Where and when: Marvel Stadium, Saturday March 23, 7:25pm
Last time they met: Marvel Stadium, round four, 2018: Western Bulldogs 11.13 (79) lost to Sydney 13.8 (86)
Oliver Florent announced himself with a daring run and goal under severe pressure to seal a thrilling win for the Swans. Lance Franklin was pivotal in a fiery match that started with a bang, as the Dogs targeted Dan Hannebery and Josh Kennedy pre-bounce.
What it means for the Western Bulldogs: An 82-point loss to GWS in the opening round last season demoralised the Dogs and another belting at the hands of West Coast a week later all but sapped any remaining hopes. They simply have to set the right tone in 2019.
What it means for Sydney: It’s strange to say a club that has made finals nine seasons in a row has a point to prove, but many are predicting the demise of this group of Swans. Extra motivation?
How the Western Bulldogs win: Star midfielder Jack Macrae and co need to control proceedings from the stoppages. Winning the ball was a strength in 2018, ranking third for disposals.
How Sydney wins: A forward line with tall options facing an undersized backline could be too potent under the roof at Marvel Stadium. Callum Sinclair, Sam Reid, Will Hayward and Aliir Aliir all pose an aerial threat, not to mention Lance Franklin if fit.
The stat: Significant personnel from the 2016 Grand Final match-up will be missing on Saturday night. Jason Johannisen (ankle), Tom Boyd (back) and Liam Picken (concussion) all featured in Norm Smith voting and are unavailable. Josh Kennedy is the only vote-getter on the day who is expected to play.
The match-up: Tom Liberatore v Luke Parker
The Bulldogs’ returning midfielder and Sydney star, who were taken with consecutive picks in the 2010 National Draft, shape as defining factors. Both sides struggled to score last season and first use under the new rules appears to be as important as ever.
It’s a big week for: Aaron Naughton
The Dogs’ talented swingman could be asked to curtail a Swans tall in defence in the absence of Dale Morris or provide a desperately needed target forward. Either way, there is likely to be a lot of responsibility on his second-year shoulders.
Thommo’s Tip: Sydney by 6 points.
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