Despite a 50-50 result in their ten home-and-away meetings to date, a 50-50 result in their two finals contests and a 50-50 result in their last two meetings, the Giants are short-priced favourites for this Round 3 Friday night fixture.
This doesn’t say much for the Bulldogs’ form this year. Languishing on the bottom of the ladder with a percentage below 50 per cent after sound beatings by Collingwood in Round 1 and St Kilda in Round 2, the Bulldogs will be looking for a reversal of form against the talent-loaded Giants to kick-start their 2020 finals campaign.
However, they will be up against a team smarting from a second-round loss to the Kangaroos. They matched the Roos in scoring shots but not accuracy last week. The Giants are sitting eighth on the ladder with a lower percentage than any of the seven teams above them and would have expected to be higher placed.
The danger is both teams played big improvers from 2019 last week. North Melbourne, under the 14-game coaching reign of former Collingwood and Sydney player Rhyce Shaw, now sit on nine wins and five losses with all the losses being against top-eight sides from 2019. Of those, the only two losses by more than four goals were at the fortresses of Optus Oval and Kardinia Park.
St Kilda also changed coaches in midstream in 2019 and appointed experienced ex-Carlton player and coach Brett Ratten to the job. After finishing 3-3 for the remainder of 2019 (a vast improvement on his 0-6 in his first year at Carlton), Ratten was let down by inaccuracy against the other big improver North Melbourne in Round 1 before showing the success of their 2020 recruiting in Round 2 by the six players new to the club scoring five goals between them, bringing their two-round total to eight goals.
Adam Kennedy is likely to be back for the Giants if he makes it through a fitness test whereas the Bulldogs will still be missing Easton Wood and Taylor Duryea with quad injuries and missing Lachie Hunter through a club suspension. The odds are certainly in favour of Greater Western Sydney, but I don’t expect it to be an easy win.
Phil Davis, now aged 29, will be keen to atone for his poorest game ever since he started his career at Adelaide in 2009. In his 150th game for the Giants, Davis – the co-captain of the club for every year of its existence until this year – recorded only three disposals.
Season 2020 captain Stephen Coniglio as well as Lachie Whitfield should pass the total number of games by now Bomber Dylan Shiel and move into equal seventh position on the Giants’ top 100 game-players.
Greater Western Sydney will be weakened by the loss of Toby Greene but have not panicked, dropping only one other player from last week’s loss (Isaac Cumming) and bringing back Zac Langdon and introducing Lachlan Ash for his first AFL game.
Ash was the man that GWS traded up for and picked up at number four in the draft. The three players above him – Matt Rowell (Gold Coast), Noah Anderson (Gold Coast) and Luke Jackson (Melbourne) – have already shown enough to suggest Ash is part of a very good bunch of future players.
The Western Bulldogs will be strengthened by the return of Tom Liberatore and the inclusion of Toby McLean and Zaine Cordy for their first game this year. Liberatore is a top 100 game-player at the club and this week will draw level with David Darcy.
Darcy is the father of Luke Darcy and started at the Bulldogs in 1963. Halfway through his career (1967), his business took him to Adelaide and he played a year with South Adelaide, returning to the Bulldogs in 1968 and playing until 1971, returning to South Adelaide in 1972 as captain-coach.
McLean and Cordy are both 70-plus game players so will add some much needed bite to the Bulldogs.