Fremantle's stifling pressure was evident from the first bounce last weekend, and it's something that is synonymous with a Ross Lyon-coached team.
The "frontal pressure" that was a feature of his time at St Kilda took the Saints to the biggest stage in 2009-2010, but this new Purple Haze version is something to behold. Let's be clear, this is not just the slow asphyxiation of a boa constrictor; it's swift and far more aggressive.
In what quickly became my final game as an AFL player, Fremantle swarmed the contest and took early dominance in the penultimate game.
Michael Walter (left) and Chris Mayne apply the Dockers' forward pressure to perfection. Photo: Paul Rovere
Our midfielders were starved of the ball in the first half. We lost our structure up forward because they set up so well defensively. By taking the dangerous space so early on their direct opponents and generally having a loose defender, our players looked up to deliver the footy to an outnumbered situation.
We panicked in our decision-making. When Chris Mayne, Hayden Ballantyne, Michael Walters and company were hot on our players' heels, 30,000 pulsating fans at Patersons Stadium were in raptures with every one of our errors. And with no obvious target to kick to – another turnover beckoned!
Mayne had 13 tackles. Opposition coaches note his work rate as a benchmark for forward pressure in the league.
Hayden Ballantyne brings down another victim of Fremantle's relentless pressure. Photo: Michael Dodge
The transition upon turnover from the Dockers was quick. They got it inboard and then to a lead-up target such as Matthew Pavlich or Walters and the scoreboard started to roll over.
We were lucky Fremantle kicked 2.9 in the first quarter. But that's the other issue – a Fremantle set-shot behind allows the Dockers the best opportunity to get the ball back, because they have more time to set up defensively.
Although the Swans trailed by only eight points at quarter-time, Freo had created such a hostile environment and denied our key ball-movers the footy that "perceived pressure" ensued. Calm minds had left the stadium.
The Dockers are quick to swoop on any hesitation. Photo: Getty Images
Which raises the following questions; how will Hawthorn stand up under this stifling pressure? And will Fremantle be able to adjust and apply the team defence to the wider MCG ground?
In the Hawks' favour is their kicking efficiency and smart ball use out of defence. Sam Mitchell and Grant Birchall lead the charge here, and will need to. You have to be brave with the Sherrin in your hands.
If you don't link up and change the angles, the Dockers will start the process of asphyxiation.
Hayden Ballantyne knows how to get into the faces and under the skins of opponents. Photo: Michael Dodge
When we played Hawthorn on the MCG in this year's qualifying final, the Hawks had far too many uncontested marks – 114 in total. This meant that we weren't pressuring the ball carrier, weren't blocking the lanes and that their kicking efficiency was through the roof.
The Hawks gain confidence from hitting targets and it's up to Fremantle to erode this confidence by chase-down tackles, getting a hand in to spoil and intercept marks.
The wider ground will definitely be a factor. It creates more space to lead into and makes it harder to defend. It just requires the Hawthorn midfielders and forwards to work extremely hard, utilising the space out on the wings and drawing the defenders out of position.
The other factor that will play its part on Saturday afternoon is the fact that Hawthorn will be absolutely obsessed by not losing again, having come so close last year. I witnessed this in 2006 when the Swans took on a determined and single-minded West Coast still burning from the previous decider.
But the Dockers have a big chance under Ross Lyon. I was lucky enough to have Ross as my midfield coach early on in my career. He drives his players hard to be the best, and will not stand for mediocrity.
I remember at the SCG one day when a young Jarrad McVeigh had been told by Rossy to handball back to him in a drill in a certain way. When it was not executed correctly, Rossy volleyed the football at least 10 rows back into the Ladies' Stand and told him to go and collect it.
As players, we jokingly used to say that we would wear our "riot gear" into a Monday review meeting with Rossy, as he would give it to you both barrels. It held us in good stead, though, as you knew where you stood and what was expected in terms of performance.
There is another side to Rossy that many don't see. He loves a laugh and has a dry sense of humour. I would sit in his office to review my weekend video and he would tell you stories of his off-seasons gone by at Fitzroy, where he had been travelling with his great mate Paul Roos in the United States, but woke up to the realisation that he had put on so much weight enjoying the break that he booked the next flight out!
Another time he had invited a couple of players over to his house for dinner. I had met his wife Kirsten many times before so I immediately gave her a kiss hello on the cheek, but a young rookie-list player with me was a bit more hesitant.
In scenes reminiscent of Mr Bean meeting the Queen, the young player nervously rocked back and forth until he leant in and accidentally head-butted Kirsten. We were all laughing the rest of the night.
So grand final day has arrived. I am extremely grateful for the kind gesture by the Fremantle Football Club at the end of the game last weekend. With Brett Kirk and Mark Stone by his side in the coach's box, there is certainly a Sydney element in the Dockers' camp, and I will be cheering them on in this grand final.
It should be a classic.