There’s a sense of familiarity between the Bulldogs and seventh place, but will they move one step closer to repeating their 2016 heroics or bow out like 2019?
On the other hand, will Brett Ratten’s young Saints prove to be there for more than experience?
Last time they met
In round 2 St Kilda picked up their first win of the season, easily accounting for the Dogs by 39 points. On the cusp of their first win, nerves were an afterthought, which bodes well for them as they prepare for their biggest stage yet.
Jack Billings scored three goals from 24 touches, and Zak Jones recorded 29 disposals and a goal.
For St Kilda, Zak Jones has replaced the injured Josh Battle.
The Western Bulldogs have named an unchanged side.
Why St Kilda can win
Fearlessness. Bravery comes easy when there’s nothing to lose, and fortune favours the brave,
Why Western Bulldogs can win
They’ll have learnt from last year’s elimination final, and be prepared for war. Know a thing or two about getting it done from seventh.
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Players to watch
If Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Steele go head-to-head, it’ll be mouth-watering. Even if they don’t, they’re two stars that can turn a game.
Interestingly, Aaron Naughton and Josh Bruce have both starred when the other was absent. They could be lacking chemistry, and in a cutthroat final, they must work it out.
Linebreakers with pace to burn are always exciting, St Kilda’s Brad Hill and Zak Jones are no exception.
What’s at stake?
For St Kilda, nothing. For the Western Bulldogs, everything.
Saints fans would disagree, and rightly so, but win or lose they’re in a win-win situation. They win and it’s a spectacular result, they lose and it’s an experience that they’ll improve from. Just as Brisbane did in 2019, they can hide behind the excuse of their maiden finals campaign, and they should be back again.
It’s a very different story for the Dogs, as every underwhelming year passes, 2016 becomes more and more of a flash in the pan. They simply must pick up a finals win, and once they find their mojo, they can be hard to stop, as we know all too well.
It’s a toss of the coin, and you can make a strong case for either side.
They have a fair chunk of finals experience, and last year’s elimination final will be a chip on the Bulldog’s shoulder. For those two reasons, they’ll get up. But don’t be surprised if the Saints give them a run for their money.