodoo against Richmond in the qualifying final.
WHERE AND WHEN: the Gabba, Saturday October 17, 6.40pm AEST (7.40pm AEDT)
TV AND RADIO: Click here for broadcast guide
WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR?
Round 6: Geelong 11.7 (73) d Brisbane 6.10 (46)
After the Lions held a narrow lead at half-time, Geelong unleashed one of the best quarters by any team this season. Led by Patrick Dangerfield, Sam Menegola and Joel Selwood in the midfield and Tom Hawkins and Gary Ablett in the forward half, they slammed on seven unanswered goals in the third quarter to storm home comfortable winners.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Watching Dangerfield run amok as a key forward at the weekend would have given the Lions some headaches. Harris Andrews will be occupied with Tom Hawkins, leaving Darcy Gardiner or possibly Ryan Lester to mind 'Danger' when he plays forward. Wingers Mitch Robinson, Hugh McCluggage and Jarrod Berry will need to work hard back into defence to clog up space. At the other end, expect the Lions' mobile forwards to bring their opponents high up the ground to leave plenty of space inside 50.
The Cats bullied Brisbane's midfield in their clash earlier this season, using their bigger bodies to dominate contested ball and clearances as the foundation for victory. This will again be the blueprint for success. Watch for the work of Mark Blicavs. Not only does the competition's best runner get back to help his defence when he's playing on the wing, but when Blicavs goes into the ruck to relieve Rhys Stanley, he'll also drop behind the ball to help the back six. His influence is crucial in slowing down Brisbane's attack.
WHAT THE STATS SAY
- Both teams are undefeated at the Gabba in 2020. Brisbane are a perfect 10-for-10, while Geelong has won all four of its matches by an average of 56 points.
- It should be no surprise which two Geelong players have stepped their game up the most from the home and away season to the finals. Joel Selwood is averaging 15.8 AFL Player Ratings points a game during the finals, up from 8.6, while Patrick Dangerfield is at 17.7, up from 13.6.
- Geelong has a huge edge in experience at this time of year. Only five Lions, including Allen Christensen who will not play, have played preliminary finals. Conversely, from last week's 22 Sam Simpson is the only Cat to never play a match this deep into the season. Selwood will play his 10th preliminary final and Harry Taylor his ninth.
- In the round six clash, Geelong's dominance resulted in season lows for Brisbane in disposal differential, clearance differential, uncontested possession differential, marks and scores from clearance differential.
- Geelong's game-style is distinctive. It loves to possess the ball, ranked first in the AFL for disposals differential (+43) and kicks the ball forwards less than any team in the competition (83 percent of the time). The Cats are lethal when they get the ball inside 50, scoring on 44 percent of entries, to be ranked second. The only team that scores more efficiently? Brisbane.
IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR …
The dual All Australian has the better of most forwards in the competition, but one man that gives him trouble is Tom Hawkins. The powerful Cat kicked three goals from 15 disposals in round six and it's not the first time he's got Andrews' number. In 2018 Hawkins kicked seven goals on the Lion, who was returning from a month out. When Hawkins was kept goalless in 2019, Marcus Adams was his defender.
It's the fifth time the Brownlow medalist has made it to the second last weekend of the season and he's yet to make a Grand Final. It's a record Dangerfield will be desperate to change. Personally, his numbers are fantastic in preliminary finals, and the 30-year-old will again be central to his team's chances of success.
PREDICTION: Brisbane by eight points. A virtual toss of the coin, this should be tight the whole way.