AFL Preview: Hawks v Bulldogs

 

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AFL Preview: Finals Week 2
Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs
7.50pm AEST, Friday, September 16
MCG, Melbourne

Western Bulldogs Line +11.5 ($1.93)
Wire to Wire – Any Other Result ($2.00)
Total Game Score – Over 164.5 ($1.90)

Hawthorn are on the ropes, but can the Dogs land the killer blow?

Form
Hawthorn have the wobbles up, having lost three of their last five, and with one of their wins coming by one point against lowly Collingwood in Round 23. Prior to that, they had lost by 25 points to West Coast, defeated North by 39, and lost to Melbourne by 29. Their best performance in this run was last week against Geelong when they had the game on Isaac Smith’s boot, but he couldn’t deliver victory.

The Western Bulldogs had been solid but not spectacular leading into finals, winning three out of four games, but with the most prestigious win coming against an ailing North, and the loss being to 16th placed Fremantle. Coming into finals, the Dogs hadn’t beaten a team in the top seven since Round 15, but they found several gears to trounce West Coast in Perth in their elimination final.

Key Match-ups

Sam Mitchell v Caleb Daniel

These two are among the shortest players in the finals series, but also among the toughest, and while they are at either end of the experience spectrum, both are renowned for their clean hands and superior decision-making. If Sam Mitchell is causing too much havoc with his creativity, expect Daniel to put the clamps on him, as he did in their Round 3 meeting this year.

Ben Stratton v Jake Stringer

Stringer was put back to the VFL after struggling for form in the second half of the season, but was brought back in for the Dogs’ elimination final where he had some down moments again, but also played an important hand at key stages. The Hawks can’t afford to let him gain any confidence given his match-winning capabilities, and versatile Stratton will be the man for the job.

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Kicking off the first of the two finals are the mighty Hawks and the firing Bulldogs.

After leading his team to victory last week in the west, we must look at Luke Dahlhaus once again. In Fantasy he is paying $5.50 after his season high 132 last week. He scored 121 on the Hawks when they met in round three and will be tough to stop again as he fills all stats lines. Sam Mitchell racked up another 30 possession game against the Dogs earlier this year and at $3.25, he’s very tough to look past.

With Liam Shiels set to run with Marcus Bontempelli, keep an eye out for Caleb Daniel to be turning heads again this week. He’s little and he wears a helmet but we can’t hold that against him. He had 33 touches last week and 29 on the Hawks in round three. You can find the little man if you search hard enough in group B at $3.25. He’s also in group B in Fantasy as well and is way over the odds paying $9.

If you’re looking for a tackler, then look no further than one of the league’s best, Liam Shiels. He had 11 last week and gone over double figures, six times this year. He’ll be right on Bonts hammer and will wear him all night like a glove.

Josh Gibson ($6) v Matty Boyd ($4.50) is a huge battle in the mark market. Try to say that ten times quickly.

Gibson gets the nod for me as he has been a favourite of mine throughout the year. Three times he has registered 12+ marks and earlier this year, he pulled down 8 against the Dogs.

Stats That Matter

Hawthorn have won eight in a row against the Western Bulldogs, including in Round 3 this season when they won by three points. Two of those wins were at the MCG, with the last being in 2011.

Hawthorn have won 7 of 11 matches at the MCG this season, at -3% POT and 45% ATS. The Bulldogs are 2 from 2 at the venue this year, at +42% POT, covering the line both times.

Since 2012, Hawthorn have played 12 finals at the MCG, winning 10 at +36% POT and 75% ATS, with 58% of these matches going over the total match points. They have averaged 105 points for there, and 78 points against.

The Hawks have played 11 matches against top eight sides this season, winning six at +2% POT and 36% ATS. The Dogs have played 10 matches against top eight sides this year, winning five at +46% POT and 60% ATS.

Betting Data
2016 Line: Hawthorn 8-15, Bulldogs 13-10
2016 Over/Under: Hawthorn 10-13, Bulldogs 7-16

Final Thoughts

The Bulldogs attacked last weeks elimination final in a frenzy of pressure and desperation, but importantly backed it up with sure ball handling and high skill under pressure. They appear to have regrouped in the break and set themselves for a long campaign, not just one or two weeks. It’s never that easy, of course, and here they run into a three time defending champions Hawthorn.

The Hawks have a renowned weakness in the contested possession area, which has gotten worse the longer the season has gone. This is made up for with the superior ball movement, but even it has been less effective this season.

The Dogs are one of the best contested possession teams in the competition, so they will be strong where the Hawks are weak. But the Dogs also have a good outside game, where they like to control games through their ball movement similar to the Hawks. This should dull whatever advantage the Hawks have on the outside, and we saw the Dogs dominate both categories when the sides met earlier in the year.

Hawthorn has played much more football than the Dogs at the MCG, particularly in finals, so this will be an advantage. The Hawks also have more obvious pathways to goal, so the Dogs are once again going to have to be at their defensive best, as they were against West Coast’s multi-faceted forward-line last week.

The game should be a terrific one, to continue the run of great finals started last week, but it might just be time for the mighty to fall.

How It’s Shaping Up
Western Bulldogs by 8 points

Best Bet
Western Bulldogs Line +11.5 ($1.93)

Other Recommended Bets
Wire to Wire – Any Other Result ($2)

Total Game Score – Over 164.5 ($1.90)

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