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The Roar



Western Bulldogs vs Geelong Cats: AFL Friday night forecast

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3rd June, 2022
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A tight Friday night contest awaits between the promising Western Bulldogs and perennial contenders Geelong at Marvel Stadium, as both sides look to jump into the top six before resting for their byes next week.

The Dogs are coming in off a three-game winning streak, defeating fellow finals hopefuls Collingwood and Gold Coast, before they thrashed West Coast by 101 points in Perth last week.

After a shaky 1-3 start to the season, the Dogs seem to have turned their season around; although the full turn won’t be complete until it knocks down a few more teams inside the eight.

Seventh-placed Sydney are the only team the Dogs have beaten currently inside the eight, while they’ve lost to Melbourne and Carlton. A tough stretch ahead, including games against Brisbane away, St Kilda, Fremantle, Melbourne again and a trip to the Cattery to face the Cats a second time, makes tonight a crunch clash for their finals hopes.

Geelong are coming off two solid wins over both South Australian teams at their home fortress, GMHBA stadium. They could be higher on the ladder than sixth, with three of their four losses – to Hawthorn, Fremantle and St Kilda – coming by 12 points or less. The only exception, to Sydney in Round 2 by 30, came despite having 27 shots to 22: they’ve been well and truly in the contest in every match they’ve played so far.

My thoughts are the Cats claim this one, simply due to the tempo footy they play when switched on, which would take out the run and flow and higher scoring footy that the Bulldogs thrived on at their best in 2021. Recent history is also in Geelong’s favour, having beaten the Dogs in 14 of their last 16 matches.

The Cats are the fifth-best side this season in keeping opposition scores down, conceding only a touch over 71 points a game; while the Dogs are only marginally worse, conceding only 77 per match. However, both sides rank in the bottom four for conceding opposition inside 50 entries, with the Dogs fourth-best with only 48 entries against per game, and the Cats equal second with 46, alongside Melbourne. Only Fremantle have been more miserly.


The key to victory for the Cats will be whether they can execute their pinpoint passing game style to poke holes through the Dogs’ structure, and allow enough ball to reach their dynamic forward line.

Gary Rohan is tackled by Taylor Duryea.

Gary Rohan is tackled by Taylor Duryea. (Photo by Dylan Burns/AFL Photos via Getty Images)

While the Cats’ often safe ball movement – though they’ve made some positive signs at times this year towards a more free-flowing game – might hinder their attack slightly, the down-the-line target of Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron are always a good option, evidenced by the fact they are both among the leaders for marks inside 50 to the midway point of the year. Hawkins leads the competition in this stat with 46, while Jeremy Cameron is in third with 32.

In saying this, the Cats will need to stick tight and hold their ground defensively, as the Dogs are certain to get some momentum swings throughout the game. Runs of goals have been key to defeating Chris Scott’s team this year, with all four of their losses seeing the opposition pile on at least four consecutive goals.

Round 2 saw the Swans kick eight of nine goals from early in the first quarter to halfway through the second; in Round 5, Hawthorn came from behind with the last four majors of the match; in Round 7, the Cats scored just one behind to 5.4 against Fremantle across two and a half quarters mid-match; then in Round 9, St Kilda piled on six unanswered in a third-quarter blitz to take the game away.

A tight contest surely awaits between two of last year’s preliminary finalists – indeed, given only once in the last seven encounters between them has the margin exceeded 25 points, including two games decided by a kick after the siren (the Dogs won in 2018 after a Harry Taylor miss, then the Cats triumphed last year when Gary Rohan kicked truly) it feels almost inevitable.


Both sides love to handball, with the Cats leading the competition with 165 per match, while the Bulldogs sit in third, averaging 159. They are also both strong around the ball, with the Dogs winning the second-most clearances in the league with nearly 40 per match, while the Cats sit equal-fifth averaging 38.

Even if the Dogs do win the battle around the ball, it is something the Cats can handle. They have ranked second in the competition for points per game from defensive half chains in the last four rounds, enabling them to set up scores with precise kicking started by gun half-backs Tom Stewart, Mitch Duncan and Zach Tuohy.

We know a tight contest will likely bring a low-scoring, physical match, which would seem to favour the Cats more. The Dogs have been kept to 71 points or less in five matches this season, and lost four of them, only narrowly edging Sydney in Round 3. The Cats, on the other hand, have kept teams to 72 points or less seven times this season and won six of them – the only loss being to the Dockers.

Two of these miserly matches came in the last two rounds for the Cats, keeping first Port Adelaide to 47 points and then the Crows to 55.

In terms of team changes, the Dogs will get back star midfielder Bailey Smith, while second ruckman Jordon Sweet was omitted. It raises the question as to who will assist star big man Tim English when he requires a rest, with the Dogs light on for tall timber having dropped both Sweet and occasional makeshift ruck Zaine Cordy in recent weeks.

For the Cats, vice-captain Patrick Dangerfield will miss a second week with a calf problem sustained late against the Power. The veteran’s absence is a welcome one for the Bulldogs, against whom he has an outstanding record since heading to Geelong at the end of 2015.

In eight matches against the Dogs in the blue and white hoops, Dangerfield has polled three Brownlow votes in half of them; while in another he received two. He averages over 30 disposals a game in those matches, while kicking 13 goals – including a bag of four in 2017.


Gary Rohan and Rhys Stanley will come in, however, giving the side a boost to its forward line and ruck stocks. Stanley’s duel with English, alongside Mark Blicavs, will be a fascinating sub-plot; while Rohan famously sunk the Dogs with the match-winning goal after the siren in their last match in 2021.

The Cats have won their last two matches over the Bulldogs in tight encounters, recovering from a 36-point quarter time deficit in 2020 to win by 11, before Rohan’s heroics in a five-point thriller in Round 14 last year.

However, the Dogs took the points last time they met at Marvel Stadium, with four goals from spearhead Aaron Naughton helping them to a 16-point win in 2019.

I’m on board the Cats this evening, and am tipping them to win by 23 points – 91 to 68.

That’s my Friday night forecast. What’s yours?