Classic awaits as modern-day heavyweights Geelong and the “Baby Bloods” take off the gloves for the grandest finale of them all

The MCG will soon be full to the brim. And soon the roar will reverberate from within Melbourne’s inner suburbs. And soon the Geelong Cats or the Sydney Swans – who have nothing but reverential respect for one another – will be crowned the AFL premieres of the 2022 season.

In the 21st century, the Cats and the Swans have been a beacon for football organizations across the country, a role model for all clubs to follow. Not only that, a former Geelong captain once revealed his club aimed to emulate Sydney by consistently playing in Finals, and unsurprisingly Sydney has delved into Geelong’s intellectual property and is now a former Cats premiership Captain has as CEO.

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These two clubs are steeped in history, both founding members of the AFL/VFL, with Geelong being one of the oldest sporting clubs in the world and Sydney boasting an incredible history of survival, having been evicted from their South Melbourne base in the early 1980s at their core of the VFL plan to become a national competition.

Incredibly, the swans and the cats have danced around each other during finals over the years, actually chasing each other, but never stepped into the ring together for that final game of the year. Geelong won the decider against Collingwood in 2011, Sydney scraped against Hawthorn in 2012, Sydney lost by a point to West Coast in 2006, Geelong beat Port Adelaide in 2007.

They missed each other again by a year in the ’90s, the Cats playing in the grand finals in 1995 and the Swans in 1996. And if you turn the clock back to the 1930s, it was the same again; Swans in 1936, Geelong in 1937, but never stare into each other’s eyes for this gorgeous silverware.

Fast forward to today, and there are intriguing narratives everywhere.

Will Patrick Dangerfield, who famously joined Geelong from Adelaide in late 2015, get his hands on his first AFL Premiership medal? Will Lance Franklin, who was even more famously skating on Hawthorn to accept a monster $10m and nine-year contract in Sydney, becomes a hero of the Swans flag in his final year on that mega deal, adding to his rich Premiership history from his time as a falcon?

Lance Franklin and Tom Papley wave to fans during Friday’s AFL Grand Final Parade. Recognition: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images

This grand finale will also offer us the fascinating ending to a Cinderella story. And it seems quite unbelievable that both clubs have the opportunity to fill in the final, blank page of a fairytale return.

Geelong this year brought in small forward Tyson Stengle, who was left off the Crows after a string of offenses, and spent a year in the SANFL. His return to the AFL was nothing short of stunning, becoming an all-Australian player and scoring 49 goals (so far). A Premiership medal for a player who was essentially unwanted will be a hell of an end to this redemption song.

But not to be outdone, Sydney added former No. 1 draft pick Paddy McCartin to his roster as a rookie earlier in the season.

McCartin had retired early from the game after a series of concussions but was keen to return and ended up playing for the Swans reserve team as he plotted a path to join his younger brother Tom at the Swans.

Paddy gets frankly emotional as he discusses coming back to the AFL level and sharing the experience with his brother. While many thought the Swans’ decision to give McCartin a lifeline was controversial, no one can doubt what this journey means for him … and Tom.

And again, here comes a Premiership medal with a few tears in a tale of courage and brotherly love.

Brothers Tom McCartin and Paddy McCartin during Friday’s AFL Grand Final Parade. Recognition: AFL photos via Getty Images

There’s also Gary Rohan, the former swan-turned-cat now busy turning his latest Fizzer tale upside down.

And let’s not forget our amazing coaches Chris Scott and John Longmire, who started their coaching careers in the same year and bagged flags in quick succession; Scott in his first season in the hot seat in 2011, “Horse” in 2012.

There was only heartbreak as they kept pushing for a second cup… and today one of them will hit a little more pain again. Grand Finals are hard to win. It’s a lesson both men know all too well.

Scott takes the oldest team in history (on average) into this grand finale. Most pundits doubted he would get there early in the season. And after a hard reset a few years ago, Longmire joins the fray with his Baby Bloods. Needless to say, this result didn’t show up in too many crystal balls in early 2022.

So here we are, with all these pages and stories that are unclear and unfinished. But one thing is for sure, these two teams with their famous cultures are about to bring an action-packed classic to the stage.

Time to buy your popcorn.

Delta Goodrem shows amazing footy skills with perfect pass to Gill.

Delta Goodrem shows amazing footy skills with perfect pass to Gill. Classic awaits as modern-day heavyweights Geelong and the “Baby Bloods” take off the gloves for the grandest finale of them all

James Brien

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