It may only be the NAB Cup Grand Final, but much of the hype this week has not been about the game itself; but rather where the game will be played.
Brisbane Lions and Carlton face off on Friday at Etihad Stadium, but even an unbeaten campaign from the Lions (who should be the rightful hosts) stills them travel in the pre-season, despite furious protestations from Michael Voss over the location.
A stunning run of form from the Lions has showcased its next brigade of players to the AFL community. The likes of young Aaron Cornelius, Patrick Karnezis and Elliot Yeo have stormed out of the blocks, while veterans and experienced players including Dayne Zorko, Jed Adcock and Daniel Merrett have really begun to hit the highs Lions fans saw at the end of last season.
Carlton has a new coach (Mick Malthouse), and newly appointed captain this week in Marc Murphy. Having only dropped one of its four games, the Blues will be looking to hit the AFL season proper with momentum and team confidence, and stamp their place for 2013, giving Malthouse a proper re-introduction to AFL coaching.
Jonathan Brown loves Carlton. He bagged ten goals against them in the 2007 season. With the Brisbane forward line not only full of targets, but also the run of the midfield and hands to mark, the Carlton defence is going to be severely stretched.
Despite a lean run in the back half of 2012, Tom Rockliff is proving to be a stalwart in the midfield drive. Add that to a somewhat shaky current Carlton defence, and the Lions could be looking at the first piece of premiership silverware at the club since 2003.
The return of an injured Chris Judd is sure to send a spark through the Blues squad. Confidence is going to be a vital foundation for the Blues tactics on a fast Etihad surface.
There is little chance of a slug fest at the roofed stadium, which suggests the game will be fast paced and physical, even in the pre-season.
The Lions are coming into this game with an unbeaten campaign. Like a lot of matches in this modern era of AFL, midfield drive and delivery to the forward line is going to be a key indicator of who can get the upper hand.
Going on campaigns alone, all signs point to the Lions. They’ve been able to dominate through the entire tournament (a total of four games) and team spirit will be high for tomorrow. Carlton’s defence will be the weak point against a forward line that has jumped from strength to strength in the pre-season. However, the Blues have shown they are not just a flash in the pain with their campaign and will be itching to grab the silverware.