There are interesting storylines aplenty as the reigning premiers look to start their flag defence on the right foot against the team that thrashed them in a practice match last week.
Read The Sporting Landscape’s full preview of the game below.
Last time they met
The Demons and Bulldogs last clashed in round 18 of 2022, with eventual premiers Casey prevailing by 23 points in a low-scoring affair, 9.12.66 to 6.7.43.
As can be the nature of the second-tier with hefty list-changes year on year and players fluctuating between the VFL and AFL, many of the best performers from that day won’t be featuring again this Saturday, including Oskar Baker, Lachie Hunter, Stefan Martin and Toby McLean.
Casey mainstay Luke Dunstan was impressive for the Dees with 20 disposals and 10 tackles, and will feature again on Saturday. Similarly for Footscray, Lachlan Sullivan was strong with one goal, 19 disposals and 11 tackles.
It’s worth noting the sides met in a practice match last week however, with Footscray prevailing by a whopping 71 points, 18.11.119 to 7.6.48. The Dogs piled on ten goals to one across the second and third quarters too.
How did Casey fare over the off-season?
Premiership coach Mark Corrigan has taken up a role as the head coach of Geelong’s VFL side, which is obviously a significant loss. Senior assistant Taylor Whitford has been promoted to the top job, and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares in his first match of season 2023, especially considering the resounding nature of last week’s practice match result.
Casey’s practice match results have been hit and miss as a whole, with one win and one loss coming from the other two games. Against Richmond, Casey lost by one point, but were able to defeat Coburg by eight in their second hit-out of the pre-season.
Casey does however have a number of significant departures to overcome, namely Oskar Baker, Toby Bedford and Mitch Brown.
The Demons have also added however, and will reap the benefits of AFL-recruited Josh Schache against his old mob on Saturday, who prove be a handy addition at centre half-forward.
How did Footscray fare over the off-season?
Off the back of an 11th-place 9-9 season, Footscray will no doubt be looking to springboard into finals in 2023.
Aside from their 71-point thrashing of Casey in last week’s practice game, the Dogs had two other pre-season hit-outs. Both were against North Melbourne, falling 17 points short and 30 points short.
Footscray have lost the services of Chance Doultree, Louis Butler, Zaine Cordy, Josh Scache, Bailey van de Huevel, Charlie Cormack, Austin Hodge and Ned Nicholls.
They will however be buoyed by the addition of draftee Charlie Clarke and ex-AFL Pie Caleb Poulter.
Players to watch
Josh Schache’s now 25 years of age and at his third club. It’s fair to say no. 2 draft pick has under-delivered on his potential and it feels like his career’s at a crossroads. Will undoubtedly be looking to make his mark early and earn an opportunity at AFL level, which can only come via a strong VFL performance first up. To add some fuel to the fire, he’ll be taking on his old side.
There’ll also be plenty of draftees making their VFL debuts to keep an eye on.
195cm forward Matt Jefferson was Melbourne’s highest draft pick in 2022, taken with pick 15, and will be line-up alongside Schache as a key forward. Jefferson impressed for Vic Metro , avergain 3.5 goals per game in the under 18 national championships.
Number 38 draft pick Jed Adams from the WAFL’s Peel Thunder will also be making his VFL debut for Casey, and the key defender would love to get his career started with a strong performance. Oliver Sestan, taken at pick 28 in the rookie draft, booted 24 goals in a single game for Mansfield against Tutara last season. Will be another young player looking to get started on the right foot.
For Footscray, Charlie Clarke was taken at pick 28 in the national draft. He’s an exciting pressure forward that booted 29 goals in 15 games for the Sandy Dragons and bagged seven in one game alone.
20-year-old Caleb Poulter is a name many will be familiar with. Managed to crack 11 games in his debut season for Collingwood but fell out of favour in 2022 and was delisted. Saturday marks the start of a new chapter for him as he quests for a second chance at AFL level via Footscray.
Robbie McComb is another Dogs player to watch, he kicked three goals against the Demons last week’s practice match.
The obvious choice is reigning premiers Casey, but last week’s practice match walloping by the Bulldogs throws a serious spanner in the works.
But how much can you read in to pre-season form?
While 71 points is a massive margin, you still have to back Casey to overcome shaky pre-season form and start their season on the right foot with a win under new coach Taylor Whitford.