WHERE AND WHEN: The Gabba, Sunday September 2, 4.40pm
LAST TIME: Brisbane Lions 18.6 (114) d Western Bulldogs 7.14 (56), round 13, 2012, at Etihad Stadium
The final game of the home and away season is a battle of the lesser lights, but one that is set to be important for each side despite their ladder placing.
The Brisbane Lions are coming off successive wins against the top 4 placed Crows at home and the lowly Port away, while the Western Bulldogs will want to continue the improved form they showed against Geelong at the fortress of Simonds Stadium last weekend.
The Dogs and Lions win/loss records have almost flipped from each other in 2011, with the Lions currently sitting on 9 wins (up from 4) with the Dogs on 5 (down from 9). Despite this, the Dogs are still a far more experienced side and the Lions will not want to take them lightly; if they do, they risk a chance of a shock loss and the undoing of some of their good work over the past fortnight.
The good news for the Dogs is that they fought hard against Geelong in a situation where many expected decimation. Although a 34 point loss might not sound like much to be excited about, the improvement from youngsters along with the scintillating form of Ryan Griffen and Matthew Boyd would have had Bulldogs’ fans smiling. Also promising was Adam Cooney, who’s degenerative knee condition led many to believe his career may be over, recording his highest disposal count in what was probably his best game for 2012.
The bad news is that the Lions monstered them in their previous clash this season. Away from home, Brisbane kicked 10 goals to 2 after half-time to record a 58 point victory. Midfielder Tom Rockliff had one of the best games of his career, reaching 40 disposals for the first time and booting 2 goals. He is currently carrying what looks to be a slight groin injury and has been down on form, but midfielders like Jack Redden, Andrew Raines, Daniel Rich and first year sensation Dayne Zorko have been more than adequate in stepping up to the plate.
The respective forward set-ups look to be much different this time around. Ashley McGrath and Daniel Merrett kicked 5 and 4 respectively in round 13, but McGrath is injured and Merrett has been shifted back to defense. The onus falls on Jonathan Brown, Jordan Lisle and small forward Josh Green to kick the score with assistance from the midfield. Daniel Giansiracusa was the Dogs only multiple goalkicker in the last encounter, but it looks like he will play second fiddle to Jarrad Grant after he was impressive with 3 goals against Geelong, helping the Dogs find the forward they have been screaming out for.
Another added spark to the clash is that former Bulldogs ruckman Ben Hudson may be playing his last game. At 33 it’s a flip of the coin whether the Lions can coax Hudson into going around again. If he does retire, it seems only fitting that he would do so against the team he played the bulk of his career against.
The Brisbane Lions haven’t won 3 games in a row since 2010 and will be itching to finish off 2012 with a bang.
Jarrad Grant – Can he back up his game from last week? The Dogs need a focal point and he provided one against the Cats. As a high draft pick he hasn’t come along as expected, but if he has another good game it could go a long way to helping the Dogs get an upset.
Ryan Griffen – After two gigantic games Griffen will need to fire again to give the Dogs a shot. Lions’ tagger Andrew Raines seems to be improving his shut-down efforts each game and will most likely go to Griffen as the opposition’s most damaging player. Griffen will need to shake off the tag and keep up his form at the Gabba.
Dayne Zorko – Zorko was rewarded with 10 coaches votes against Port Adelaide and with good reason. He isn’t the most elegant player in the AFL but for his size his tackling pressure, ball extraction and goal-kicking ability is titanic. He averages nearly 20 disposals and 7 tackles along with a goal a game in his first season and doesn’t seem like he’ll slow down in the final round.
Jordan Lisle – ‘Moose’ has been quiet up forward in his first few games for the Lions, but has provided a target and taken some strong marks. This is his chance to convert against a stretched Bulldogs defense which will likely be without Brian Lake.