Tonight’s first game of Round 9, which starts an unbroken run of games over the next three weeks, should be a close encounter and may possibly add to the 19 games played so far that have finished with a single-figure margin between the two combatants.
This season, only one team (West Coast Eagles) have won or lost all their games by more than ten points.
Tonight’s teams have both had one win by a small margin, and Richmond also drew with Collingwood.
The Bulldogs go into tonight’s encounter as a slight favourite due in part to them currently being three places higher on the ladder in sixth place but only two points ahead of the Tigers, and due in part to the two clubs’ performances against the common enemy: both clubs have inflicted defeats on Sydney and North Melbourne, and lost to St Kilda.
Two of the Western Bulldogs’ defeats have been against Collingwood and Carlton, who Richmond drew and won against, but the Western Bulldogs triumphed narrowly against Greater Western Sydney while Richmond were defeated by the Giants in their most recent run.
Neither side has played any of the three teams currently on top of the ladder, and lost to number four (St Kilda), so they could not be considered Group 1 at this stage.
However both teams can point to the unavailability of A-team players as a reason for their inconsistency. Richmond are currently missing seven players who would normally take the field as first-choice options including the unlucky Nick Vlastuin, injured on the cusp of game 150.
The Western Bulldogs currently have nine players that – on form – would be playing, and that includes the luckless Lin Jong, who is only two disposals short of 1000.
The coaching duels to date show that Damien Hardwick has only a 20 per cent record against Luke Beveridge, only winning one of five encounters.
With the absence of Nick Vlastuin, Richmond has no traditional milestones to celebrate in this game, and only Dylan Grimes will move up Richmond’s top 100 game players ladder whereas the Bulldogs have home-grown players celebrating both AFL and club milestones of 150 games (Jack Macrae), 100 games (Caleb Daniel) and 50 games (Bailey Williams).
Also, Tom Liberatore, Marcus Bontempelli and Jason Johannisen will all improve their standing on the Western Bulldogs’ top 100 game players of all time.
Bulldogs by nine points.