WHERE AND WHEN: SCG, Saturday August 25, 4.40pm

LAST TIME: Sydney Swans 16.10 (106) d Hawthorn 10.9 (69), round five, 2012 at Aurora Stadium

In what looms as an absolutely mouth-watering clash of incredible importance, the Swans and the Hawks will do battle at the SCG on Saturday evening. Although we’ve seen first take on second towards the end of season as recently as Round 24 last season, unlike that game, this will be far from a dead rubber.

Last year Collingwood had top spot sewn up and summarily laid down to Geelong by 96 points. This year the stakes couldn’t be a higher. A Swans victory here sees, with their percentage, a home final firmly in their grasp and a tough first week assignment in Sydney for either the Hawks, Pies, Crows or Eagles. A Hawks victory means they take top spot and leave Sydney facing an away final in their first week due to the Crows easy run home.

For the Swans it has been a season of utter cohesiveness as a team; big improvement from their young brigade, powerful performances by their core and consistently strong performances by their veterans. They haven’t made it this far by virtue of an overly soft draw or by coasting along.

For the Hawks it’s been an up and down season, a slow start and a blitzing finish, with shock thumpings by teams like Richmond and absolute trouncings of September teams like North Melbourne. They are a force to be reckoned with on their day, which seems to be most days in 2012.

The Swans won easily by 37 points in Tasmania earlier this year, with their midfield brigade getting all over the Hawks. Josh Kennedy was sublime against his old club and his recent form doesn’t bode well for Hawthorn.

Hawthorn were sloppy against the Gold Coast Suns last weekend but did what needed to be done. Apart from that their ability to kick gigantic scores seemingly at will with their army of forwards and goal-kicking mids (and hell, back-line players like Suckling and Schoenmakers) will test any backline, even the stoic and strong one the Swans possess.

The SCG is sold out and the teams are ready. All that remains is four quarters of footy.

 Key Players:

Adam Goodes (SYD) – The Swans superstar hasn’t had his best season, but was fantastic against the Bulldogs last weekend with 22 touches and three goals. With Sam Reid available for selection the club’s new games played record holder should be able to play his roaming goal-kicking role to good effect if Hawthorn let him.

Lewis Jetta (SYD) – His status as an almost certain All-Australian is in jeporady and this is the perfect game for him to show he belongs there. After a quiet month he needs a big game and if the Hawks become pre-occupied and let him run free he will do serious damage.

Lance Franklin (HAW) – Will he or won’t he? With all the Buddy speculation aside, he needs to play this weekend. The Hawks have got it done using Schoenmakers as a target supported by Gunston, but Sydney aren’t the Port Adelaide’s or Gold Coast’s of the world.

Luke Bruest (HAW) – The Sydney rugby league product has become an incredibly consistent small forward. You can almost always rely on him to kick 2+ goals with ease and he’s capable of bigger bags along with good pressure. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Cyril Rioli is out, so one of the best small defenders in the competition, Nick Smith, will make it a very tough night for Bruest.

Prediction: Sydney by 10