Nick Davis gives his analysis of the mouthwatering Preliminary Final matchup featuring Greater Western Sydney vs Western Bulldogs. With a historical spot in the Grand Final on the line, which of these two young teams will take the next big step? We break it all down in our latest AFL Predictions.
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Greater Western Sydney
Well, what can’t we say about these young guns this year. They have continued to impress as they showed fans around the league all year that they indeed can compete well into September, and that is exactly what they are doing. With strong performances from their entire midfield line-up and excellent leadership from the veterans on the side, the Giants now look to press into the 2016 Grand Final, something I bet you wouldn’t hear about this team in at least another 3 years. Nevertheless, the young, energised men in orange will put absolutely everything they can into winning this matchup against a surging Western Bulldogs side.
Again, we have another young team pushing much further into September than we thought. As the Bulldogs finished 7th at the end of the season, every match for them was do-or-die. However, despite matching up against sides like West Coast at home and Hawthorn at the MCG, the young Doggies have been undefeated so far. Now, they must take on this surging Giants midfield and the efficient gameplay they have shown so much of this September. If the Bulldogs can beat the back-to-back premiers in Hawthorn, this matchup shouldn’t be any harder.
Head to Head this Year
Round 9: Spotless Stadium – GWS by 25
These two teams have only met once this year, and that was back in Round 9 when the Giants edged out the Bulldogs by 25 points at Spotless Stadium. GWS half-back and key veteran Heath Shaw totalled 38 possessions in an absolutely scorching game, while Bulldogs young gun Marcus Bontempelli also finished above 30 possessions. Two dissimilar players having two very similar impacts on the game always interested me in this one, and can’t help but wonder if a same story will be told on Saturday at twilight. GWS key forward Jeremy Cameron finally stepped up in this game after struggling for the first part of the season as he kicked five goals off seven attempts. On the other hand, however, the Bulldogs did what they do best and spread the goals across their entire forward line and most of their midfielders. Dickson, Jong, McLean and Lachie Hunter all finished on two goals for the game, as the other two team goals were scored also but forwards Tom Campbell and Jake Stringer. An interesting matchup here, obviously leaning towards the Giants. Nevertheless, expect a completely different matchup here as both teams are hungry for a shot at the trophy next week, and want nothing more than to become one of the youngest sides in history to do so.
Particularly in this matchup, I love whoever Callan Ward will be matched up with. At the moment, we could be looking at Mitch Wallis for the Western Bulldogs, however I would not be surprised if coach Luke Beveridge notices Ward’s September production of late and proceeds to tag him with either Liam Picken or Tom Liberatore. Either way, this matchup will be so interesting, as it creates a player-on-player battle within the middle that will make it extremely hard to get the ball out cleanly, creating a scrappy contest.
The next key matchup would definitely have to be Jeremy Cameron, who will probably be faced against Joel Hamling. Cameron will be looking to make an impact from the first siren, so matching him up with as much experience and skill as you can will be the first thing on the Bulldogs staff’s minds.
The final key matchup will be probably the most important in my opinion. All year, I’ve been talking about Marcus Bontempelli and the absolutely stellar year he’s been having. He has averaged 25 disposals a game, while also averaging 4 marks, 5 tackles and even a goal. With this in mind, he is a 6 foot 3 midfielder that has turns 21 years old in November.. These yearly averages are unheard of from such a player, and I have been loving it since round 1. In September for the Bulldogs, the Bont has played crucial roles in the victories they have amassed, totalling 27 disposals and 2 goals against Hawthorn last week and totalling 21 disposals and 1 goal against West Coast the week before. This week, he will definitely be matched up against either Tom Scully or Ryan Griffen, both formidable matchups. Whoever this matchup entails, I can guarantee you that it will be the most exciting on the field, and I can’t wait!
Where the Match will be Won
Easily said, but not so easily done. If you asked me which of the 18 teams in the league I think are the quickest, most fast-paced sides, it wouldn’t have taken me 5 seconds to pick both the Giants and the Bulldogs. With that being said, this matchup will be won in the middle. Regardless of whether or not the forwards are kicking straight or the backs are defending to their potential, this game will be played in the middle and every matchup will be crucial. Each of the two teams here has very similar midfield talent, in the sense that they are young, quick, efficient ball players. The key matchups here will play extremely crucial roles in deciding who gets out in front and who can maintain the lead for four quarters. Nevertheless, expect a big game in the middle this Saturday.
As you all know, I absolutely love the Bulldogs. They aren’t my official team, but who can’t love the poise, composure and excitement they’ve played with all year. And, after a win like that against Hawthorn last week, this prediction should be easy. However, the match will be played at Spotless Stadium, and any fan this year knows that the Giants have established their fortress at this very ground. In 2016, all of the sudden, travelling to play the Giants almost seemed impossible. However, they are still a young side, and young sides make mistakes. The Giants, on the other hand, have every ingredient in their game to win this. Their fast-paced gameplay and their efficiency through the middle has been extraordinary to say the least. This prediction is an extremely tough one, as these young sides have a tendency to play big when they need it the most. The Giants have looked amazing all September, however I believe that it is not their time yet. The pressure of playing elite football in the Preliminary finals, I believe, will hit them hard on Saturday, and if the Bulldogs can take advantage of this, then we could see a blue and white final next week.
Western Bulldogs by 8