ROSS Lyon and Alastair Clarkson have always loved a stoush.
While neither set the world on fire as players, both were fiery customers on the field.
Lyon was an uncompromising half-back who played 128 games for Fitzroy and two for the Brisbane Bears, and had a genuine liking for the old-fashioned bump.
Clarkson, a 171cm midfielder, represented North Melbourne in 93 games and Melbourne in 41, but his most famous appearance was in an exhibition match for the Roos in London in 1987 when one of his 'touches' was a fist to the jaw of Carlton's Ian Aitken.
Both have a take-no-crap attitude that has come to fore during their time as coaches - particularly during press conferences. Ask the wrong question and a reporter may find themselves in the firing line.
But, unless it's an attack on a wall in one of the coaches' boxes at the MCG, these days they are forced to live out the real physical stuff through the players who embody their thirst for the contest - and who will go to war for them in tomorrow 's grand final.
The AFL reminded all this week that players face the prospect of copping double demerit points for any charges stemming from the grand final. But it's unlikely to stop them going hell for leather - and man if he's in the way - to achieve the ultimate success.
In what promises to be a brutal encounter, don't be surprised if Lyon or Clarkson pull a Malcolm Blight and request a 'special delivery'. Lyon's own attack dog, tagger Ryan Crowley, will be the Hawks' No.1 target as they try to protect their best ball-winner Sam Mitchell, followed by serial pest Hayden Ballantyne, who Clarkson will most likely give Brent Guerra the challenge of trying to swat.
Then there are potential match-winners in Lance Franklin and Nat Fyfe who may need to be put out of business.
Their competitive edge - along with brilliant tactical minds - have made Lyon and Clarkson arguably the best two coaches in the league (under the age of 60, anyway), but both need to be holding the cup aloft tomorrow to solidify their standing among the greats.
Lyon could have been an engineer in another life. He transforms his teams into well-oiled machines - every player a vital cog he has performing at their best.
With a 64.5% winning record over his five seasons at St Kilda, Lyon was its most successful coach from a win-loss perspective, with defence the hallmark of its game. Under Lyon, the Saints conceded an average 64 points a game in 2009 and 73 in 2010.
Just as he did at St Kilda, within two years of arriving in late 2011 he has turned Fremantle into the hardest side to score against. The Dockers have conceded a league-low average of 69 points per game in 2013. Ten of the 14 lowest scores they have ever conceded have come in the last two seasons.
Lyon's winning strike rate is now at 66% in 169 games, which ranks him behind only Dick Reynolds (67%) and Jock McHale (66%) of those who have coached 150 matches or more. That pair though had 11 premierships between them. With two grand final defeats (2009, 2010) and a draw (2010), Lyon is still searching for his first.
This season Clarkson became only the third man behind John Kennedy Snr and Allan Jeans to coach the Hawks in 200 games. He remains well short of their three flags each, however.
He was lucky enough to win one with the Hawks in his fourth season at the helm. But there is little doubt they should have also have had the one that they began planning for in 2004 - scheduled for around 2011-2012 - and not the one that has the stigma of being pinched from Geelong in 2008.
Clarkson has built a powerhouse with a star-studded playing list largely hand-picked by himself via the draft or from rival clubs - only Luke Hodge, Sam Mitchell and Brad Sewell were at the club before he arrived - but four unsuccessful finals campaigns in a row will not sit well with him. It could be interesting at the press conference of whichever coach loses tomorrow.
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