The opening match of Round 9 sees the Geelong Cats host the reigning premiers Western Bulldogs for their first match of the year Kardinia Park. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 7:50pm AEST on Friday.
The test for both sides is neutral, as they will need to prove just how genuine they are in a very even competition.
In what some pundits are touting as ‘match of the round’, Geelong will play at home in front of a new grandstand – another stage of the redevelopment with a blockbuster crowd expected.
Geelong have lost three out the past four and will need a big response this week after a lacklustre performance against Essendon.
The Western Bulldogs have been going in second-gear all season, and though they sit inside the top eight, a loss here could see them bundled out by the end of the round.
There are changes for both sides, with two ins for the Cats and five for the Dogs.
– Lachie Henderson and Scott Selwood return to the side as Rhy Stanley (knee) and George Horlin-Smth are out (omitted).
Selwood is likely to get a tagging job, much like he did last year, in order to support his brother, Joel, and Patrick Dangerfield after a sluggish game last week.
The Dogs welcome experience with back skipper Bob Murphy, Travis Cloke, Dale Morris, Mitch Wallis, and Tory Dickson.
Wallis plays his first game for the club since his sickening leg injury against St Kilda in July last year.
At their expense, the Dogs lose Matt Boyd (shoulder), Tom Liberatore, Fletcher Roberts, Zaine Cordy and Toby McLean (all omitted).
It’s a stark message by coach Luke Beveridge to the group with Liberatore being dropped.
Tackle counts have been the talking point for Geelong all week sitting in 16th in the rankings, as well as kicks per game (17th), however, they are still scoring well with a high handball count (4th) and hitting the scoreboard (3rd).
Likewise, for the Dogs, their talking points have been mostly based around a lack of ruckman (17th in hitouts), scoreboard accuracy (45%), but pride themselves on their tackle pressure (1st) and also in a running style game (3rd in handballs, 4th in disposals per game).
The Cats are known to use their ground as a fortress, and even more so against the Bulldogs, having won seven of eight matches there last season, and records before that.
Though geographically the Bulldogs are the next closest team in proximity to Kardinia Park, they don’t make use of that advantage compared to other teams.
The Bulldogs have not won at the ground since 2003 – 14 years ago. The Cats also lead the ledger in head-to-head records 100-55, and in more recent times, 13 of the past 14 matches.
But let’s not forget the ‘KFC Kickin’ for Chicken’ promotion that will be sure to set the crowd alight in the last quarter if a Bulldogs player has a set shot that goes out on the full.
Cats by 15. They have had a big week of preparation and it’s now-or-never to show something significant to the AFL that they mean business this year.
Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match, starting from 7:50pm AEST Friday.