Ryan Crowley spoils Sam Mitchell during the round 19 match between Fremantle and Hawthorn in Perth. Photo: Getty Images
Dual Brownlow medallist Greg Williams has urged the grand final umpires to keep a close eye on Fremantle tagger Ryan Crowley and said Hawthorn must do whatever it can within legal limits to disrupt his day.
Crowley is set to get the job of shutting down Hawthorn midfield general Sam Mitchell - a player considered a clone of Williams - and has even been praised by the former Carlton and Sydney champion for his awareness and ability to create through handball.
Williams regularly was tagged throughout his distinguished career, and had a famous battle with Essendon's niggly Sean Denham in the Blues' losing 1993 grand final.
Greg Williams (left) had to deal with the niggly tagging of Sean Denham. Photo: Ken Irwin
He says Mitchell's teammates have a responsibility to physically support their former skipper, whether he be in the midfield or counter-punching as a rebounding half-back.
''It always helps when the blokes can bump him and whatever, knock him over, but you just have to be careful now as well,'' said Williams, the 1995 Norm Smith medallist.
''You just feel like you are getting help and support. If he [Crowley] knows they are coming, and he takes his eye off [Mitchell], you only need half a second [to get free] … but Crowley is beating good guys every week.
''I am sure he [Mitchell] will work it out. He just needs to concentrate on what he is doing. He is in great form, he just has to keep attacking the ball and playing his own game and beat him.
''It's going to be a tough game for him, but he can still be an influence on the game as well.''
Mitchell's teammate Shaun Burgoyne said the Hawks were aware of what was required when confronting Crowley, who also attempts to mess with the mind of his opponent through constant chatter.
''It's up to us guys to help him. I have no doubt he [Mitchell] will have an influence on our game,'' Burgoyne said.
''When we've had players tagged this year, as a team we've tried to help out that player and we'll do exactly the same this week.
''Myself, Hodgey [Luke Hodge], Isaac Smith, Cyril [Rioli], we'll definitely help out that player.
''It's going to take 22 players to win this week and we need the player who's getting tagged to have an influence on the game. So we'll definitely be going out of our way to help out whoever he [Crowley] goes to.''
Williams, who will present this year's Norm Smith Medal, expects Crowley to shadow Mitchell throughout the game. ''Sam has been playing half-back as well. That has loosened him up as well, but they [Fremantle] won't allow that to happen this week,'' he said.
''Crowley will go with him all right. He will go where he goes. He will go off with him, but he [Crowley] doesn't go off much.''
Crowley's niggling tactics clearly frustrated Steve Johnson and Joel Selwood in the qualifying final, and he held Sydney's Kieren Jack to only 11 disposals in last weekend's preliminary-final win, while also collecting 22 touches of his own, including a long goal in the second term, when the Dockers took charge.
He was recently castigated by North Melbourne veteran Brent Harvey, who claimed the Dockers' reigning best and fairest ''sometimes oversteps the mark with some of the things that he says and does'', and also drew criticism from Gold Coast champion Gary Ablett on Twitter last year.
Mitchell, who has been in superb touch, having 38 disposals against Geelong on Friday night, would be another prized scalp. But he is used to close attention.
Williams said the umpires also had a role to play in ensuring Crowley, who grew up in Gisborne, came through the Calder Cannons' TAC Cup program and originally was an outside midfielder, did not unfairly block Mitchell at stoppages.
''Then the umpires come into it. People say I always whinge but, if they [taggers] are facing you, pushing you away from the ball, that should be a free kick all day,'' he said.
''Sometimes they give a free kick here or there. But I always say it's not so much the umpire there [at the stoppage], it's the other two as well. You do that [pay a free kick] a couple of times … it helps both sides as well.
''They do put up with a lot, the star players. All you want is a free run at the ball. When blokes are holding on and scragging you and pushing you … you get frustrated.''