AFL Finals Match Preview: EF2, West Coast v W Bulldogs

Photo courtesy of AFL Photos

It’s here, after a long, long time. The finals are ready to kick off, and we here at Statscrunch can hardly wait.

Because of this, we’re going to write match previews as frequently as possible.

Here it is for the first game, the second elimination final between West Coast and the Western Bulldogs.

Basics

  • Who: West Coast Eagles v Western Bulldogs
  • Where: Domain Stadium, Perth
  • When: 8.10pm tonight1
  • This year: WB 12.11 (83) d WCE 11.9 (75), Round 11, Etihad
  • Winner gets: A semi-final against Geelong or Hawthorn
  • Loser gets: Eliminated
  • Watch it on: Seven
  • Listen to it on: Triple M, 3AW, SEN, ABC

Teams

West Coast

  • FB: Sheppard, Schofield, Barrass
  • HB: Hurn2, McGovern, Wellingham
  • C: Yeo, Priddis, Cripps
  • HF: LeCras, Darling, Masten
  • FF: Giles, Kennedy, Hill
  • FOL: Lycett, Gaff, Shuey
  • INT: Brown, Sheed, Butler, Hutchings
  • In: Brown
  • Out: Jetta (Calf)

W Bulldogs

  • FB: Biggs, Hamling, M Boyd
  • HB: Johannisen, Morris, Wood
  • C: Hunter, Bontempelli, Picken
  • HF: Jong, Cordy, Stringer
  • FF: Dickson, T Boyd, Daniel
  • FOL: Roughead, Dahlhaus, Dunkley
  • INT: Suckling, Macrae, Smith, Liberatore
  • In: Wood, Stringer, Roughead, Macrae, Liberatore
  • Out: Stevens, Roberts, Williams, Hrovat, Minson (Omitted)

Mildly Relevant Statistics

  • The Bulldogs have never won an interstate final.
  • The Bulldogs have never played on a Thursday.
  • Every time the Bulldogs have played West Coast in a final in a season a West Coast player won a Coleman Medal, West Coast has won.
  • The Bulldogs have never won a final after finishing seventh.
  • The Bulldogs have won one out of eight games against West Coast when it is on a Friday, but none of those games have been at Subiaco.
  • West Coast are the first team since St Kilda in 2010-11 to go from Grand Finalists to elimination finalists. St Kilda lost to Sydney, who won the flag in 2012.
  • The last time the Bulldogs had 14 wins in one season and 15 in the next was in 1997-98. In both cases, they were eliminated by Adelaide.
  • This is the first season that West Coast haven’t beaten the Bulldogs in since 2010. So far.

More Relevant Statistics

  • Last 10 Against Each Other: West Coast 6, W Bulldogs 4
  • Last 10 At Subiaco: West Coast 9-1, W Bulldogs 2-8
  • Form: West Coast LWWWW, W Bulldogs LWWWL
  • Record v Top 8: West Coast 4-5, W Bulldogs 4-5

Finals Against Each Other

  • 1998 Qualifying Final: W Bulldogs 18.13.121 (J Romero 27 disposals, S Minton-Connell 5 goals) d West Coast 7.9.51 (C Waterman 28 disposals, B Fewster 2 goals)
  • 1999 Qualifying Final: West Coast 9.11.65 (G Jakovich 28 disposals, S Cummings 4 goals) d W Bulldogs 8.12.60 (B Johnson 27 disposals, S Kolyniuk 4 goals)
  • 2006 Semi Final: West Coast 16.17.113 (S Butler 30 disposals, Q Lynch 6 goals) d W Bulldogs 5.9.39 (S West 29 disposals, B Johnson 3 goals)

Match Preview

We have two teams that, earlier in the year, were being touted as premiership chances, now meeting in an elimination final. Last year, West Coast beat Hawthorn in the qualifying final, but lost to them in the big one, becoming the first team since Sydney in 2006 to win a qualifying final, then lose to the team they beat in the Grand Final (in that case, Sydney beat West Coast). The Bulldogs wowed the competition through all of the year with their fast, slick gameplay, before losing to Adelaide by three points, opening up the wounds of 1997-98 that were just about ready to heal, and, for those younger than 20, creating new ones.

This year, West Coast spent most of it being accused of being flat track bullies (isn’t that every year?). While their 5-5 record away from home, compared to an 11-1 record at it, does ring alarm bells, they did beat GWS at their growing fortress in Blacktown, win in Adelaide twice, and beat Adelaide, GWS, and Hawthorn in consecutive weeks. On top of that, their game is Subiaco today, so their away performance is irrelevant.

And on top of this, the Bulldogs haven’t beaten a finals team at Subiaco in ten years (Round 13, 2006). Things look bad, and their thoroughly ridiculous spate of injuries would be enough to kill a lesser team. But teams tend to find a way to give 110% in finals, so let’s look at their chances.

As it turns out, the Bulldogs have five massive ins for this game, hence the pre-finals bye working for them. Easton Wood, Jake Stringer, Jordan Roughead, Jack Macrae, and Tom Liberatore are all in for this game, and they are crucial to the Dogs’ chances.

Roughead stands two metres tall, and this giant could help the Bulldogs win the ruck contest (Jesus, how long has it been since we could say that?) Ordinarily, it would be a no contest against Nic Naitanui, but his ACL injury is cruel to the Eagles.

Jack Macrae and Tom Liberatore will provide midfield run, Easton Wood will be a defensive general, but the big one is Jake Stringer. Stringer was dropped recently to the VFL, which was disappointing for someone with his potential. When your attack is relying on Tom Boyd and a crapload of smaller players (Bontempelli, Dahlhaus, Daniel), you know you’re in trouble.

That said, West Coast’s defense doesn’t look that convincing on paper. It’s worth noting that they have the fifth best defense in the AFL, as well as the fifth best attack. The Bulldogs, while having the third best defense, are ranked twelfth. I’d say, considering the Bulldog’s attack at the moment, it would probably be West Coast’s advantage here.

Moving on to the midfield. Hoo boy, Elliot Yeo, Matt Priddis, and Patrick Cripps against Lachie Hunter, Marcus Bontempelli, and Liam Picken. I was at a Liam Picken final in his first season, and he’s now 30 and one of the oldest players on the Bulldogs. Marcus Bontempelli is a future Brownlow medallist, and possibly the best player on the ground, but Priddis, Cripps, and Yeo are probably better than him, when added to his support cast. Gaff-Shuey v Dahlhaus-Dunkley will also be interesting, so I’m going to call the midfield battle a draw.

West Coast’s attack. Mark LeCras, Jack Darling, Josh Kennedy, and Josh Hill. Two of those have kicked ten goals in a game, while none of the Bulldogs players have kicked more than six. I’m very concerned about Joel Hamling on Josh Kennedy. In fact, I reckon Kennedy will wipe the floor with him. The other battles look more or less even, but the attack is clearly West Coast’s victory.

What The Numbers Say

I’ve come up with a method of making quick and dumb calculations that may or may not be more accurate than just plain guessing.

And all it involves are four statistics…that you saw earlier.

The ones that you saw in More Relevant Statistics are the statistics that I’m using to make my statistical analyses. I give each team a value from 0 to 1 (1 is perfect, 0 is…terrible). These are added together.

In order, from record v opposition, record at the venue, recent form, and record v top 8 opponents, the Eagles got 0.6+0.9+0.8+0.45=2.75.

The Bulldogs, on the same methodology, got 0.4+0.2+0.6+0.45=1.65.

Subtracting 1 from the other, we got 1.10. Adding 4 to that, we get 5.10, and we divide that by 8 to make…0.6375.

I used Excel’s random3 number generator 1,000 times. If it was below 0.6375, it was a West Coast victory. If it was above, it was a Western Bulldogs victory.

Based on that, West Coast has a 66.2% chance of winning tonight, and the Bulldogs have 33.8%. Tada.

What I Say

As much of an avid Bulldogs supporter I am, I genuinely don’t think we have much of a hope tonight. West Coast by 23.


1I’m sorry that I’m Melbourne-centric. In my defence, I live in Melbourne, and our time zone is the same as most of Australia during winter. If it makes you feel better, it’s 6.10pm in Perth and 7.40pm in Adelaide.
2It’s his 200th game tonight. Congratulations, Shannon.
3Psuedorandom, if it makes you feel better.

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One comment

  1. I actually think the dogs will win. Just.
    During the season, I would most certainly would of said West Coast, but those 5 ins for the bulldogs are HUGE and will be a massive confidence builder.
    The pre-finals bye I think stalled the eagles momentum and their previous incosistencies from a month ago will come back to haunt them.

    Like

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