Sunday’s final game sees a terrific clash of two clubs on the edge of their seasons falling away to disaster. It’s only Round 4, and both the Bulldogs and Demons are winless at the bottom of the table. Injuries and suspensions to key personnel have faulted a start to a year many believed to be one of rebirth and growth.
Both sides have bright spots in kids coming through but will also have many a dilemma at season’s end when it comes to purging their respective lists of dead-weight.
This is a huge test for both sides, with the pressure mounting on first year coaches Mark Neeld and Brendan McCartney respectively.
Both sides will also have to contend with a heightened atmosphere with the emotion that the Jim Stynes game is going to bring.
WHY SHOULD YOU TUNE IN?
Aside from this game being marked down as their final tribute to Jim Stynes; Melbourne need to prove, to not only themselves and the football world that there is something worth playing for. I haven’t seen a side so flat at Round 4. They lack confidence, run, emotion and are frustrated. Today they must rise above sheer apathy.
With the absence of key personnel for the Western Bulldogs in defence, they must move the ball and be exploit the Dogs in their weakened areas.
Lukas Markovic will be the Dogs’ match-up on Mitch Clark, and as we saw with Josh Kennedy in round 1, he is ridiculously out-favored against a taller and stronger opponent.
This leaves the midfield battle critical. Players like James Magner and Nathan Jones must find first use and win the contested ball. Melbourne have been smashed in the contested ball and must apply pressure on the Dogs’ key ball users.
The Dees have not played as a unit all year and have failed to produce second efforts at the contest and to gut run defensively.
They can leapfrog a few teams if they can pull off a solid team performance, however, they must for now just focus on winning the ball in order to get their self-confidence up.
After last week’s debacle, it is clear the Bulldogs are missing their “organized chaos” in their forward line. Liam Jones is not old or experienced enough to shoulder the burden of being the Dogs’ lone forward. Regardless of his talent, he still gets lost in traffic and will come good later rather than sooner.
Shaun Higgins must present himself consistently and grow into something soon or he may be a lost prospect.
Himself and their midfield must contribute to most of the Dogs’ scoring and they must also hit their targets inside 50 once there. After lasts week’s incredibly apathetic and haphazard attacking plays, the Dogs must redeem themselves.
Easton Wood and Jarrad Grant must show the talents they have by rebounding the ball hard and fast. Melbourne have been burned greatly on the rebound all season, and quick plays from defence would improve the Dogs’ chances of stealing their first win of 2012.
Dees have been too underwhelming and lacklustre to pick. After both the Brisbane and Richmond games, it is fair to say it will take not luck, but a hard galvanised effort from their mid-tier players to band as a group in order to respond.
Mitch Clark will cause headaches all day, but the fact the Bulldogs have too much class and experience in the middle should get them over the line.
Dogs by 11.
B:James Frawley, Jared Rivers, Clint Bartram
HB: Rohan Bail, Colin Garland, Luke Tapscott
C: Matthew Bate, Brent Moloney, Nathan Jones
HF: Jordie McKenzie, Jack Watts, Jeremy Howe
F: Tom McDonald, Mitchell Clark, Aaron Davey
Foll: Mark Jamar, James Magner, Jack Trengove
I/C: Lynden Dunn, Cale Morton, Joel Macdonald, James Sellar
Emg: Ricky Petterd, Jack Fitzpatrick, Thomas Couch
In: Brent Moloney, Joel Macdonald
Out: Jack Grimes (Suspension), Stefan Martin
B: Robert Murphy, Lukas Markovic, Dylan Addison
HB: Patrick Veszpremi, Ryan Hargrave, Easton Wood
C: Daniel Cross, Matthew Boyd, Luke Dahlhaus
HF: Daniel Giansiracusa, Liam Jones, Adam Cooney
F: Nathan Djerrkura, Ayce Cordy, Justin Sherman
Foll: William Minson, Ryan Griffen, Liam Picken
I/C: Shaun Higgins, Jarrad Grant, Jordan Roughead, Mitchell Wallis
Emg: Thomas Liberatore, Tory Dickson, Mark Austin
In: Patrick Veszpremi, Justin Sherman, Mitchell Wallis
Out: Brian Lake (Suspension), Thomas Liberatore, Clay Smith (Soreness)
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