The Eagle's Jack Darling rises for a mark in the qualifying final against Collingwood in Perth on September 08.
The Eagle's Jack Darling rises for a mark in the qualifying final against Collingwood in Perth on September 08.

Lions great says elite forwards are the key to grand final

JONATHAN Brown admits he's "still a traditionalist".

The three-time premiership Lion loves the West Coast forward set-up featuring the two big old-fashioned key forwards, Josh Kennedy and Jack Darling.

But when it comes to winning premierships it's a case of "whatever works".

And right now, what's working for Collingwood is the incredible patchwork quilt of attacking options spearheaded by a "reformed bad boy", Jordan de Goey, and a big Texan, Mason Cox.

In Kennedy and Darling, the Eagles possess what has been the most dangerous one-two punch in the league.

The pair combined for seven goals in the preliminary final smashing of Melbourne. Both sit in the top 10 for average marks inside the forward-50m. Darling is third for average contested marks, Kennedy first for average goals.

Two-time Coleman Medal winner Kennedy has booted 40 from 13 games, missing 11 due to a shin injury. Darling has 47 majors from 20 outings.

"It's the best forward line in the comp," Brown, now a Fox Footy commentator, said. "The two keys the best combination.

"They're 12-0 when they've played together (this season)

"They have great chemistry. That's what you'd expect from two very good players who have played together for a long time."

Their union is reminiscent of Brown and partner-in-crime Alastair Lynch during Brisbane's halcyon days of a flag "three-peat" (2001-03).

"You develop that sixth sense, knowing where each other is, when to create space for each other, when to come together ... and blocks and all those types of things," Brown explained.

"That can only be developed with time. They've been able to cash in on that. It certainly makes it a bloody difficult match-up for any defender."

Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras, Jack Darling and Willie Rioli celebrate a goal.
Josh Kennedy, Mark LeCras, Jack Darling and Willie Rioli celebrate a goal.

 

With Collingwood's Darcy Moore, Ben Reid and Lynden Dunn all sidelined, Tyson Goldsack and Tom Langdon look set to stand Kennedy and Darling in the premiership decider at the MCG tomorrow.

It's an unenviable task, especially when you throw in the new "Krakouer brothers", Willie Rioli and Liam Ryan, who provide that "X-factor", and Jamie Cripps, who has laid more tackles in the forward-50m than any other player this season.

But down the other end, the Eagles' defence will be wary of what they are confronted with, having watched Cox and de Goey's destruction of reigning premiers Richmond last week.

Tom Barass and Will Schofield - with support from human wall Jeremey McGovern - will take confidence out of keeping Cox to two marks and no goals, and de Goey to three marks, in the qualifying final three weeks ago.

Brown was at the MCG last Friday night to watch firsthand the display by the 211cm Cox.

In front of his parents, who had flown out from the States, Cox, 27, almost had the Brown strut to boot. He took eight contested marks, one short of the record in a final. Only McGovern has more contested marks this season. He also kicked three goals in what was his 43rd game.

His breakout performance has been compared to 206cm Paul Salmon bursting onto the scene for Essendon as a full-forward in 1984.

 

American Mason Cox has been a revelation for the AFL. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
American Mason Cox has been a revelation for the AFL. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

"Collingwood planned for it really well," Brown said.

"The way they kicked it to him was perfect, allowing him to lead and jump at the football.

"The first week against West Coast (in the qualifying final) they sat it on his head too much.

"When he runs and jumps at the ball, no one in the history of the game has probably reached the heights he has in terms of ... jumping and extending the arms.

"The other thing is, for an American he's actually a very accurate shot at goal. He kicks the ball well for a guy playing a foreign game."

De Goey, who gave five-time All-Australian fullback Alex Rance a rare pasting last week, kicking four goals, has been another revelation - in a season when he spurned a multi-million offer from North Melbourne.

Brown describes the 22-year-old, who has booted 45 goals this year, as an "unbelievable athlete".

"De Goey has been a huge find," Brown said. "He's so dangerous. I didn't realise how big he was ... and didn't realise how quick.

 

Jordan de Goey celebrates a goal.
Jordan de Goey celebrates a goal.

 

"North Melbourne were on the money to offer him a million dollars a year. People laughed at it, but he had that Dustin Martin look about him, the power and the thirst for the moment.

"He looks a player who's built for these big games."

Brown, who famously spurned offers to become a Magpie late in his career, is backing Collingwood to win a 16th premiership.

"They are battle hardened, playing on their home ground," he said.

"It's likely to be wet, and that certainly plays into the hands of the Magpies. They're arguably the best team in the competition when the ball is on the ground."

 

 

Grand Final Day on FOX FOOTY begins at 10.30am EST with the Longest Kick, followed by all the pre and halftime action live from the MCG.  FOX FOOTY (channel 504 on Foxtel)

News Corp Australia

Highway banks up with multi-vehicle crash

Highway banks up with multi-vehicle crash

Crews have arrived on scene of the accident

Storytime brings more than books to library

Storytime brings more than books to library

Children meet alpaca and llama after reading initiative