Saturday will see Werribee and Footscray go head to head for the second time in 2017, and plenty has changed since the pair’s round two fixture.
Saturday, June 24
2pm, Victoria University Whitten Oval, Footscray
FREE ENTRY for Werribee members on presentation of members’ card; $5 entry for North Melbourne members
The Story So Far
After a slow start to the season, the Tigers have shown themselves to be the in-form team of the competition of late and currently sit fifth courtesy of a run of six straight wins, the most recent a hard-fought 14-point victory over the third-placed Northern Blues to end their own unbeaten run of six.
In contrast, the Bulldogs have experienced mixed fortunes since jumping out of the blocks early, notching up some impressive wins but also suffering a few surprise losses. They currently sit in sixth at 5-4, which is perhaps not what most expected of the reigning premiers at this point, though it’s worth noting they were 4-4 at the same time last year before catching fire in the second half of the season.
Footscray has certainly had the better of Werribee in their last two encounters, scoring a decisive 51-point win in round two and handing down a 63-point thumping in round 20 last year. However, that match was preceded by a horror run of injuries for the Tigers, before which they showed they well and truly had the Dogs’ measure with a 42-point round-four victory.
An intriguing ruck dual had loomed between Braydon Preuss and Tom Campbell after the two racked up 48 and 54 hitouts respectively last week, but Campbell’s elevation to the Bulldogs’ AFL ranks opens things up considerably. Preuss has been one of Werribee’s most consistent performers and one of the most dominant ruckman in the competition this season, but he will still want to be wary of the threat of Tim English, whose 31-hitout performance was a key factor in Footscray’s success the last time these two teams met.
The Tigers’ defence may be breathing a sigh of relief at the prospect of a Dogs’ forward line without Fergus Greene. The 19-year-old AFL-lister had a day out and finished with five goals back in round two but is currently sidelined with a fractured wrist.
Through the efforts of debutante Dom Brew (nine tackles) and veteran Andrew Swallow (seven tackles), Werribee’s tackling pressure in the middle proved decisive in last week’s win over the Northern Blues. The Tigers will again need to bring that sort of intensity to match the likes of the Dogs’ Liam Nash and Andrew Tashevski-Beckwith, who were equal first and equal fourth respectively in last week’s totals with 13 and 11 tackles. They’ll have to do it without Swallow, who returns to the North Melbourne side this weekend, but Matt Hanson will no doubt relish the opportunity to shoulder more of the load as one of the competition’s top tackling machines.
The absence of captain Michael Sodomaco through injury looked to have left Werribee’s backline without a good deal of its usual run, but Dane McFarlane has filled the role beautifully in recent weeks, showing plenty of pace and daring in proving one of the Tigers’ best against the Blues. Should the skipper get up for a return this week, the pair could make for a powerful running combination out of defence.
Footscray at its best has the ability to cut teams up through the middle and score quickly and heavily. Aside from their 51-point win over Werribee earlier this year, the Dogs also beat Sandringham by 99 points in round seven and gave North Ballarat a 124-point shellacking in round three.
The Bottom Line
Plenty of player movement between the AFL and VFL ranks has made it difficult to know what to expect from the Dogs week to week this year, but they are still a devastating side at their best, as Werribee well knows from their last meeting. That said, the Tigers are a vastly improved outfit from then, and their performance against the Northern Blues – particularly their second and third quarters – showed their best is good enough to overcome the top teams in the competition. It also showed they are just as capable of playing a free-flowing, high-scoring brand of football as the Dogs, meaning this match-up could easily turn into a good old-fashioned shootout if both teams are prepared to take the game on.