Final questions: Who will emerge victorious when Dees face Cats?
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Final questions: Who will emerge victorious when Dees face Cats?

The Demons are back in the finals for the first time since 2006, while the Cats are desperate to strike with Ablett on board. Jon Pierik answers the key questions ahead of their elimination final at the MCG on Friday night.

Are Geelong really a premiership threat?

They have been hard to work out in recent years. Their top end talent is unquestionable but their bottom six have been an issue. The return of Gary Ablett, while not the Ablett of old, was to strengthen their blue-chip talent, meaning there would be greater overall depth. That appears to be the case but September quickly exposes any weaknesses. The Cats have a 5-6 record against fellow finalists this year but those defeats were by 18 points or less, meaning they remain firm challengers.

Finals return: Gary Ablett.

Finals return: Gary Ablett.Credit:AAP

They did lose to Western Bulldogs, Adelaide, Richmond and Hawthorn in the final nine rounds, their inconsistency an issue. However, coach Chris Scott suggested after the loss to the Tigers that the Cats had something up their sleeve. The bottom line appears this - provided Patrick Dangerfield, Joel Selwood, Mitch Duncan and Tom Hawkins are instrumental, the Cats could surprise.

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What can we expect from Jack Viney?

The tough-as-teak midfielder has managed only seven senior games this season because of a foot stress injury, the last coming in round 16. In a frustrating year, he barely completed the pre-season and then missed the opening eight rounds. It could be construed as a risk to play him considering his time on the sidelines but he has the attitude and game likely to flourish on the September stage.

His ability to win contested ball and clearances is what the Demons have prided themselves on, with he and Clayton Oliver central to this. The Demons are ranked No.1 for contested possession differentials (+17.7) but the Cats are ranked fourth, meaning Viney's return would be a major help. He could go head-to-head with Selwood, providing another intriguing sub-plot.

What have we learnt from their two games this season?

It's fair to say the Cats handled the pressure better. And that remains one of the great unknowns about this Demons line-up - how will they handle the focus that comes on the big stage, one that the club is facing for the first time in 12 years? In round one, Max Gawn botched a set shot from about 20 metres that would have secured victory; in round 18 the Demons squandered a 23-point lead at the final change, losing when Zach Tuohy - pushed forward in a clever move by Scott - marked in front of Neville Jetta and goaled after the siren. Going by their round-23 side, the Demons will have only four men who have September experience take to the field - Jordan Lewis, Nathan Jones, Jake Melksham and Michael Hibberd. Hopefully, they have imparted calming advice.

In their two matches this season, the Demons were inaccurate, booting a combined 27.30 - something they cannot afford to produce again. Tom McDonald, Christian Petracca, Melksham and Alex Neal-Bullen will also look to stretch the Cats' defence, which can expect a busy night for the Demons are ranked No.1 for inside 50s (+13.5).

What can we expect from Ablett?

It's deflating to think the man widely considered the greatest player of his generation has not played a final since 2010, when he had 40 touches against Collingwood in the losing preliminary final. The Gold Coast Suns had come calling with a chest of cash, and Ablett accepted. Who could blame him? He would have thought he would back on the finals stage within a few years considering the young talent the Suns had but it wasn't to be. Ablett was accused of playing too safe early in the season, and lacking penetration, but that changed later in the campaign (32 touches and three goals against Hawthorn a highlight). He has averaged 26.1 disposals and a goal in his 17 finals - at 34, such a performance against the Demons would be, as one commentator might say, delicious.

Final word: This is a tough one to call, with track watchers already wondering whether the Cats will again make a late selection change. Regardless, Dangerfield's ability to will his team to victory could be the difference.

Prediction: Geelong by five points.

Jon Pierik is a sports writer with The Age, focusing primarily on AFL football, cricket and basketball. He has won awards for his cricket and basketball writing.