Goodwin must break Clarkson hold on flags

Roger VaughanAAP
Alastair Clarkson and Damien Hardwick are tipping Melbourne to win the AFL grand final.
Camera IconAlastair Clarkson and Damien Hardwick are tipping Melbourne to win the AFL grand final. Credit: AAP

Simon Goodwin must beat the school of Alastair Clarkson as well as break the curse of Norm Smith if Melbourne are to win the AFL premiership.

Clarkson's influence on premierships isn't ancient, like Melbourne's 57-year drought and the attendant legend around the 1965 sacking of their great coach Smith.

But it's another big theme for Saturday's grand final.

The past eight premierships have been coached by Clarkson or one of his former assistants - and Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge will make that nine if they win.

Clarkson engineered the 2013-15 Hawthorn threepeat, before Beveridge oversaw the Bulldogs ending their 62-year premiership drought in 2016.

Then Damien Hardwick coached Richmond to the 2017 flag, ending their 37 years in the wilderness, and made it a dynasty with the 2019-20 premierships.

In between, Adam Simpson coached West Coast to their last-gasp 2018 grand final win.

Hardwick, Beveridge and Simpson all cut their teeth under Clarkson at Hawthorn.

So it's a solid endorsement for Goodwin that Clarkson and Hardwick would prefer to be in charge of the Demons for Saturday's grand final.

"If there's a guy who can pull it (Melbourne's game plan) apart, it's Bevo," Hardwick said.

Clarkson and Hardwick dissected the grand final on Monday night's AFL 360 program.

"I like the routine of the 'Dogs, but I like the balance of the Melbourne side," Clarkson said.

"The only thing stopping me from saying Melbourne are going to win this grand final comfortably is the fact that one game in four weeks isn't a great preparation.

"But if I had to stake a flag in the ground for a team, it would be Melbourne."

The grand finalists are one-all this season, and Hardwick said the 'Dogs would have learned plenty from their loss to the Demons in round 11.

"Melbourne took the corridor away from them ... the Bulldogs couldn't move the ball anywhere near as well," Hardwick said.

"We probably did it a little bit at Richmond - we'd lose a game, but we'd always win the second game.

"But I'm going Melbourne."

Like Clarkson, Hardwick is concerned that the Demons have played so little football in the last few weeks - not that it bothered them in their preliminary final walloping of Geelong.

"Their indicators are through the roof ... their preliminary final, it was just dynamite the way they played the game," he said.

Clarkson said being isolated in a hub should lessen some of the hype and distraction of grand final week.

But above all, he warned against trying to do something different just because it's a grand final.

"The hub provides some challenges, but it also provides a little bit of protection - there's not as much hysteria around the game," he said.

"That gives Bevo and Goody a greater opportunity to keep it as normal as possible.

"The most important thing ... is you normalise the on-ground stuff on game day - don't try to pull a rabbit out of the hat on the biggest game of the year.

'"They're there for a reason. Their system has worked really, really strongly, their players have been able to execute... back what's got you there in the first place."

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