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Round 14 begins with a Friday night blockbuster as the third-placed Geelong Cats host the second-placed Western Bulldogs at their GMHBA Stadium fortress. Tune into the action right here on The Roar with live scores from 7:50pm (AEST).
The Cats are flying at the moment. Five consecutive wins – as well as seven of their last eight – has seen the perennial contenders rocket into third on the AFL ladder. They can draw level on premiership points with the Bulldogs should they win here, though they’d need a monster thrashing to leapfrog them on percentage.
However, victory over another contender will regardless establish the Cats as one of, if not the, flag favourites, having last week travelled to the Adelaide Oval and defeated a strong Port Adelaide outfit by 21 points. Ahead of a trip to Brisbane next week to tackle the red-hot Lions, Chris Scott’s team are in the middle of a three-week stretch that could either see them reach the finals in the top two once again, or even fall out of the four and set up a fiendishly difficult September.
Cameron Guthrie’s return from a shoulder concern means the Cats are almost at full strength for this clash of the titans. Veteran Shaun Higgins has been officially rested, but such is the strength of the Cats’ line-up that he could easily have been dropped instead.
The Bulldogs have only lost twice in 2021, yet both have come under the Friday night lights against fellow heavyweights. First, they were outmuscled by reigning premiers Richmond in Round 7 despite a half-time lead, before being soundly beaten by ladder-leaders Melbourne in Round 11, a 28-point margin flattering them if anything.
The Dogs bost arguably the best midfield in the competition, even with stars Adam Treloar and Josh Dunkley both out injured. But while their forward line has clicked this year, with Josh Bruce and Aaron Naughton both in the top six for the Coleman Medal, their backline, particularly against opposition key forwards, has looked troublesome at times. First-year Fremantle forward Josh Treacy booted three goals in their most recent match, and though the Dogs returned from their trip to Perth with a 28-point win, that’s not a great sign ahead of a date with red-hot Cats twin towers Tom Hawkins and Jeremy Cameron.
This match was originally to be played behind closed doors owing to Victoria’s ongoing COVID-19 situation; however, 7000 fans from the Geelong area will be permitted to attend the game. Given anyone from Melbourne is on the banned list, the Dogs will be lucky for any of them to be wearing the red, white and blue.
Opening bounce: 7:50pm (AEST)
Venue: GMHBA Stadium, Geelong
TV: Fox Footy, Channel Seven (VIC/SA/TAS/NT), 7mate (NSW/QLD/WA)
Live stream: Kayo Sports, Foxtel Now, Foxtel Go
Betting: Cats $1.58, Bulldogs $2.38 (odds via PlayUp)
B: 24 Jed Bews, 25 Lachie Henderson, 38 Jack Henry
HB: 8 Jake Kolodjashnij, 44 Tom Stewart, 2 Zach Tuohy
C: 7 Isaac Smith, 29 Cameron Guthrie, 27 Sam Menegola
HF: 40 Luke Dahlhaus, 5 Jeremy Cameron, 45 Brad Cloase
F: 23 Gary Rohan, 26 Tom Hawkins, 35 Patrick Dangerfield
FOLL: 17 Esava Ratugolea, 22 Mitch Duncan, 14 Joel Selwood (c)
INT: 3 Brandan Parfitt, 30 Tom Atkins, 42 Mark O’Connor, 46 Mark Blicavs
EMG: 1 Rhys Stanley, 4 Shaun Higgins, 19 Quinton Narkle, 39 Zach Guthrie
IN: Cameron Guthrie
OUT: Shaun Higgins
B: 43 Ryan Gardner, 42 Alex Keath, 9 Hayden Crozier
HB: 8 Taylor Duryea, 12 Zaine Cordy, 35 Caleb Daniel
C: 31 Bailey Dale, 21 Tom Liberatore, 7 Lachie Hunter
HF: 39 Jason Johannisen, 17 Josh Bruce, 19 Cody Weightman
F: 29 Mitch Hannan, 33 Aaron Naughton, 44 Tim English
FOLL: 8 Stefan Martin, 11 Jack Macrae, 4 Marcus Bontempelli (c)
INT: 6 Bailey Smith, 28 Anthony Scott, 34 Bailey Williams, 37 Roarke Smith
EMG: 3 Mitch Wallis, 10 Easton Wood, 16 Toby McLean, 41 Jordon Sweet