Brisbane are looking to cement their place in the top four, the Bulldogs the top eight, so the stakes are high heading into the opening game of round 15 at the Gabba on Thursday night.
Melbourne are four points clear at the top of the AFL ladder but then just eight points, two wins, separate second and 10th spot. It could not be much tighter and every game between now and the end of the season is huge.
Brisbane are joint-second on 40 points with Geelong, Fremantle and Carlton. The Bulldogs are eight points behind in eighth spot with Richmond and St Kilda breathing down their neck in the race to play finals this season.
An exciting four days of AFL footy is on the cards but let’s start by taking a more in-depth look at the Lions v Bulldogs showdown.
The last two meetings have been crackers. The Lions winning the most recent 86-80 with the Bulldogs winning the one before 79-78. Thursday also has all the makings of another close one.
What: Brisbane Lions v Western Bulldogs
Where: The GABBA, Brisbane
When: 19:20 (AEST) Thursday 30th June, 2022
How to watch: Channel 7, Kayo, Foxtel
Odds: Brisbane 19/50, Western Bulldogs 21/10
Brisbane Lions need a response
The Lions are a pretty tough team to work out right now. You really don’t know what you are going to get from one week to the next.
They are up there pushing for top spot and have a 10-4 win-loss record for the season. However they have been pretty inconsistent recently and have lost three of the last five games.
Two of them have been against top sides Melbourne and Fremantle, while the other was a huge upset as Hawthorn beat them by five points.
Last week’s loss against Melbourne was alarming to say the least. The Demons looked there for the taking despite the fact they are reigning premiers and Brisbane’s record at the MCG is poor.
Melbourne’s issues over the last few weeks have been well documented but they came roaring back to smash the Lions by 64 points.
Coach Chris Fagan says the performance was out of character and the players are keen for redemption.
Lachie Neale is also demanding a response and says midfield is an area they must improve on against the Bulldogs. Both Melbourne and Fremantle won the clearance count by 11 and Neale says the Lions onballers need to raise their work-rate.
As far as team news goes, they are boosted by the return of captain Dayne Zorko following a hamstring injury, while the pacey forward Zac Bailey also returns from illness.
There have been casualties from last week’s mauling against the Demons though as Mitch Robinson has been dropped for the second time this season while Deven Robertson and Tom Berry have also been omitted.
Bulldogs bang in form
There is no doubting the Bulldogs form however. They are a team very much on the up and have won five out of the last six games to take them into the finals positions.
If they can carry on in the same fashion then they are sure to finish in the eight. They do have a tough looking schedule though so it could be easier said than done.
However during the recent run they have overcome some tough opposition in the form of Collingwood and the Gold Coast so can raise their game.
Their only defeat came against high-flying Geelong, but there was only 13 points between the two teams.
Key to the Bulldogs playing well is their midfield. They have one of the strongest in the comp and they are starting to click. As stated above the Lions have under-performed there so the midfield battle could again decide which way this game goes.
The Bulldogs have also been hit by a huge blow as star defender Caleb Daniel has been ruled out with a knee injury.
Daniel recently committed his future by penning a new long-term deal and the Bulldogs will need to get him back as soon as possible.
It is not all bad news for the doggies though. Lachie Hunter will make his first appearance since taking personal leave after round five.
The 27-year-old has caught the eye when playing in the VFL for the last two games and coach Luke Beveridge will be delighted to have him back in the fold.
Elsewhere Ed Richards is also out injured while Dominic Bedendo comes into the squad.