All Eyes On… The Danger Zone
Unfortunately, there’ll be no fans coming down the highway at this stage but the Bulldogs could be riding right into their own version of the danger zone on Friday night.
Paddy Dangerfield’s long-awaited return to football last week ended up almost lost among talk of players sleeping under tables, Jeremy Cameron’s nine pre-game Moccona’s, Melbourne’s fog, and of course the stirring win itself, but the signs were good.
The Dogs will be hoping it’ll be a little while yet before he reaches the peak of his powers if past performances are anything to go by.
In the seven meetings since he crossed from Adelaide ahead of the 2016 season, #35 has averaged 30.7 disposals, kicked 13 goals, and scooped up 14 of a possible 21 Brownlow votes. That tally includes his 36 disposal, 12 tackle, 10 clearance, six inside 50 masterpiece on the day the Brownlow Stand opened back in May, 2017.
All Eyes On… The Grudge Match
Whether the sign out the front says Skilled, Simonds or GMHBA, Kardinia Park has not been a happy hunting ground for the Bulldogs over the years.
We have to go back to Round 16, 2003 to see the last time they headed back up the freeway with the four points, and across the board, the Cats have won 17 of their last 20 encounters. But sometimes history can be a bit misleading.
The two sides have split the last four games, and other than the Cats’ 44 point win in May 2019 which looks like an outlier, the other three have been decided by 9, 16, and 2 points respectively.
And this is a very different Dogs team – stars on almost every line, and a couple of genuine match winners. It’s no accident they’re in second place with a percentage of 150 – 18% ahead of the ladder-leading Demons.
It’s been a long time between drinks but they’ll like their chances, the Dogs, but you can bet Chris Scott will have his boys ready.
All Irish Eyes On… The Bont
Speaking of match winners, most will have Marcus Bontempelli near or at the top of their mid-season Brownlow predictions, and if the Dogs are to break their Kardinia Park hoodoo, it’s likely he will figure prominently.
So far this season he is above average for disposals (26.9), tackles (4.9), clearances (4.8), rates Elite for AFL Fantasy (111) and his 17 goals show he can hit the scoreboard too.
Sounds like a job for Mark O’Connor.
It wasn’t that long ago that the Irishman was being hailed as the game’s next great tagger with the scalps of Brownlow Medallist’s Lachie Neale and Tom Mitchell hanging off of his belt, so it’d be fair to assume he goes to Bontempelli at the first bounce.
Unless he goes to Jack Macrae or Tom Liberatore.
All Eyes On… The Lockdown
The lights are a little bit brighter on Friday night and the glare, from Fox Footy to talkback radio, a little more intense.
All eyes are already on the midfielders, and why not.
Danger, Selwood, Duncan v Bontempelli, Macrae, Liberatore. The depth of each sides’ middlemen is such that you could list three different names to what’s we have here and it’d still be formidable. And then there’s the forwards, Jezza, Hawk, and the Orange Flash up against English, Bruce, and the Astronaught.
But it could be at the other end of the ground where this one is won or lost.
Caleb Daniel might be the only Dogs backman you’ve heard of, but as a collective, they’re the League’s stingiest back six. The second stingiest? Geelong. While we’d love to see an old-fashioned Kardinia Park shootout, it may be that the defence that squeezes the tightest makes all the difference.