Blindside Sport takes a look at the Elimination Final between the Western Bulldogs and Adelaide. With both teams returning to the finals, who has what it takes to step up and win their way through to the second week? Find out everything in our latest AFL Predictions!
Last five matches: LWLWW
Round 23: l. Brisbane by 8
Round 22: d. North Melbourne by 23
Round 21: l. West Coast by 77
Round 20: d. Melbourne by 98
Round 19: d. Port Adelaide by 64
Despite a surprise loss in Round 23 to Brisbane, the Western Bulldogs would be confident of their form heading into the finals. Their defeat of North Melbourne a week earlier showed exactly where they are at – arguably alongside Richmond as potential breakthrough challengers in 2016. Big wins over Melbourne and Port Adelaide cemented their spot in this position, but a loss to West Coast proved costly. It is the loss that also gives the biggest indicator of what could happen in the finals. A young and inexperienced side like the Bulldogs are going to struggle on the road, and with another potential matchup against the Eagles in the second week of the finals looming, you hope they will get the chance to redeem themselves. Make no mistake, the Dogs are a surprise finalist in 2015, but with big wins throughout the year over quality opposition, their position in the eight is well deserved.
Last five matches: LWWWW
Round 23: l. Geelong by 39
Round 22: d. West Coast by 57
Round 21: d. Brisbane by 87
Round 20: d. Essendon by 112
Round 19: d. Richmond by 36
Adelaide has had an impressive run to the finals. Disregarding last week’s loss to Geelong, this has been a flawless build up. Big wins over Brisbane and Essendon were expected, but the way in which they took apart West Coast and Richmond caught everyone’s attention. While both of these matches were at home, convincing wins over two very strong sides indicates that this side has the potential to make some waves in September. Unfortunately for them though, playing on the road throughout the whole finals series may just be their undoing, especially with trips to Perth or Sydney looming. Adelaide possesses a very talented list that can go far in the finals. Their press is almost impossible to break through if completely on song, and with so many options up forward, they are exceptionally difficult to match up on.
Last Time They Met
Round 4: Western Bulldogs by 57
Considering where both teams ended up at the end of the home-and-away season, this match was one of the more interesting of the season. After breaking away early with a six goal to one first quarter, the Western Bulldogs were never seriously challenged. Playing their usual fast-paced style, the Dogs completely blew apart the Adelaide press, resulting in rapid movement into their forward 50 that generated a whopping 35 shots on goal. Against a side that gave up on average 87 points a match, this was absolutely devastating. It wasn’t just the outside run that was impressive though, with the Dogs laying 71 tackles and gathering 143 contested possessions in hard fought stoppage situations. Jake Stringer was best on ground booting six goals, while the usual midfield suspects like Liam Picken, Luke Dahlhaus, Jack Macrae and Matthew Boyd all had strong games. Scott Thompson was the only Crows player with a decent match, gathering 38 disposals (21 contested) and 11 clearances.
Jake Stringer vs Daniel Tahlia
This presents as the biggest headache for Adelaide, with the in-form Bulldogs forward kicking six goals on them in their last match. In a real bash and crash in Round 4, Stringer snagged his goals all before three-quarter time before being subbed off once the match was sewn up. Kyle Hartigan started on him early, but the more experienced defender Tahlia was switched onto him. If he’s allowed this sort of freedom then the Crows won’t win – simple as that. Tahlia must also rely on the Adelaide defence to clog up the Bulldogs’ run through the ground. This was painfully evident in Round 4, giving the Dogs those 35 opportunities on goal.
Eddie Betts vs Jason Johannisen
The livewire Eddie Betts is capable of anything on his day, so small forward tagger Jason Johannisen has a big task on Saturday. His position at third in the Coleman medal is indicative of how threatening he is. Usually a small forward goes in and out of rounds, kicking four or five one round and then nothing for a few weeks. Betts has been on fire in 2015 though, kicking at least one goal in every match this year. Locking down on his is crucial for the Dogs, so expect Johannisen to play a tighter role than he usually does. Johannisen’s usual role involves a little freedom to run off half back, average close to 20 disposals a match. His run is quite crucial to his team, so it will be an interesting case of picking his opportunities without threatening the defensive structure for the Dogs.
Patrick Dangerfield vs Mitch Wallis
The two premier contested ball winners for each club, Dangerfield and Wallis have a big role in setting the standard for their team in this clash. With the expected upping in intensity for a finals match someone has to lead the way. Dangerfield is arguably the best contested player in the league, so Wallis will have a tough job in matching him. Wallis missed the Round 4 clash, but his fellow midfield crew were able to bring the heat, with five players in double digit contested ball numbers. Adding in Wallis to this matchup for a final will be a big boost and could even be the difference late in the match.
Where the Match will be Won
Adelaide press vs Western Bulldogs rebound
This match promises to be exciting for so many reasons, but the battle between the two in this area will be intriguing. Adelaide’s press shocked the AFL world in Round 1 this year, playing a brand that hadn’t been seen since Fremantle’s effort over Sydney in the 2013 Preliminary Final. There was no escape from it with hard hitting and accountable play in the forward 50 preventing any quick escape for a defensive unit. Enter the Western Bulldogs in Round 4. At 3-0 to start the season, the Crows’ press was completely destroyed by the hard running of the Dogs. A style like this requires a supreme level of fitness as well as crisp fundamentals – any breakdown in possession destroys this rebound and is eventually swallowed up by the press. The danger in this matchup for Adelaide is their press breaking down – the exact reason for the blowout in Round 4. The hard running from the Dogs caught them out here, so look for the Crows to bring their best defensive effort on Saturday.
This will be a ferocious match around the stoppages. The Dogs have always had this sort of mentality but now with more potency across the field, the work isn’t gone unnoticed. Adelaide too struggled with consistency last year and for some time at the start of this year, but after settling into their season their game is in full flight. Both teams are littered with contested possession players with Liam Picken, Luke Dahlhaus, Jack Macrae, Koby Stevens and Mitch Wallis suiting up for the Dogs, while Patrick Dangerfield, Rory Sloane, Scott Thompson and Richard Douglas will bring the heat from the Crows. Who has the advantage though? The Crows do average around four contested possession more per game, but both teams sit in the top six in the league. The experience of the Crows players is undeniable though and with many Bulldogs’ players playing their first final can they step up?
This is an extremely tough matchup to predict a winner. Both teams are arguably on the same level and have areas that can work to their advantage. The big difference in this match however is experience. Many of the Adelaide players have played finals before and know what to expect. This will be led by the impressive midfield that should be able to maintain higher intensity for longer. The firepower up forward is also quite hard to ignore – with so many options, it’s hard to see the Bulldogs containing every threat on goal.
Adelaide by 8