THE unbeaten Western Bulldogs are bracing for their biggest test of the AFL season to date in what coach Luke Beveridge expects to be an “extremely hot” contest with Richmond on Friday night.
The two sides enter the MCG clash in contrasting form with reigning premiers Richmond slumping to a 3-3 record after three losses in their past four outings.
They have also had premiership stars Dustin Martin (concussion) and Kane Lambert (calf) added to their injury list.
The Bulldogs won’t be lulled into a false sense of security, however, and don’t have to look far back for an example of the Tigers’ ability to flick a switch.
Richmond snapped out of a funk with a 41-point thrashing of the Dogs in round nine last year, losing just two more games in 2020 as they surged to a third flag in four seasons.
“We’d got ourselves back on track and the Tigers weren’t at the peak of their powers but they came out and blew us away,” Beveridge said of their clash last year.
“That really ignited their push towards their next flag and we were a disappointing part of that.
“As much as they, in recent times, haven’t been stringing the wins together that they have ordinarily done, we don’t want to be the time that ignites their 2021 season.”
Richmond coach Damien Hardwick said this week’s contest would pit the Dogs’ high-possession game against his Tigers’ pressure and the ability, or otherwise, of Beveridge’s men to absorb that heat will be crucial to the outcome.
“It will be extremely hot,” Beveridge said.
“The first 10-15 minutes of last week’s game are an indication of what the Tigers are capable of and credit to Melbourne, they were able to steady and find their feet and win a game against an extremely good Richmond side.
“We’ve got to look at that and our players have got to be prepared for it.
“(But) we’re not going to change what is our MO (modus operandi) because it would be confusing for our players if we move away from the things that we believe in.
“We won’t do things dramatically different.
“We’ll respect them and we’ll need some plans in place to cater for what they do and have an awareness of where we might be exposed.”
The Bulldogs will make at least four changes with Tim English (concussion), Josh Dunkley (shoulder), Lin Jong (hamstring) and Laitham Vandermeer (back) all out of the side that extended their winning streak to six in a row.
Patrick Lipinski will come in with Mitch Wallis, Rhylee West, Mitch Hannan and Josh Schache and No.1 draft pick Jamarra Ugle-Hagan all in consideration.
(C) AAP 2021