Sydney small forward Tom Papley just has a way of stirring up his rivals and during the AFL Grand Final Parade on Friday he was at it again, giving it to Collingwood fans who were, admittedly, dishing it out to Papley last weekend during the thrilling preliminary final at the SCG.
Papley so often finds himself at the centre of attention, and last Saturday a mark he took during the dying stages of the game was shrouded in controversy as some believed it should have been judged a free kick to Collingwood’s Darcy Moore for a shove in the back.
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Papley kicked a goal and the Swans won that game by a point to book themselves a spot in the grand final.
But some Collingwood fans were keen to remind the Swans, and Papley, of how they came to be in the Grand Final Parade and were waiting for them on the side of the street with a large banner featuring a photo of the moment and words that read, ‘How Sydney make grand finals’.
Spotting the banner, provocateur Papley was quick to take a video and add it to his Instagram story, complete with the cheekiest face only a small forward could make (check it out below).
It’s been an interesting journey for Papley who at the end of 2019 requested a trade to Carlton that got knocked back as the Swans were unsatisfied with the Blues’ offerings
Fast forward three years and Papley is preparing for his second grand final, hoping he can exorcise the demons of going goalless in the 2016 loss to the Western Bulldogs.
“Funny how things change and things happen for a reason,” Papley told reporters at Friday’s Grand Final parade, ahead of facing Geelong in Saturday’s showpiece.
“This is massive for me, playing the grand final in 2016 and not getting the job done, that really hurt.
“So looking forward to tomorrow and when that siren goes, hopefully we’re in front.”
The 26-year-old is renowned for his exuberant celebrations and getting in opponents’ faces.
“It just comes naturally and instincts and adrenalin take over,” he said.
“But there’ll be a fair bit of adrenalin tomorrow and the crowd will be up so I look forward to it.”
Meanwhile, Geelong coach Chris Scott believes his hot favourite Cats are better placed than ever to end their heartbreaking run of September failures in the AFL grand final.
The Cats will field the oldest team in the competition’s 126-year history against Sydney on Saturday and there is still doubt over Max Holmes’ fitness.
The young wingman will be given until the last minute to prove he has overcome a minor hamstring injury.
But the minor premiers are full of confidence, riding a 15-match winning streak as the season decider returns to the MCG for the first time in three years.
Scott has led the Cats in five preliminary-final defeats and a devastating grand-final loss in 2020 since steering them to a premiership in his first season at the helm in 2011.
“I try to think about every year in isolation but if you force me to take a step back and have a look at the last decade or so, I think our supporters should be proud of the consistency of our players,” Scott said.
“They deserve it, they just work so hard. We do have an experienced group but I think they deserve any successes that come their way.
“They’ve been a privilege to coach.
“But I think this year we go in in great form, we’ve got good availability and our game’s in really good shape.
“So as much as any time that I can remember, I feel like we’ve given ourselves every chance.”
Mark O’Connor was Geelong’s medi-sub in finals wins over Collingwood and Brisbane, and looms as Holmes’ most likely replacement if he is ruled out.
Brandan Parfitt and Sam Menegola are also in the mix.
Holmes was put through a fitness test on Friday morning and sat out the Cats’ light training run on the MCG in the afternoon.
“We were hoping we’d be at the point now where we could absolutely say that he was playing, but what we do know is it’s absolutely not a ‘no’,” Scott said.
Sydney coach John Longmire insists Sam Reid (adductor) and Justin McInerney (ankle) will play despite light weeks because of injuries.
Young tall forward Logan McDonald was dropped in favour of Hayden McLean, who returns for his first game since round eight to give Tom Hickey ruck support, with Reid likely to be somewhat restricted.
“You just have to do the right thing by what the team needs and that’s where it starts and ends,” Longmire said.
“It’s not an easy thing to do but you need to give yourself the best chance to play against a team that’s finished two games clear on top of the ladder and been the dominant team all year.
“We need to get it right at selection and we need to get it right in the way we play. We know it’s going to be a huge challenge.”
The Swans have won nine straight games, and beat Geelong in their only previous meeting this season, by 30 points at the SCG in round two.
It was the same night legendary forward Lance Franklin kicked his 1000th goal.
Like Scott, Longmire is looking for his second premiership as coach, having guided the Swans to their 2012 flag in his second season in charge.
“We understand and respect Geelong’s strengths (and) they’ve got many of them, but we just remind ourselves of what we do as well,” Longmire said.
“It’s two teams in good form that trust their systems and that’s what will make for a great grand final.”
Geelong captain Joel Selwood will play a record-breaking 40th finals match and is one of three players left from the 2011 flag, along with Tom Hawkins and Mitch Duncan.
The trio are among a group of 10 Cats in the grand final line-up aged 30 or over.
Reid and co-captain Luke Parker are the only Swans players left from their 2012 premiership, with former skipper Josh Kennedy calling time on his career because of injury.
– with AAP