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There was much optimism around the Bulldogs’ fortunes this year despite their underwhelming premiership defence last season, but all that hopefulness appears to have disappeared after they were smashed by Greater Western Sydney in the opening round. While the effort was there for most of the game, the Dogs’ notoriously poor use of the footy once again shot them in the foot. Injuries have once again hampered Luke Beveridge’s men, but only a strong showing against West Coast on their home deck will give the red, white and blue faithful hope that last year was a one-off flag hangover. The Eagles were honourable last week without really ever threatening Sydney. Nic Naitanui made a successful recovery from 18 months out with a ACL tear, and the star big man will be better for the run. Josh Kennedy has been a constant thorn in the home team’s side, but with goal machine missing through injury, the Dogs should do enough to get the win.
WHERE AND WHEN: Etihad Stadium, Sunday, April 1, 1.10pm AEST
TV AND RADIO: Click here for the broadcast guide
LAST FIVE MEETINGS
R15, 2017, West Coast Eagles 12.15 (87) d Western Bulldogs 11.14 (80) at Etihad Stadium
R8, 2017, West Coast Eagles 9.15 (69) d Western Bulldogs 8.13 (61) at Subiaco Oval
2EF, 2016, Western Bulldogs 14.15 (99) d West Coast Eagles 7.10 (52) at Subiaco Oval
R11, 2016, Western Bulldogs 12.11 (83) d West Coast Eagles 11.9 (75) at Etihad Stadium
R21, 2015, West Coast Eagles 25.12 (162) d Western Bulldogs 13.7 (85) at Subiaco Oval
THE SIX POINTS
1. Andrew Gaff was the difference between the sides in 2017, in round eight he had 35 disposals, one goal and three Brownlow votes; then in the return meeting he again collected the three votes with 42 touches and 10 inside 50s.
2. The Bulldogs were smashed in almost every category in round one against the Giants losing the disposals 347-437, marks 68-119, scoring shots 16-33, had 18 fewer inside-50s but did win the clearances 44-38.
3. Since the start of 2016 it’s two wins each; going back further, since 2013 the Eagles hold a narrow advantage winning five games to four. West Coast hasn’t won three in a row against the Bulldogs since 2011-13.
4. West Coast were strong in contested marking in round one taking 11 to eight but struggled to mark the ball inside 50 ranked equal 12th. They were equal sixth for taking the ball inside 50.
5. This is the 11th clash between the sides at Etihad Stadium with West Coast winning six games to four; the Eagles lost three of five games at Etihad in 2017.
6. Eagle Luke Shuey is the highest ranked player involved in the match from an AFL Player Ratings point on view, sitting 12th on 526.8 points. Bulldog Marcus Bontempelli is hot on his heals in 13th spot with 526.4 points.
IT’S A BIG WEEK FOR …
Marcus Bontempelli has put pressure on himself to lift after the superstar questioned his own leadership in the opening round thumping to Greater Western Sydney. The 22-year-old was also down on output, picking up just 18 disposals and failing to kick a goal.
PREDICTION: Western Bulldogs by 21 points.