The grand final parade is underway in cold and wet conditions in Melbourne, with players being transported inside vehicles, rather than on the back of utes as is usually the case.
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It's the grand final and our expert panel of Caroline Wilson, Michael Gleeson and Martin Blake talk through all the ins and outs ahead of the clash between Hawthorn and Sydney.
Brief interviews with Luke Hodge and Adam Goodes, a photograph with both of them hoisting the premiership cup aloft, and footy minstrel Mike Brady returns to stage to lead a singlalong of Up There Cazaly.
When it is pointed out to Hodge that some of his players are wearing shorts in the frigid, wet conditions, he says that footballers "aren't that smart", and that there are several country boys in the Hawks' line-up, who are used to such inclemency.
Goodes says it is "absolutely fantastic" to see the Bloods and Swans fans in attendance. He said it was "a little bit different" training this morning at the MCG in front of empty stands, and he's looking forward to them being filled by 100,000 people.
Hawthorn has been presented to the crowd at the Treasury Building at the top of Collings Street, and Sydney is now being introduced, with their theme song ringing out over the Melbourne streets, banjo solo and all. Office workers are hanging out of windows to catch something of the scene as a hug crowd crushes in at the top of the city.
Hawthorn superstar Lance 'Buddy' Franklin is not nervous yet, but think it might start hitting home soon..
"I haven't really thought about the game too much, but I think once we get up on stage now, it will really hit home. And then tomorrow once we get to the game, I'll be switched on and ready to go.
"Its great to see so many Hawthorn supporters out there today. We can't wait to get out there tomorrow. It's going to be an unbelievable experience for the football club and its something I'm really looking forward to."
Radio broadcaster Dee Dee Dunleavy speaks of how she hosts a yearly function for the Swans' Melbourne-based women, whom she labels the "best old ducks in the league". They are known as the Ladies Of The Lake, a reference to the Lakeside Oval, South Melbourne's home before they reloated to Sydney. There is strong support still in Melbourne for the Swans, with up to 10,000 Bloods and Swans fans in attendance at games here.
Former Hawk, now Sydney midfield star Josh Kennedy says Sydney takes confidence from its gameplan, its preparation and from each other. He says family members with Hawthorn ties will have to decide for themselves where their allegiances lie tomorrow, but he believes he has their full support.
He says the Swans midfield will "work as best we can as a unit" to overcome their Hawk counterparts.
Sydney co-captain Adam Goodes says the weather is unfortunate but "that's Melbourne" and the Swans will take it in their stride. He doesn't think that the wet conditions will forced a team change, and the 22 already selected can "sleep easy" tonight. He predicts that the decider will be like the (attritional) grand finals of 2005 and 2006, and the team that plays "harder, for longer" will win.
Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson, riding with his eight-year-old son Matthew, sounded laid-back about the festivities and his team's premiership prospects.
"You live in Melbourne, you have to prepare for all conditions. It could be 30 degrees, or it could be 14 and rain. We're looking forward to the contest," he told SEN radio.
"Great side Sydney, they've had a good year, and so have we, so two good sides in the grand final."
He described the parade as "a great thing for Melbourne".
"... its been a big part of the culture of this town for a long long period of time and its a pretty special privilege to be involved in it of it. Lots of people that don't ever get the opportunity and we've had it twice now, so it's first-class for our footy club."
Matthew tipped Hawthorn to win by 14 points.
Sam Mitchell, captain when Hawthorn last won the grand final, in 2008, says he is feeling relaxed and the parade is the first public event the players have had to be part of for a few days. He doesn't think the weather will be a factor in the game's outcome, saying "desire, workrate and physicality" are all imperative, regardless of the weather.
So far, the MCG car parks are to remain open at full capacity. But if you are driving to the game, check out the MCG website tomorrow morning.
At Treasury Place, the footy songs are ringing out. Greg Champion's "That's The Thing About Football" will inevitably be joined by a brace of Mike Brady classics. The evergreen minstrel has not been an official part of grand final festivities, but his songs One Day In September and Up There Cazaly are in high rotation this week as always, and he remains a fixture at corproate events.
Sodden fans are gathered outside the Arts Centre starting line of the grand final parade, with marching bands, and Auskick kids waiting to join the festivities. St Kilda Road, Collins St, Swanston Street, Exhibition Street and Spring Street are affected by road closures until 1pm. The temperature has fallen from 19 degrees at 9am to its current testing level of 13.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard has picked Sydney to win the grand final, but she doesn't think it will be by much, and she expects the game to go down to the wire.
The last time Hawthorn played on a really wet day at the MCG, it lost to Richmond by 62 points... But that was May 26, round nine, and the Hawks won 14 out of 15 games after going to school on that loss.
Former Tiger star Rob Wiley, a newly appointed Carlton assistant coach, tells SEN that he doesn't think wet weather will have "any bearing" on the result of the grand final, both possessing the skills to adapt to slippery conditions. Neither team has huge marking power up front, with Buddy Franklin as much a a ground-level opportunist as a high-flyer, and Sydney's big men often employed to bring the ball to ground for more fleet of foot team-mates. There are those who believe that the Hawks could better suited, as Sydney's main offensive threats Adam Goodes and Lewis Jetta may prefer it dry. But as Wiley points out, the more skilled players often shine brighter when the rain falls or the wind blows.
SEN broadcaster Kevin Bartlett is running with the joke that it is 24 degrees and balmy in Federation Square, and there might be 'slight drizzle' elsewhere in Melbourne. In nearby St Kilda Road, however, it can be confirmed that is dark grey, there is steady rain falling, and it is no more than 14 degrees. The forecast wintry weather is closing in ahead of the noon start of the grand final parade.
Giants coach Kevin Sheedy just described himself as the "highest-paid under-19 coach of all time".
Even if forecast heavy rain arrives, today’s grand final parade will proceed as planned. Light rain has been falling since 9am, under heavy grey skies, after the first blast of two expected cold fronts hit the CBD at 8.30am, but despite a dramatic clap of thunder and a flash of lightning, predicted heavy rain is yet to materialise.
The AFL will be nervously watching the radars, with tens of thousands of fans expected to line city streets from late morning for the traditional pre-game parade, which officially commences at 12 noon. Players will be transported along St Kilda Road and Collins Street to the Treasury Building in covered vehicles if the weather is too wet.
Rain and thunderstorms are expected throughout Friday and the Bureau of Meteorology is forecasting the possibility of hail and the certainty of cold temperatures, showers and strong winds for Saturday's decider between Hawthorn and Sydney at the MCG.
Pundits are busy trying to nut out which playing group will best adapt to slippery conditions, but entertainment before, during, and after Saturday’s big match could be impacted by inclement weather. A free concert featuring Paul Kelly and Temper Trap is scheduled to run from 6pm to 8pm at the MCG, but the bands may be forced from the centre of the arena into the Ponsford Stand if the weather is too unfriendly.
Which team will be best suited by the forecast wet weather?
Senior forecaster Scott Williams said a chilly temperature range of eight to 14 degrees was expected for Saturday, with scattered showers along with possible rain or thunder.
Hawthorn greats tip an era of greatness era for the Hawks.
''At the MCG there will probably be at least three or four short showers during the afternoon but they are not likely to last long. The main thing is that it will be very cold,'' he said.
But Mr Williams said ''gusty'' winds will have more impact than the rainfall.
''There will be winds of up to 45km/h - that's reasonably blowy. In the MCG it swirls around … so it could become quite turbulent and make it difficult to take marks.''
We all know by now that sporting events exist so that bookmakers can get us to punt more. The Brownlow Medal is now the second biggest betting event in Australia behind the Melbourne Cup. Well, the agencies are doing their best to up the ante for the grand final. sportsbet.com.au is operating a market on whether a left or right-footer wins the Norm Smith Medal for best player on the ground in the grand final. The lefties are outsiders, remarkably, considering that names such as Franklin and Hodge are in their ranks. Hawthorn has built its team around elite ball movement, much of it put down to its fleet of left-footers - they will be employing 12 of them on Saturday.
sportsbet.com.au: Mollydookers v Regular Righties
(left footers players are Franklin, Rioli, Hodge, O’Keefe, Lewis, Jack, Roughead, Schoenmakers, Gibson, Birchall, Young, Suckling, Mattner, Ellis, I. Smith, Hannebery, Malceski, Gilham, N. Smith)
$1.70 Regular Righties
The footy industry never stops, and during the finals, non-competing teams are busy trying to get a jump on their better-performed rivals, wheeling and dealing as they try to nab recruits. With football personnel in Melbourne for endless rounds of lunches, award nights and sponsor functions, as well as the big game, it is inevitable that rumours spread like wildfire. Today's spruik is that 29-year-old West Coast big man Quinten Lynch is on the move to Collingwood after 209 games for the Eagles. Well, that was the 9.45am rumour. By 9.50, he was on his way to Carlton. The Blues could use another big target in attack, having missed out on the newly re-signed Travis Cloke, and the Magpies need not just another marking option in the forward line, but a genuine second ruck, a role unfulfilled since Leigh Brown retired at the end of the 2011 season. An ageing fringe player at one club can appear to be the final piece of the jigsaw puzzle for another also-ran at this time of year.
Another player who is the focus of speculation is pacy Magpie fringe midfielder Sharrod Wellingham, reportedly considering his future at home in West Australia after being offered a new three-year contract by the Magpies. Teammate Dale ‘Daisy’ Thomas is not being drawn into questions about whether Wellingham would return to the Westpas Centre next year. Speaking on his regular radio slot on Nova 100’s Hughesy & Kate this morning, Thomas was more concerned with the intensity of the bond between Wellingham and housemate, Hawthorn superstar Lance 'Buddy' Franklin.
"They are so tight it is not even funny. It is borderline more than man crush and by borderline I mean well over that line. It’s well on," Thomas said.
The program discussed the fact that many of Sharrod’s twitter picturess feature Franklin. Thomas also noted their shared interest in visual art.
"Matching tattoos... no matter at whatever age you are... I’m all about having friends, but seriously boys."
2012 Toyota AFL Grand Final Week Live Site Day Five activities at Federation Square
Day Five: FOOTY ON PARADE
6 -9am: Mel and Kochie broadcast Channel 7’s Sunrise live with a special performance on the main stage
6-9am: 1116 SEN’s Morning Glory with Tim Watson and Andy Maher broadcasting live from SEN marquee
9am-12pm: 1116 SEN’s Hungry for Sport with Kevin Bartlett broadcasting live from the SEN marquee
9am-12pm: Triple M’s Dangerous Dave roaming the Square
10am-4pm: AFL Playground, Proudly Presented by Radiant on the River Terrace - Lifebroker Specky Station, Four’N Twenty handball competition, Foxtel Fan Zone, skills cube and lots more activities.
10 - 11am: Michael Hurley (Essendon) at Telstra site
10am - 12pm: David Rodan (Port Adelaide) at Australia Post site
10.45-11.45pm: Lifebroker Junior Mark of the Year competition
10.45-11.45pm:Adam Kennedy (GWS Giants) at Lifebroker site
11 - 2.30pm: Foxtel Footy Cheer off competition, chance to win 2 x Toyota AFL Grand Final tickets
11.45am - 12.25pm: Drew Petrie (North Melbourne) at Foxtel site
12-1pm: FOX FOOTY Grand Final Parade broadcast live from FOX stage
12.25-12.45pm: Drew Petrie (North Melbourne) at the giant FOX FOOTY
1.30 - 2.30pm: Drew Petrie (North Melbourne) at Bailey Ladders site
1.30-2.10pm: OPSM Friday Fan Grab
2.15 - 3.15pm: Sam Fisher (St Kilda), Brent Harvey (North Melbourne) and Bryce Gibbs (Carlton) at British Paints site
4-7pm: 1116 SEN’s The Run Home with David Schwarz, Dr Turf and Matt Granland broadcasting live from the SEN Marquee
6-8pm: 3AW’s Sports Today with Gerard Healy and Dwayne Russell broadcasting from the main stage
7.30-8.30pm: FOX FOOTY’s AFL 360 broadcasting live from the FOX Stage
9am-12pm: 774 ABC Melbourne, Mornings with Jon Faine and ABC Grandstand on main stage
12-12.05pm: NAB Ticket winner announcement
12.10-12.15pm: FOXTEL ticket winner announcement
12.15 -12.30pm: Lifebroker Junior Mark of the Year Announcement
12.30-1pm: Bailey Ladders handball challenge
12.30-1.30pm: Ladder Charity BBQ
1.10-1.30pm: Origin’s ‘Are You Smarter than a AFL Footballer’
2.10-2.40pm: The British Paints In One One Coat Challenge
2.40-2.45pm: Glenn Munsie from TAB Sportsbet with final odds on the Grand Final
2.55-3.25pm: - Australia Post Community Inclusion Segment
The 2012 Toyota AFL Grand Final Week Live Site is open to footy fans of all ages, with the free events and activities set to continue until Saturday, September 29. The event is proudly supported by City of Melbourne.
All details subject to change. Please check www.afl.com.au for latest information.
GRAND FINAL DAY RUNNING SHEET
12.25pm Gillette AFL Grand Final Sprint Heats
12.30 – 12.35pm On-field presentation – AIS Academy Squad and photograph.
1.12pm Gillette AFL Grand Final Sprint
1.40pm – 1.55pm Preliminary warm up opportunity
2pm Pre-match entertainment presentation. Retiring players presentation
2.12pm Umpires enter arena on cue
2.14pm Sydney Swans enter arena on cue/team photo
2.17pm Hawthorn enters arena on cue/team photo
2.26pm National Anthem
2.28pm Two Sirens – Toss of Coin
2.30pm 2012 Toyota AFL Grand Final Commences
3.40pm (approx) Half-time entertainment presentation
5.15pm (approx) Post match presentation / team photo
6.10pm (approx) Media Conference – Runners Up
6.35pm (approx) Media Conference – Premiers
7.15pm Premiers on-field presentation to public
with Craig Butt