Pies back Grundy to handle Eagles ruck duo

Collingwood expect a big AFL grand final from Brodie Grundy although he will be heavily marked.
Collingwood expect a big AFL grand final from Brodie Grundy although he will be heavily marked.

West Coast need look no further back than their last visit to the MCG to know that Brodie Grundy can be contained in Saturday's AFL grand final.

But Collingwood are backing the All-Australian big man to respond strongly in a ruck duel that could define the premiership decider.

Grundy had one of his least effective games of the season when the Magpies hosted West Coast in round 17 despite Nic Naitanui tearing his ACL in the second quarter.

Scott Lycett stood tall in Naitanui's absence, shadowing Grundy at every move and restricting him to 30 hitouts and 14 disposals as the Eagles ran out 35-point winners.

Grundy was dominant in the first half when the two sides met in the qualifying final at Optus Stadium.

But it was Lycett and Nathan Vardy who lifted late, providing first use to a West Coast midfield that drove the Eagles to an inspired 16-point victory.

The duo also managed to keep Grundy's All-Australian ruck partner Max Gawn well below his best with a physical tag-team approach during the Eagles' preliminary final win over Melbourne.

Collingwood midfield coach Robert Harvey says Grundy will be prepared for the Eagles' double-threat.

"Having known Brodie really well, he'll work that out himself," Harvey said on Thursday.

"We'll have some conversations around it but he's a very driven man. He'll come with his own plans.

"The first final they nullified him reasonably well but Brodes is pretty keen to respond this week."

Another Magpie who is certain to receive close attention from the Eagles is star midfielder Steele Sidebottom, who has been in scintillating touch throughout the finals.

West Coast tagger Mark Hutchings is a near-certainty to run with Sidebottom after restricting him to 18 touches during their most recent MCG clash.

No stranger to being tagged himself, dual Brownlow Medallist Harvey doesn't expect Hutchings to get in Sidebottom's head.

"The good thing with Sidey is he's unfazed," Harvey said.

"Whether he gets tagged or he doesn't get tagged, his output is usually pretty similar.

"His work rate is the thing that gets him through and his leadership and his hunger and desire has been massive for this group."

Collingwood trained at Olympic Park on Thursday with Harvey declaring high-flying backman Jeremy Howe a certain starter after he completed a match simulation session.

The Pies will have home-ground advantage but Harvey said the MCG would hold no fears for the Eagles, who are unbeaten at the venue this season.

"They've beaten us there, they've proven they can play at the MCG so we've got our work cut out," he said.

Australian Associated Press