We are set for an intriguing match on Saturday night as the Western Bulldogs are back under the roof against Richmond in a game where both sides will be keen to get back onto the winners' list after disappointing losses in the previous round.
The reigning premiers looked at their best last week against fellow premiership aspirants Greater Western Sydney in terms of their intensity around the ball and the way they quickly move the ball up the ground is slowly returning to its glorious best. But the Dogs shot themselves out of four premiership points with horrendous goal-kicking, kicking only nine goals from 68 inside-50 entries, as the Giants took home the chocolates by two points.
The Tigers have enjoyed a fantastic start to the year, winning their first five games of the year before being given a harsh reality check by another premiership contender in Adelaide at Adelaide Oval. Despite being competitive early and leading at quarter-time, the Crows flicked the switch during the second quarter and completely obliterated the Tigers, handing the yellow and black army their first loss of 2017, running home 76-point winners.
Richmond's form this year has been very interesting to try and dissect. They were at times considered absolute rubbish last year with a list that had made three consecutive finals' campaigns. Last year they were the last-ranked AFL side in tackles, but this year have seen them jump up to third in the league after six rounds, but like last year, the Tigers are the worst-ranked side in the league for disposals so far in 2017.
Experts will say they haven't really beaten anybody of any relevance, having beaten Carlton, Collingwood, Brisbane, Melbourne and a West Coast team that can't win in Melbourne. But they will line themselves up for this game against the reigning premiers as one they can win, the last time these two teams played off, the Bulldogs barely escaped Etihad Stadium with the win.
The Western Bulldogs have won their past three games against the Tigers and have won 11 of their past 16 contests since 2005. Will the Bulldogs continue to have their way with the Tigers come Saturday night? A win will keep them in touch with the top four, with competition for spots in the eight already sizzling up, both sides need this win.
Another loss for the Dogs could have them outside of the eight at the conclusion of round seven. Another loss for the Tigers means they will almost certainly lose their spot in the top four, given that fifth-placed Port Adelaide plays sixth-placed West Coast in Adelaide this weekend.
IN: Matthew Boyd
OUT: Bailey Dale (Omitted)
B: Matthew Boyd, Fletcher Roberts, Jason Johannisen
HB: Easton Wood, Marcus Adams, Robert Murphy
C: Lachie Hunter, Luke Dahlhaus, Jack Macrae
HF: Caleb Daniel, Jake Stringer, Clay Smith
F: Lin Jong, Zaine Cordy, Liam Picken
FOL: Tom Boyd, Marcus Bontempelli, Tom Liberatore
INT: Matthew Suckling, Toby McLean, Josh Dunkley, Bailey Williams
EMG: Tom Campbell, Lukas Webb, Bailey Dale
The Western Bulldogs have made only the one unforced change, bringing back Matthew Boyd into the side after he was rested for last Friday night's game. He will replace Bailey Dale, who I thought showed a lot of promise last week, particularly in the first half, but I think it was his inability to finish off the game that costed him his spot this week, as he did look a bit tired by the time the fourth quarter rolled by.
A very interesting decision to leave out Tom Campbell after he was a late omission in last week's game against the Giant due to ankle soreness, leaving Tom Boyd to be the sole ruckman for the second weekend running. In more pleasing news for the reigning premiers, Tory Dickson and Mitch Wallis returned from injury in the VFL with resounding performances last Friday night, Jack Redpath will come back in the VFL this weekend in his first game since tearing his ACL against St. Kilda late last year, the same game that Wallis broke his leg and the duo of Dale Morris (Leg) and Stewart Crameri (Hip) to return in the next fortnight.
IN: Todd Elton, Anthony Miles, Ivan Soldo, Corey Ellis
OUT: Reece Conca (Foot), Toby Nankervis (Suspension), Dion Prestia (Hamstring), Steven Morris (Omitted)
B: Alex Rance, David Astbury, Dylan Grimes
HB: Jayden Short, Bachar Houli, Brandon Ellis
C: Jason Castagna, Josh Caddy, Shaun Grigg
HF: Daniel Rioli, Nick Vlaustuin, Dan Butler
F: Dustin Martin, Jack Riewoldt, Kamdyn McIntosh
FOL: Todd Elton, Trent Cotchin, Anthony Miles
INT: Kane Lambert, Oleg Markov, Ivan Soldo, Corey Ellis
EMG: Sam Lloyd, Taylor Hunt, Steven Morris
Richmond have made four changes, with three of those being forced changes. Their number one ruckman Toby Nankervis will miss a week due to striking Adelaide's David Mackay, Reece Conca will be out for what could be a considerable amount of time after injuring the Lisfranc joint in his foot - this was the same injury that forced Dane Swan into retirement last year, whilst ex-Gold Coast midfielder Dion Prestia will miss this week with a hamstring complaint. Steven Morris is the club's fourth omission this week, dropped after his first game of 2017 last week against Adelaide.
The Tigers have named both Todd Elton and Ivan Soldo in to fill the void left by Nankervis, with the latter named for his AFL debut. The 21-year old Soldo, is the cousin of fellow Tiger Ivan Maric and was signed on by Richmond as a Category B rookie in 2014 and has enjoyed success developing as a ruckman. Also coming into the team for Saturday night include 17-game veteran Corey Ellis and midfielder Anthony Miles, both in for their first games of 2017.
Recent History (Past 10 Meetings)
Round 16, 2016 - Etihad Stadium: Western Bulldogs 12.13.85 def Richmond 11.9.75
Round 2, 2015 - Melbourne Cricket Ground: Richmond 9.12.66 def by Western Bulldogs 12.13.85
Round 3, 2014 - Etihad Stadium: Western Bulldogs 15.10.100 def Richmond 15.8.98
Round 13, 2013 - Etihad Stadium: Western Bulldogs 8.13.61 def by Richmond 17.19.121
Round 3, 2013 - Etihad Stadium: Richmond 20.15.135 def Western Bulldogs 10.8.68
Round 20, 2012 - Melbourne Cricket Ground: Richmond 22.18.150 def Western Bulldogs 12.8.80
Round 8, 2011 - Etihad Stadium: Western Bulldogs 23.15.153 def Richmond 18.10.118
Round 2, 2010 - Melbourne Cricket Ground: Richmond 7.6.48 def by Western Bulldogs 17.18.120
Round 11, 2009 - Etihad Stadium: Richmond 14.5.89 def by Western Bulldogs 24.13.157
Round 3, 2009 - Etihad Stadium: Western Bulldogs 16.14.110 def Richmond 8.15.63
Players To Watch
He leads all the Bulldogs in disposals per game so far in 2017, I don't think I've ever seen Luke Dahlhaus in hotter form than he is right now. He is averaging career-highs in disposals (Just under 28 per game), contested possessions (Just under 13 per game) and rebound 50s (two per game) as well as averaging five tackles, three clearances and three inside 50s per game in 2017. He's amongst one of the club's hardest workers, but has had a pretty ordinary history against the Tigers, averaging only 16 disposals in four games.
It might be a little harsh, given that he's only played 20 games in his short career, but I'm putting the spotlight on second-year premiership player Josh Dunkley to respond after a horrendous evening in front of the big sticks last Friday night. Four behinds could've been a bag of goals and a crucial component in a big Bulldogs win against the Giants, but he's part of their goal-kicking struggles so far this year. I'm backing him in to bounce back with a couple of goals this week.
The 2016 season was the first time since the 2009 season that Jack Riewoldt kicked under 50 goals for the season, but this year he looks to have regained a little bit of form, kicking 16 goals in the first six games of the year, and has got a bit of form against the Bulldogs, kicking 32.19 in 11 contests, that's an average of nearly three goals a game. A couple of years ago, he spurred the Tigers from a 37-point half time deficit against the Dogs to nearly pinch it at the death. He's one that can turn a contest in the blink of an eye.
Martin started the 2017 season like a house on fire, accumulating possessions at will and stepping up to kick goals when required, but the last couple of weeks have seen his form taper off just a little bit, he was well below his lofty standards against Brisbane a few weeks ago, and last week against the Crows, he didn't impact the games as heavily as he did earlier in the year. Dogs fans will be well aware of how dangerous this man is in the midfield - he recorded 38 disposals and was Richmond's best player in the last encounter between these two sides.
It's going to be a hard one to predict here, as I reckon Richmond are a much better side in comparison to last season.
If the Dogs can display that same amount of intensity that they displayed for four quarters last Friday against the Giants, then I think that should see them through for their fifth win of the year, but it's whether or not the Dogs brushed up on their goal-kicking practice during the week that will get me intrigued, they can't afford another game that allows them only nine goals from over 60 inside 50s.
The Tigers are going to be up and about for this game, after being handed a lesson by the white-hot Crows, but I'm going to back the Dogs at home, I think the midfield power is going to be too much, and if Bontempelli, Dahlhaus, Macrae and company get going early, they're going to be hard to stop, but the Tigers can win if they can get their 'Mosquito Fleet' of Rioli, Castagna and Butler working well with Riewoldt as the focal point.
Western Bulldogs By 21 Points
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