Where: Etihad Stadium, 7.50pm, Satuday 30th June
TV: Channel 7 and Fox Sports 1 from 7.30pm
Radio: ABC774, 3AW, Triple M
Odds: Essendon $1.22, Western Bulldogs $4.50, Line Bulldogs +28.5
Essendon take on the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium, and the battle of the midfields will be something to see. The Bulldogs’ captain Matthew Boyd continues to be in rare form, with support from Ryan Griffen, Daniel Cross and rising gun Tom Liberatore: the Dogs have a relatively strong midfield. But up against the stars of Jobe Watson, the consistent running of Brent Stanton and the shutdown skill of Heath Hocking, they will face a tough task at Etihad Stadium.
This midfield battle extends further, with both Essendon and the Bulldogs effectively running eight-man midfields. Interestingly, Nathan Lovett-Murray has been named in the midfield, however, Lovett-Murray has been either the starting substitute or given the red vest in four of his nine games in 2012, and as a result has often struggled to get involved in games against quality opposition. The loss of Angus Monfries to injury has forced this in-side upgrade, and Lovett-Murray’s performance will be one to watch.
On the Bulldogs’ side, the inclusion of Ryan Hargrave and Lukas Markovic gives the Dogs defensive strength against an Essendon forward line that will aim to deliver once more to Michael Hurley, Stuart Crameri and Paddy Ryder, all of whom performed well against Fremantle last week. The performance of Brian Lake once again looms as critical: if Lake can shut down both Hurley and provide rebound on half-back it will go a long way towards the Dogs coming away with a win.
However, the critical concern for the Bulldogs can and should be their continued makeshift forward line. The loss of Daniel Giansiracusa to a foot injury amplifies the problem, with the attacking responsibilities left to young Tom Campbell for the Dogs. It’s hardly an ideal situation, but the delivery of Liam Jones, Shaun Higgins in his 100th game and the makeshift forwards of Campbell and Jordan Roughead will be key, but their tall forwards also leaves them open to exposure by the pacey rebound of the Bombers’ midfield.
The Dons will simply have too much, and their defensive unit will be strong.
Essendon by 37.
B: Michael Hibberd, Dustin Fletcher, Cale Hooker
HB: Kyle Hardingham, Jake Carlisle, Dyson Heppell
C: Courtenay Dempsey, Jobe Watson, Heath Hocking
HF: Stewart Crameri, Patrick Ryder, David Myers
F: Kyle Reimers, Michael Hurley, Ben Howlett
Foll: David Hille, Brent Stanton, Nathan Lovett-Murray
I/C: Sam Lonergan, Leroy Jetta, Jake Melksham, Cory Dell’Olio
Emg: Ricky Dyson, Tom Bellchambers, Elliott Kavanagh
B: Ryan Hargrave, Brian Lake, Dylan Addison
HB: Robert Murphy, Lukas Markovic, Easton Wood
C: Daniel Cross, Matthew Boyd, Christian Howard
HF: Shaun Higgins, Liam Jones, Adam Cooney
F: Jordan Roughead, Tom Campbell, Liam Picken
Foll: William Minson, Ryan Griffen, Clay Smith
I/C: Justin Sherman, Thomas Liberatore, Luke Dahlhaus, Tory Dickson
Emg: Lindsay Gilbee, Ayce Cordy, Mark Austin