Tigers, Giants set for Australian rules football grand final

DENNIS PASSA

Up to 100,000 spectators are expected to cram the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday for a match that never fails to cause flutters in the hearts of Aussie rules football fans. It's the Australian Football League's grand final championship.

Millions more will watch on television in Australia for the mid-afternoon start between the favored Richmond Tigers and the upstart Greater Western Sydney Giants. Expatriate fans around the world may have to stay up half the night or get up early to watch it. On the east coast of the United States, it'll kick off at 12:30 a.m., in London at 5:30 a.m.

Here are a few other things to know about the AFL's title match:

TRADITION VS. THE (RELATIVELY) NEW GUYS

Richmond will be attempting to win its second grand final in three years after beating Adelaide in 2017, the Tigers' first championship since 1980. Richmond has won 11 titles in the AFL or its predecessor, the Victorian Football League, the first in 1920. The Giants, meanwhile, have only been in the league since 2012, when they won only two matches and lost by more than 100 points five times. But they've made steady improvements, making the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year this season.

VARYING ROUTES

The Tigers dropped as low as ninth but finished in third place and have won 11 consecutive games, the second-best streak in club history. Greater Western Sydney has done it the hard way, finishing sixth and defeating the Western Bulldogs, Brisbane and Collingwood in elimination matches in the playoffs.

This season, they split their two matches, each winning at home. The Giants beat Richmond 19.11 (125) to 10.16 (76) in the third round and Richmond defeated Greater Western Sydney 13.16 (94) to 9.13 (67) in the 17th. For those not familiar with the scoring system in Australian rules football, the first figure refers to a six-point goal which is kicked between the uprights, the second figure a one-point behind.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Richmond: Shane Edwards is a 30-year-old midfielder/forward who has played 252 games for the Tigers, kicking 160 goals. He is also known as a strong playmaker, setting up his teammates with flicks and handballs. Richmond's forward line, with one of Tom Lynch, Jack Riewoldt or Dustin Martin as the deepest forward, often catches opposition defenses off-guard.

Greater Western Sydney: Phil Davis, Nick Haynes, Sam Taylor and Heath Shaw are part of the Giants' defensive unit and are known for their ability to intercept kicks and passes. Full forward Jeremy Cameron has had a strong recent record against Richmond, booting 10 goals in their two matches this year.

WHO WILL WIN?

A preview on the Australian Football League's website says Richmond will win by 14 points. Most Melbourne media are also predicting a win for the inner-city Richmond club — they don't like it when a team from outside the "home" city of Australian rules football wins. Last year, the Perth-based West Coast Eagles beat another Melbourne side, Collingwood, in the grand final. Two in a row from outside Melbourne would not sit well.

___

More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports