The Western Bulldogs are now a club in transition. Their successive defeats in preliminary finals in 2008 to 2010 was as close as they would get to ending their premiership drought. The 2010 Nab Cup was their first competition win of any sort since 1970 and the only thing to show for their golden era.
Now after a disastrous 2011 season that cost Rodney Eade his job they are looking down the barrel of finishing only above Melbourne and the two new teams with just five wins to their name in 2012.
They come into this game having lost their past nine games by an average of ten goals, and getting flogged in their second halves. They also saw a pair of 200-game defenders in Lindsay Gilbee and Ryan Hargraves announce their retirements at season end. It’s all about building for the future at Whitten Oval.
Geelong on the other hand have proven evergreen. They come into this match having won four of their past five games and sitting in seventh place, causing the rest of the competition to look over their shoulder and hoping to avoid them in September.
The Cats may use the game to allow Billie Smedts, Allen Christensen and Travis Varco to return from injury. Taylor Hunt should play despite a broken nose and Trent West should be moving freely after getting through his first game back from a knee injury unscathed, which is good news as back up ruckman Orren Stephenson may miss another week after hand surgery.
The Dogs have unearthed a potential forward option in defender Dylan Addison, who pushed forward and in tandem with Tory Dickson, himself amassing some impressive performances in his debut season, kicked seven goals against the Swans between them.
Ryan Griffen was phenomenal against the Swans, with a record 47 disposals, and Matty Boyd was as brave as ever. Jason Johannisen and the splendidly coiffed Lin Jong had a real go and were enjoying the challenge against the Swans, but will learn even more given another crack this week.
Liam Jones and Jarrad Grant have been impressing for Williamstown and may earn a call up and Will Minson sidestepped his stomping charge and is free to play.
The Cats Tom Hawkins has stamped himself as a big time forward in recent weeks, and his absence after landing awkwardly early was a contributing factor in his side’s only loss in recent times to West Coast, in their loss before that against Collingwood in round 16, he was held to only one goal.
The Cats depth has proven a luxury late in the season, with a relatively skinny injury list and players, including Cameron Guthrie and George Horlin-Smith, pressing for positions thanks to their VFL team winning the past nine straight, they are perfectly poised for another flag tilt. The spread of talent and even contribution of the side evident with the fact that only three players didn’t reach double figures in disposals against the Saints, and despite Hawkins staring with six majors, there were seven other goal kickers. The Dogs however are left to throw young players in the deep end and hope they kick enough to stay afloat.
Expect the Dogs to start strongly, as they had done in previous matches – particularly with coach Brendan McArtney returning to his old stomping ground – and the emotion surrounding the recent retirement announcements. Bulldog fans should indeed soak up the first half, as the team proved last week they can match it for two quarters against the top sides, but would be best advised to make some appointments from about 2:30pm Sunday onwards, as it could get ugly after half time.
Geelong by 67.