Sydney v Western Bulldogs | Saturday, October 1, 2.30pm (AEDT), MCG, Melbourne
Both sides have an anxious wait to see if key players will be fit for the big one on Saturday afternoon.
The Swans badly need at least one of Aliir Aliir (knee), Callum Mills (hamstring) or Jarrad McVeigh (calf) to be fit to provide direction in defence
McVeigh and Mills will be particularly handy against the small, mobile Bulldogs forwards.
The Bulldogs will be hoping rising ruckman Jordan Roughead will get over his bung eye to combat the dual rucking threat of Sam Naismith and Kurt Tippett.
Otherwsie, the young million dollar forward Tom Boyd (pictured above) will perhaps do the bulk of the work again as he did against the Giants where he caused a mess at the stoppages and reduced the effectiveness of Shane Mumford.
The most likely option though would be the recall of long time ruckman Will Minson who showed good form in last weekend’s VFL Grand Final.
Also of concern is the ‘Wonder Boot’ from Wagga, Matt Suckling who is battling a dodgy Achilles.
His accurate long left boot would be very handy in breaking down Sydney’s zone defence, but lately he has lacked mobility when the ball is at ground level and coach Luke Beveridge may well overlook him even if he proves his fitness.
Midfielder Lin Jong (pictured above), who broke his right collarbone in the Dogs’ elimination final against the Eagles, is possible inclusion in the Bulldogs side after making a successful return from injury in Footscray’s VFL Grand Final victory over Casey.
Toby McLean replaced him for the Hawthorn semi-final win and he would appear to be the one to make way for the Jongster if coach Luke Beveridge decided to bring him back.
Jong was awarded the Norm Goss Medal for being the best player in the VFL decider after recording 29 touches, nine marks, six inside 50s and four clearances.
Swans players though, won’t be fooled by any taping around his left collarbone after Footscray medical staff cleverly taped the healthy side to fool Casey players into targeting the wrong shoulder.
The Bulldogs hold a decision over the Swans this year with an after the siren goal from Johannisen at the SCG in round 15.
The Swans didn’t kick accurately that day and the Bulldogs did. The game was a statistical dead heat with 391 disposals to 392 and 1650 team ranking points to 1662.
The teams will be about the same apart from the addition of Sydney’s Kurt Tippett who is slowly finding form after a long injury lay off.
He will compliment Buddy Franklin up front who is in superb form.
Against Geelong, Franklin’s field kicking and passing to his teammates in goal scoring position was outstanding. Plus he banged through a couple of long range goals himself for good measure.
Sydney’s small defenders Dean Rampe and Nick Smith are well equipped to mark Jake Stringer and Tory Dickson while at the other end Dale Morris, Matthew Boyd and Joel Hamling have been going great guns against all types of forwards.
They shut down the big, tall marking forwards of the West Coast before stopping the small running forwards of Hawthorn.
Both sides have stingy defences with the Swans giving up on average 68 points per game and the Bulldogs’ 73.
The Swans midfield of Dan Hannebery, Tom Mitchell, Josh Kennedy, Luke Parker (pictured above) and Kieran Jack appear to have a slight edge over the young Bulldog outfit lead by Marcus Bontempelli.
He’ll be assisted by Caleb Daniel, Luke Dahlhaus, Tom Liberatore and Jackson Macrae who all win their own ball and are in great form.
They’ll provide a ferocious contest at the stoppages and for the loose ball in general play and turn the game into a dockside brawl.
Whichever midfield group wins this brawl, will win the game.
We have mentioned the x-factor provided by Lance Franklin, but who at the Bulldogs can provide something extra to trip up the Swans march towards a premiership?
Perhaps that man could be Jason Johannisen whose run of half-back could be a game breaker as it was against GWS in the prelim final.
If Johannisen finds form at the right time, it’ll be up to the Swans defenders to scramble to get into position often enough to limit any damage done.
Swans to have just enough scoring power to scrape home.
OFFER: Grab a $300 Unibet Bonus
Sydney at $1.57
Western Bulldogs at $2.45
Last time they met: Rd.15, 2016 – Sydney 79 lost to Western Bulldogs 83
Tip: Sydney at $1.57
Line tip: Western Bulldogs +10.5
Norm Smith Medal
Dan Hannebery 8.00, Josh Kennedy 8.50, Lance Franklin 9.00, Luke Parker 10.00, Tom Mitchell 14.00, Isaac Heeney 17.00, Kurt Tippett 21.00, Kieren Jack 26.00, Ben McGlynn 31.00
Tip: Dan Hannebery
B Jake Lloyd, Heath Grundy, Nick Smith
HB Callum Mills, Jeremy Laidler, Dane Rampe
C Kieren Jack, Josh P. Kennedy, Jarrad McVeigh
HF Tom Mitchell, Lance Franklin, Luke Parker
F Tom Papley, Kurt Tippett, Ben McGlynn
FOLL Sam Naismith, Dan Hannebery, Isaac Heeney
I/C Gary Rohan, Zak Jones, George Hewett, Xavier Richards
EMG Harry Cunningham, Toby Nankervis, Harrison Marsh
IN Callum Mills, Jarrad McVeigh
OUT Harrison Marsh (Omitted), Aliir Aliir (Knee)
B Jason Johannisen, Joel Hamling, Matthew Boyd
HB Shane Biggs, Dale Morris, Easton Wood
C Lachie Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli, Liam Picken
HF Jack Macrae, Zaine Cordy, Jake Stringer
F Tory Dickson, Tom Boyd, Clay Smith
FOLL Jordan Roughead, Luke Dahlhaus, Tom Liberatore
I/C Toby McLean, Fletcher Roberts, Josh Dunkley, Caleb Daniel
EMG Matthew Suckling, Tom Campbell, Lin Jong