WHERE AND WHEN: Sydney Cricket Ground, Saturday July 2, 4.35pm (AEST)
RECENT HISTORY: The Western Bulldogs won the most recent encounter between these two sides in round five last year at the SCG – a victory that signaled to the AFL world that they were a team on the rise. However, prior to that the Swans had won six in succession against the Bulldogs.
FORM: These two sides headed into the bye in vastly different fashion. Sydney recorded a resounding 55-point win over Melbourne to consolidate their position in the top four, while the Dogs were given a football lesson by Geelong, trounced to the tune of 57 points. That result came on the back of a narrow win over an inconsistent Port Adelaide outfit. A win on Saturday is an absolute must for Luke Beveridge’s men if they’re going to remain in the hunt for a top-four finish.
KEY PLAYERS: Lance Franklin (Sydney Swans)
Since returning from mental health issues that plagued him in 2015, Franklin has been the epitome of consistency in 2016, averaging 3.6 goals per game to be second in the Coleman Medal race. In Sydney’s most recent win over the Bulldogs in round 22, 2014, Franklin starred with six goals in a performance that earned him two Brownlow Medal votes. Given the small confines of the SCG, the midfield battle becomes of even greater importance. If the Bulldogs are going to have any hope of containing the Franklin juggernaut, they need to be at the top of their game at close quarters as they come up against the best contested ball side in the League, and be manic in their tackling when they’re not in possession of the football.
Liam Picken (Western Bulldogs)
Instrumental in the Bulldogs’ upset win over the Swans with 33 possessions in a display that saw him rewarded with two Brownlow medal votes, Picken will be a key player once again on Saturday. Adept at winning the ball in contested situations and applying pressure, as indicated by the 12 tackles he applied in the most recent clash between these two sides, Picken will need to be switched on at the stoppages to ensure the Dogs’ forwards get ample supply.
OUTCOME: The Western Bulldogs will head into this clash high on confidence after what transpired in the last outing between these two teams, however, their misfiring forward line is of concern. Their leading goal-kicker in 2016, Jake Stringer, has struggled in recent times, managing a meagre six goals in his past five appearances. With the Swans’ midfield led by contested ball beasts Josh Kennedy and Dan Hannebery – who both collected 28 disposals in the win over the Demons – Stringer and company face an uphill battle in getting sufficient supply to have a meaningful impact on the contest. Swans by 33 points.