Fremantle will be confronted with the toughest task in the AFL when Geelong host a playoff match at their home ground for the first time in 116 years next Saturday.
With all four finals in week one to take place in Victoria, the qualifying final between the second-placed Cats and the third-ranked Dockers has been scheduled at Simonds Stadium, rather than Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, despite the latter venue being far bigger.
Simonds Stadium has a capacity of 33,000 – which the AFL has estimated is sufficient to accommodate the expected crowd for a clash between Geelong and Fremantle.
The Cats have won 43 of their past 44 matches at their fortress.
Big-drawing Melbourne clubs Hawthorn, Richmond and Collingwood will host the other three finals in week one at the MCG.
Under coach Ross Lyon, Fremantle have made “play anywhere, anytime” their mantra – one sure to be severely tested on Saturday.
“With our members and fans, we haven’t experienced that many top-four double chances,” said Lyon.
“We have members and fans who couldn’t get a seat or a ticket down there. What’s it seat, 30,000?
“Outside of that, we’re an anywhere, anytime team. We’ll go and play.
“At the start of the year, you thought if you finished third you wouldn’t be playing in a regional centre.
“You’d be playing in a metropolis at world-class venues.
“But it’s out of my control.
“It’s not a problem for me. We’ll go down and play.”
The only other final to have been played in the city of Geelong was way back in 1897 – the first year of the VFL – when Essendon beat Geelong by six points in a semi-final at Corio Oval.
Cats chief executive Brian Cook said the final against Fremantle would be the “biggest national sporting event ever in Geelong”.
That may well be true, but the biggest crowd of the weekend will be for the elimination final between traditional rivals Richmond and Carlton at the MCG on Sunday.
The Tigers will be involved in the September action for the first time in 12 years, while the Blues sneaked into the playoffs at Essendon’s expense after edging Port Adelaide by a point at AAMI Stadium on Saturday.
Collingwood are almost certain to play Port Adelaide in the other elimination final on Saturday night, unless they beat North Melbourne by an improbably large margin on Sunday, in which case the Magpies could move to fifth and take on the Blues.
The opening match of the finals pits Hawthorn against Sydney at the MCG on Friday night in a qualifying final.