AFL Finals Match Previews: SF2, Hawthorn v W Bulldogs

So, I got every single blog post out for the first week of the finals on time.

It should be easier from here. From now on, I don’t have to write multiple previews on the one day.

However, in a way, it’s harder. After today, I’ll be on school holidays, and because of annoying family rules, I only get limited amounts of time. Sorry if you end up with limited previews.

Anyway, here’s one for the big game on Friday, the Western Bulldogs v the Hawthorn Hawks.

The Basics

  • Who: Hawthorn Hawks v Western Bulldogs
  • Where: Melbourne Cricket Ground
  • When: 7.50pm tonight
  • This year: HAW 14.9 (93) d WB 13.12 (90), R3, Etihad
  • Winner gets: A preliminary final against GWS
  • Loser gets: Eliminated
  • Watch it on: Seven
  • Listen to it on: Triple M, 3AW, SEN, ABC

Teams

Hawthorn

  • FB: Duryea, Frawley, Burgoyne
  • HB: Hodge, Gibson, Birchall
  • C: Smith, Mitchell, Hill
  • HF: Breust, Gunston, Rioli
  • FF: Puopolo, Fitzpatrick, Schoenmakers
  • FOL: McEvoy, Lewis, Shiels
  • INT: Stratton, Whitecross, Sicily, Hartung
  • In: Sicily, Hartung
  • Out: Burton (Calf), Howe (Omitted)

W Bulldogs

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

Mildly Relevant Statistics

  • In his playing days, Alastair Clarkson had a 6-1-6 record against the Bulldogs, while Luke Beveridge had one of 5-2 against Hawthorn.
  • The Bulldogs haven’t played Hawthorn at the MCG since 2010.
  • The Bulldogs average more free kicks per game than Hawthorn. In the Round 3 matchup, the Bulldogs got 25 free kicks compared to Hawthorn’s 21. So, an end to #freekickhawthorn?
  • Hawthorn has a 4-0 record against the Bulldogs in finals.
  • Only three AFL coaches are still coaching the same club they were the last time the Bulldogs beat Hawthorn: Clarkson, Brad Scott, and Damien Hardwick.

More Relevant Statistics

  • Last 10 Against Each Other: Hawthorn 8, W Bulldogs 2
  • Last 10 At Venue: Hawthorn 7-3, W Bulldogs 5-5
  • Recent Form: Hawthorn LWLWL, W Bulldogs WWWLW
  • Record v Top 8: Hawthorn 6-5, W Bulldogs 5-5

Finals Against Each Other

  • 1961 Grand Final: Hawthorn 13.16.94 (M Browne 3 goals, multiple players 2 goals) d Footscray 7.9.51 (T Whitten 3 goals, J Quarrel 2 goals)
  • 1985 Qualifying Final: Hawthorn 22.23.155 (J Dunstall 5 goals, T Wallace 33 disposals) d Footscray 8.14.62 (L Barnaby 2 goals, S Wallis 30 disposals)
  • 1985 Preliminary Final: Hawthorn 16.13.109 (K Judge 4 goals, R Loveridge 26 disposals) d Footscray 15.9.99 (S Beasley 3 goals, D Hawkins 28 disposals)
  • 2008 Qualifying Final: Hawthorn 18.19.127 (L Franklin 8 goals, B Sewell 31 disposals) d W Bulldogs 11.10.76 (J Akermanis 3 goals, D Cross 39 disposals)

My AFL Fantasy Matchday Team

Here, you can take my advice for an AFL Fantasy Matchday team.

  • DEF: Gibson (HAW), Hodge (HAW)
  • MID: Bontempelli (WB) (c), Mitchell (HAW)
  • RUC: Roughead (WB)
  • FWD: Rioli (HAW), Daniel (WB)

Match Preview

The last time these two teams met was in Round 3, and it was dubbed as being the champions against the challengers. After a hard fought game, seesawing between the two clubs, Hawthorn came out victorious by three points.

That was five months ago. Robert Murphy injured his ACL in that game, and will be watching from the sidelines while his charges, in the hands of his deputy Easton Wood, take on Hawthorn in Friday night action.

The Bulldogs had one of the best defenses in the AFL this year, while Hawthorn, as always, was leading with the attack, although it wasn’t as potent as recent years though. Crucially, the Bulldogs attack is not at the required standard for a contender, and Hawthorn’s defense is. Let’s look at the matchups closer.

Hawthorn’s attack is unbelievably threatening. Luke Bruest, Jack Gunston, and Cyril Rioli are three of the best forwards in the AFL, and yet the Hawks only ranked sixth in the points for this year. It’s hard to believe, considering the amount of scoring prowess they have when you throw in the midfielders.

They’re facing off against the Bulldogs, who have the third best defence in the league. In a way, this is the irresistable force against the immovable object.

Matthew Boyd has had a seamless transition from ball-winning midfielder to key defender, but is by no means the only star in the Dogs backline. Matthew Suckling (coming up against his own teammates), Dale Morris, and Easton Wood are going to give Bruest, Gunston, and Rioli an almighty challenge, but I think that the Hawks players are going to be able to win this area of the field.

Onto the Bulldogs attack, which is lacklustre. Collingwood had scored more points than the Bulldogs in the home and away season. Tom Boyd and Jake Stringer need to start performing. Combined, they kicked one goal out of the Bulldogs’ 14 for last week, and considering one of them is earning a million dollars a year, while the other was considered the great hope for the Dogs, this isn’t good enough. The best player in the Bulldogs forward line is Caleb Daniel, who, I may remind you, is only 165cm tall and plays as a midfielder as well. This isn’t sustainable.

While the Bulldogs do have scoring midfielders in Bontempelli and Dahlhaus, they won’t be able to take on Hawthorn’s defence. Hawthorn is great on the half forward and half back lines, and with Luke Hodge, Josh Gibson, and Grant Birchall, they should easily be able to take care of Boyd and Stringer, with the support of Shaun Burgoyne. Caleb Daniel will run riot, but he’s just one very small man. Hawthorn is on top here, as well.

The midfield is the most important part of a game, and it’s one where I would argue the Bulldogs have the advantage. Don’t get me wrong. Sam Mitchell is an absolute legend who should have won a Brownlow by now. Jordan Lewis is one of the top midfielders in the league. But the Bulldogs have numbers, such as Luke Dahlhaus, Tom Liberatore, and Marcus ‘Youngest Winning Captain In AFL History’ Bontempelli. Liberatore was looked at with the potential to be one of the best midfielders in the AFL when he was drafted in 2011, but is now third, or lower, at the Bulldogs alone. This shows how much depth the Bulldogs have. It’ll be tight, but the Bulldogs will win the midfield in this writer’s opinion.

What The Numbers Say

Using the numbers, this game should be almost as close as the Hawthorn v Geelong game last week. Hawthorn’s good form against the Bulldogs really swings it to them, and they have a 54.7% chance of winning. However, the teams are virtually identical for the other factors, and since it’s within the 5% margin I alluded to last week, I say it’s too close to call with this.

What I Say

As exciting as the Bulldogs have been this year, they’ve improved on last year, and, given the injury count, they’ve done better than anyone would have expected. Alas, Hawthorn will be too strong for them in the end. The Bulldogs will push it, but the final margin is Hawthorn by 16.

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