The Swans have first shot at christening the newly named Marvel Stadium with another win against the Western Bulldogs on Saturday night, while the Bulldogs will be gunning for payback for their upset loss in Round 4 of 2018.
Oliver Florent was the surprise packet of the game, booting the winning goal on the run in front of ruckman Tim English, while Luke Parker picked up the three Brownlow votes with 21 disposals and three goals.
The Swans went from strength to strength after their clash, entering the bye with a 10-3 record, before spectacularly crashing out of the top eight while the Bulldogs struggled all year, finishing 14th with eight wins.
Despite rarely training and nursing a heel injury, superstar Lance Franklin booted three second-half goals and was influential throughout, finishing with 16 disposals, ten marks and two Brownlow votes.
Jack Macrae was one of the Bulldogs’ shining lights, picking up 34 disposals and regularly threatening to blow the game open, with Marcus Bontompelli bobbing up for 21 disposals and two goals.
After the Bulldogs raced out to a 22-point lead early in the second quarter, the Swans rallied and took the lead early in the third quarter before going into the final change level.
The Swans will miss tough defender Nick Smith for the clash but welcome back Sam Reid, Lewis Melican and Callum Mills, as well as debuts to Nick Blakey and Ryan Clarke.
The Western Bulldogs are nursing a long injury list, with Tom Boyd, Lin Jong, Dale Bailey, Jason Johannisen, Dale Morris and Liam Picken missing, and will look to the heavens when the Swans’ tall forward line takes station.
Where and when
Marvel Stadium, Saturday March 23, 7:25pm AEDT
Last five meetings
R4, 2018, Sydney Swans 13.8 (86) d Western Bulldogs 11.13 (79) at Etihad
R12, 2017, Sydney Swans 12.16 (88) d Western Bulldogs 6.6 (42) at the SCG
R2, 2017, Western Bulldogs 16.14 (110) d Sydney Swans 13.9 (87) at Etihad
GF, 2016, Western Bulldogs 13.11 (89) d Sydney Swans 10.7 (67) at the MCG
R15, 2016, Western Bulldogs 13.5 (83) d Sydney Swans 11.13 (79) at the SCG
Luke Parker vs Jack Macrae
Luke Parker’s form throughout the JLT series looked close to his 2016 best, while Jack Macrae has improved every year. Both players are arguably their teams’ most important midfielder and will need to be at their absolute best if their side is going to win.
Aliir Aliir vs Tim English
The biggest surprise in the JLT Community Series for Swans fans was watching defender Aliir Aliir tear it up in the ruck. While he was never going to outmuscle the bigger and stronger opponents, his leap and reach troubled his opposite numbers.
His ability to snap the ball out of the contest and sprint from the pack lead to a number of scoring opportunities for the Swans and was reminiscent of former champion Adam Goodes.
Lance Franklin vs Easton Wood
The Bulldogs are short on defenders and Franklin is short on fitness. Will it make a difference for the big guy? If history is anything to go by, not a bit. Someone that can kick almost 60 goals while hardly training for an entire season is special, so Wood is going to have to channel his inner Phil Davis to have a chance here.
The six points
1: The last time they played, a three-goal second-half burst by Franklin set the Swans up for victory. He had the unlikely match-up of Aaron Naughton in the first half, before blowing him away ten minutes into the third quarter.
2: Lance Franklin has enjoyed great success playing the Western Bulldogs, averaging 17.06 (2nd highest) disposals per game and kicking 58 goals in 18 matches.
3: Sydney were the ninth-ranked contested football side for 2018 with 147 per game, the Bulldogs were ranked 14th with 139.5.
4: The Swans were the fifth-ranked contested marking team in 2018 averaging 11.7 per game, the Bulldogs were ranked 15th with 9.5
5: Both Sydney and the Western Bulldogs struggled for hit-outs in 2018, the Swans ranked 15th with 32 per game, while the Bulldogs were last with 27.8 per game.
6: The last time they played, the Western Bulldogs had +13 free kicks, +52 disposals, +8 clearances, +18 inside 50s, with the Swans winning by seven points.
It’s a big week for…
The old adage that big men don’t get any smaller as the game goes on will be turned up to 11 as the Bulldogs injury-stricken defence runs head first into the Swans 190+ forward line. Lance Franklin (199cm), Sam Reid (196cm), Callum Sinclair (200cm) and Nick Blakey (193cm) are not only capable forwards, but capable ground-ball players, with the Bulldogs naming Zaine Cordy (193cm) and Easton Wood (187cm) as their tall defenders.
It’s down to Easton Wood to keep the superstar at bay and channel his inner Phil Davis.
Sydney Swans by 19.