The Western Bulldogs host the West Coast Eagles as we enter the home stretch of what must be the longest opening round in Australian sporting history. Join us at 1.10pm AEST for live scores and minute-by-minute commentary.
The Bulldogs employed new coach Brendan McCartney at the start of the season and his focus early on will be to improve their stats in relation to contested footy: to use his words, he wants the Bulldogs to get “nasty”.
They come up against a team that finished top four last season and who was only a whisker away from a grand final berth.
Last year John Worsfold was able to resurrect the Eagle’s tight game plan, conceding the fewest inside 50s of any team.
After three consecutive preliminary finals, the Bulldogs were the big slider last season and there is not a lot of evidence that they will be making up that ground in a hurry.
They are stuck in a bit of a ‘no man’s land': the premiership window is well and truly shut for the moment but they are yet to undertake a major overhaul of their list.
From last season the Bulldogs have lost two big men in Ben Hudson and Barry Hall, and also lost tough nut Callan Ward to GWS.
The return from injury of Brian Lake and Adam Cooney partially offsets those losses, while the Bulldogs will also be hoping for ongoing improvement from second year father-son selections Tom Liberatore and Mitch Wallis.
New draftee, Clay Smith, debuts tonight in the midfield and the Bulldogs will be hoping that he can replicate Ward’s attack on the footy at an early age.
While the Bulldogs will have Jordan Roughead and Will Minson swapping between ruck and the forward line, the Eagles will have the best duo in the business: Dean Cox and Nic Naitanui.
It’s a huge mismatch. Expect the likes of Daniel Kerr, Matt Rosa and Andrew Embley to feast off their ruckwork and ability to bring the ball to ground to the advantage of the Eagles’ crumbers.
Creative forward, Mark Le Cras, who is out for the season, will be missed, but the Eagles have plenty of potential goal kickers in Andrew Gaff, Jack Darling, Luke Shuey and Quinten Lynch.
The Eagles look good enough to overcome the Bulldogs’ home ground advantage and the enthusiasm they will carry into their first game for their new coach, but it’s the Eagles by 15 points.
Will Brendan McCartney’s reign get underway with a win? Find out this afternoon as we cover all of the action coming out of Etihad Stadium with live scores and commentary from the first bounce at 1.10pm AEDT.