It’s a bye week. While the team and your humble ATVS writing staff relaxes, I thought it would be a good time to tell y’all about my 2nd favorite sport on the planet, Australian Rules Football. And it just so happens that LSU’s first bye week of the year coincides with The Grand Final, the championship game of the AFL Premiership, airing tonight at 11:20pm Central on Fox Soccer Plus.
I could spend a lot of time explaining how Aussie Rules works and probably get a lot wrong, but the AFL has a handy video guide I’ll use instead.
Richmond (named for the Melbourne suburb) is a traditional AFL power, one of eleven 100+ year old teams in the AFL. The club has 11 Premiership titles, but was at the bottom of the league ladder for much of the early 00’s. They have risen again to prominence, making the playoffs 6 of the last 7 years, playing in 2 of the last 3 Grand Finals, and winning it all in 2017.
Greater Western Sydney Giants
(I’m not sure why, but every AFL team has a sort of old college/midwestern polka fight song. It makes sense for the teams that are 100+ years old, but even GWS, who are still in their first decade, has one)
The GWS Giants are the newest team in the AFL, founded in 2009. This is their 8th season and they have a remarkably successful history. This is their 4 straight playoff appearance and 1st Grand Final appearance in the club’s brief time. Former LSU Punter Josh Growden (who transferred to WVU) played for the team in it’s first two seasons.
The Grand Final will take place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (“the MCG”). At a capacity of 100,024, it’s the 10th largest stadium in the world and should see a massive crowd. It’s technically a home game for Richmond, but the AFL is unique in that it’s 18 teams play in just 9 stadiums across the country. Richmond is one of 4 teams that call the MCG home.
HOW THEY GOT HERE
Richmond entered the post season as the #3 seed and had strong wins against the #2 and #1 seeds, including an opening round 112-65 blowout of #2 Brisbane.
GWS had a longer path as the #6 seed, having to beat Brisbane themselves in a tough and extremely physical 83-80 win, then had to fight off a 24-point 4th quarter comeback by #4 Collingwood to hold on for a 56-52 win.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
(If some Australian happens to come across this, I’m sorry. This is just the take of an American with steady but limited access to watch AFL games this season until The Finals started and every game was aired on American TV. This is the opinion of someone watching a footy season through a hole in the wall. Your thoughts are welcome in the comments)
This Grand Final seems like a good matchup of two contrasting styles of footy. Richmond plays with a steady, deliberate offensive approach, moving down the field with speed and handballs, sometimes overwhelming a defense with quick kicks on goal. GWS on the other hand, plays a more snug game, using a physical, sometimes violent ground game for a strong defense, that sets up big kicks and fast counterattacks.
Richmond and GWS tied in their 2 matches this year, both winning at home, GWS 125-76 in Week 3, and Richmond 94-67 in Week 17. I think Richmond, playing at home, is powerful enough to overwhelm GWS and win by a couple goals. However, if GWS can drag Richmond down into a chippy, lower scoring game, they’ll have a good shot of keeping it close and giving themselves a shot at the championship. I think Richmond will win by two goals, but I would not be surprised by any result.
TV in the US for the Grand Final has been weird in recent years. Despite airing AFL regular season matches and the entirety of the Finals on Fox Sports 2, the Grand Final is once again only airing on Fox Soccer Plus. If you’re one of our cordcutting readers, you should be able to pop a free trial of the channel on Youtube TV or PSVue. If not, talk to your cable provider. Alternatively, The AFL has a wonderful in-house streaming service for us international viewers at https://www.watchafl.com.au/ . Access for the Finals is $30. Yeah, it’s kinda steep, but think of it as tailgate parking that you aren’t doing this weekend (or just try to find a cheaper way to get Fox Sports Plus for an evening). If your’e looking for a bar option, the USAFL has a list of watch parties across the country, including one hosted by the Baton Rouge Tigers team at Fred’s in Tigerland near campus (wonder who they’ll be rooting for...)
I’ll probably be doing some live blogging tonight in the comments below, so come back around 11pm Central and watch along with us.