Bulldogs have strength
Saturday, 30th July, 2016
The Robins battle the Bulldogs today in the first of three meetings over the next five weeks that should provide an indication of what to expect at finals time.
While the Bulldogs can improve with a full squad at their disposal, the question will be asked of the Robins over the weeks to come: can they improve and do they want to improve enough to be competitive come finals time?
Of course that’s if they can get there first; nearly is not close enough.
The Bulldogs broke a four-game losing stretch last weekend and I would expect them to use the next four weeks as preparation for September action.
The Robins must improve in so many areas but it will start in the middle; their midfielders were smashed last week and they will need Milne, Martin, King and Mackiewicz to stand up a gather more than their fair share of the footy and be able to distribute the ball cleanly to teammates inside forward 50.
West must show controlled aggression at the contest and the opposing ball carrier, be in the Bulldogs’ faces and take the game up to them. If they are too soft the Bulldogs, through Kelly, Morgan, Cumming and McInnes will tear holes in West’s structures and set up scoring options for themselves.
We know Matt Nelson will give his all and the Bulldogs respect his never give up attitude, but they will go with Pettitt and Raynor to try and break even at the contests or at least make a contest at ground level, which will give the Bulldogs the advantage if the Robins are pushed aside too easy.
The Bulldogs’ back half will play a huge role going forward; the move of Slater across half back could prove to be a very good move. Similar to Marcus O’Brien, Slater’s pace from half back and penetrating kick could be a huge plus for the Bulldogs and with Dalby, Ragenovich and Barraclough North has the height to match any forward set up.
If the Robins are to mix things up and kick a winning score, they will need a lot of things to go right on present form. Robbie Bates is the Robins’ leading forward but keeping him on the field is a real problem. Martin has been played in numerous roles over the course of the season and the Robins might use him to fill the gaps left by underperforming teammates.
Basically that is the problem; who will stand up inside forward 50? King and Tonkin have hit the scoreboard but they are more important in other roles. The unavailability of Cieslik for most of the season has left a big hole in the West forward half.
If the Bulldogs receive clean footy from the middle and at the stoppages then the forwards could be in for a good day. Henderson and McConnell are two who can take advantage of poor defending, with the whiz capable of kicking a bagful on any day.
Defensively the Robins will be looking towards Conway, Harvey and McInerney to lead the back half but they will need support; it has to be a team effort from the Robins.
We must not forget that the Robins upset the Bulldogs the last time they played but on current form these two sides are way apart.
The Bulldogs know how important this game is, especially in front of their Oldtimers and guest speaker John Barnes, so they will be primed for this game.
Can the Robins get themselves up for this game and become the party poppers? History says the Bulldogs will win.
North by 32 points
Jubilee Oval 2.30pm Last Start - West 7.13 (55) def North 6.6 (42)
Head to Head - North 3 - West 1.