AFL Round Table: The Grand Final's 'best moment'? How Sydney takes the next step

Our AFL experts tackle some of the burning questions following Geelong's barnstorming Grand Final win over Sydney, including what was 'the moment' for the Cats, how the Swans can take the next step, and more.

What was the 'best moment' of the day for Geelong?

Rohan Connolly: In a "it's ours" sense, probably Isaac Smith's third goal early in the third quarter which blew the gap out to 54 points for the Cats. But emotionally, surely it had to be skipper Joel Selwood's goal in the last, after which he became emotional and was swamped by adoring teammates. That said everything about how hard he has worked to keep this group on track and focused, and just how much they appreciate that.

Jake Michaels: Joel Selwood and Chris Scott hoisting the cup? Given it wasn't the greatest Grand Final contest we've ever seen, there aren't going to be too many moments which stay entrenched in the memory banks. But one that will is Jeremy Cameron's beer-can-opening celebration after his second goal in the final term. Iconic celebration!

Matt Walsh: I mean, the result was known from early in the second term, so from when it was truly party time, it has to be Jeremy Cameron's beer can opening celebration as Jake mentioned. From a broader perspective? I think it's how well Geelong's players handled the off-field occasion, from including Gary Ablett Jr's son Levi in the walkout, to bringing on superfan Sam Moorfoot to join in the celebrations. Just brilliant.

Jarryd Barca: Way too many 'best' moments if you're a Geelong fan, but the one that stands out to me as a neutral was the skipper Joel Selwood's goal in the fourth quarter and the emotions that ensued in the celebrations. You just can't ask for more from a player whose leadership in this league is second to none and ability to stand up in big moments over the course of an exceptional but arduous career is admirable. Couldn't help but smile.

What does Sydney need to do to take the next step?

RC: I don't think the Swans have too much to worry about, really. Certainly they'll another young key forward or two with Lance Franklin and Sam Reid at or near the end, and perhaps a key defender, too, as they don't have the same depth as Geelong enjoyed. But this is mainly just about experience, I think. The Swans' group of younger types, via Chad Warner, Justin McInerney, Errol Gulden and co. is as talented as any bunch of emerging players in the competition. Their future is bright.

JM: Overcome the eight-goal Grand Final defeat curse! Since 1995 there have been nine teams to lose a Grand Final by eight or more goals, none of them have won a final final the following year. Sydney needs to buck this trend in a major way! It all starts with finding a reliable key forward, someone who can take the reigns from Lance Franklin when he likely calls it a day at the end of 2023.

MW: Not get too discouraged from this performance, which is easier said than done having listened to Callum Mills and Isaac Heeney in the aftermath. Broadly, they're a younger list which has a lot of talent across the ground. Yes, in a couple of years they'll lose the likes of Lance Franklin, perhaps Dane Rampe, and maybe Luke Parker, so perhaps investing in mature key position depth should be on the radar.

JB: There's not too much more they need to do to go one step further next year, given the abundance of young talent they've got on their list that virtually carried them to a first Grand Final appearance in six years. I look at players such as Chad Warner, James Rowbottom, Nick Blakey, Errol Gulden, Will Hayward and Dylan Stephens - and there are more - and the class they exude on game day, and think there's just no way they're dropping away. Do others need to take the next step? Sure, Logan McDonald and perhaps Hayden McLean up forward given the ages of current spearheads Lance Franklin and Sam Reid, but the Swans all in all are doing a fair bit right.

Was Isaac Smith the best player on the ground?

RC: Yes. Patrick Dangerfield was sensational, too, but it was a commanding performance from a wing, 32 disposals and three goals as good a grand final game as we have seen from that spot on the ground arguably since Peter Matera's five-goal Norm Smith Medal effort for West Coast back in 1992. Smith's run and scoreboard impact was exactly what Sydney lacked from its midfield group. It was a sensational performance.

JM: Smith was very good but he wasn't the best player on the ground. In fact, I wouldn't have him in my best two. Patrick Dangerfield didn't kick the goals on Grand Final day but he had a ridiculous six direct goal assists and once again dominated in the midfield with a game-high nine clearances and 19 contested possessions. And what about Chad Warner? Yes, his side was belted, but his 29 touch, 18 contested possessions, 10 clearances, 583m gained and two goals was worthy of Norm Smith Medal votes.

MW: When the game was briefly in the balance I think it was Tom Hawkins who was the best player on the ground. Three goals in the first half including the opening two by using his brute strength in the ruck contest - I think his influence early really highlighted how undersized the Sydney defence was. He was magnificent, though Smith and Dangerfield were also sublime.

JB: I'm pretty happy with the Norm Smith Medal voting results and think Isaac Smith is a worthy winner - he was fantastic. But Patrick Dangerfield was better. No Cat had more clearances (nine), goal assists (six!) or contested possessions (19) than the 32-year-old, and it was evident how important his sheer power was around stoppages, continually bursting away from his opponents and getting his hands dirty for his teammates on the outside.

Should all players who contribute to a flag-winning season get a premiership medallion?

RC: Whether it's anyone who plays a senior game in that season or there's a minimum number of games to qualify (10 seems like a decent sort of benchmark to me) I tend to think we should honour those who are part of it but not part of the Grand Final 22. Could anyone seriously argue Max Holmes wasn't thoroughly deserving of a medal given his input into the Cats' success this season? Increasingly, it's about a list, not just a team on a given day. That deserves appropriate rewarding.

JM: We seem to ask this every year and I'm always torn with my answer. Part of me thinks it should be the 22 players on the day plus the players who have played a certain number of senior games throughout the season. But where do you draw the line? And what would we say if Cats skipper Joel Selwood was injured in Round 3 and missed the rest of the year? No doubt everyone would want him to receive a medal. As much as it sucks for the players who miss out, I think we leave it as is.

MW: I think as soon as we rip the bandaid off and start doing it, it'll become second nature. Maybe similar to VFL Grand Final eligibility you have a threshold of some form -- one game played, perhaps -- and leave it there. Max Holmes is stiff. Logan McDonald would have been stiff. I think it's time.

JB: I don't think they should because it would genuinely lessen the value of a premiership medallion that would be earned on Grand Final day. And don't give me any threshold - I've heard people say you need to play just one game, some have said 10 is the benchmark - but where does it end? What about the players that play nine? What if the one game played by a hypothetical player was a one-touch effort in a 10-goal loss, did he really contribute? Don't get me wrong, I think a player on any list's contribution in a premiership-winning team DOES deserve recognition, but it cannot be in the form of a medal. Ask any player if they'd think of themselves as a premiership player having not played in the Big Dance...