The Sydney Swans and the Western Bulldogs will do battle this weekend to decide who will be the AFL champions of 2016.
Will it be the Western Bulldogs? The hallowed halls of Whitten Oval have been screaming for another cup since their lone 1954 triumph, Or will it be the Sydney Swans? The mainstays of the AFL finals and the perfect picture of consistency since their last premiership in 2012.
Matthew Suckling’s achilles tendon has prevented him making his way back to the side and the Bulldogs go in unchanged. The Swans make two changes, Aliir Aliir being taken out of the side with a knee injury and Harrison Marsh dropped. Co-captain Jarrad McVeigh and AFL Rising Star winner Callum Mills are added to the team.
Last time these teams met Jason Johannisen was the hero for the Bulldogs in a four-point victory, nailing a goal from the 50-metre circle with only seconds left to play. Lance Franklin will be hoping for another night off the leash like their last encounter, where he kicked five superb goals in what now seems to be his standard performance.
For the Swans to win, they will need to be on top of Jake Stringer early. It’s suggested been Zak Jones will be sent to throw the big man off with a physical style of play. The free-wheeling Bulldogs will find it hard to stop Tom Mitchell, Dan Hannebery and Kieran Jack and that’s without worrying about the king of the contested ball, king Josh Kennedy. Swan Dane Rampe has been one of the best back flankers in the competition thus far and the thought of him going head to head with Tom Boyd is an exciting one.
A lot will have to go right for the Bulldogs to win, but their blend of determination and pace gives them a way of making these things happen. Jake Stringer has had a quiet few weeks but slowly found his form against GWS last week, and Clay Smith will hope he can replicate the form he showed too. Tory Dickson has been a story of consistency and hard work this year and will be a hard man to stop on the big stage.
This is a rivalry in the making, an exciting thought for AFL fans. Swans Isaac Heeney, Luke Parker and Tom Papley locking horns with Luke Dahlhaus, Liam Picken and Caleb Daniel is something that may become commonplace in finals series if the start of their careers is anything to go by.
The MCG expects a sell-out crowd of 90,000. Then entertainment includes Sting, The Living End and the smooth sound of Vance Joy. – Paul Robinson
Photo of the Bulldogs and the Swans last time they played from the AFL’s Twitter feed.