Sydney’s AFL grand final know-how will count for nothing against the inexperienced Western Bulldogs, according to midfielder Dan Hannebery.
The Swans, readying for their third season-decider in five years, are vastly more familiar with what awaits at the MCG on Saturday than the Bulldogs, who will play their first since 1961.
Despite this season’s more youthful line-up, Sydney coach John Longmire fielded 12 players with grand-final experience in last Friday’s preliminary final against Geelong.
Seven of those had appeared in more than one, with forward Lance Franklin about to line up for his fifth.
In stark contrast, the Bulldogs team that pipped Greater Western Sydney in Saturday’s thrilling second fixture did not contain a single player with first-hand knowledge of the game’s showpiece.
Only the sidelined Matt Suckling (Achilles), who won two flags with former club Hawthorn but remains in doubt for this weekend, has grand final experience.
But 2012 premiership player Hannebery dismissed the gulf as irrelevant, citing the Swans’ humiliating 63-point loss to Hawthorn in the 2014 grand final as proof that even a side stacked with old hands can come undone in the code’s biggest game.
“It’s great there is experience there but at the same time I don’t think it has any bearing on the result at all,” Hannebery told AAP.
“A couple of years ago we were embarrassed on that stage with guys with that experience anyway.
“So it counts for nothing.
“You’ve just got to make sure you bring your A-game, that you’ve got that real steely mindset when that first ball is bounced.”
Hannebery backed the Bulldogs to keep the emotion of their fairytale win over the Giants well in check amid external concerns they might have done their dash a week early.
Instead, the talented on-baller expected a tight and ferocious encounter with the side ranked second only to the Swans in contested possessions.
The Bulldogs also lead the league in disposals, while the Swans are second.
“Their main strength is the ability to keep the ball alive,” Hannebery said.
“They’re probably the best handballers as a group I’ve ever seen – they’re incredible.
“They’ve got a great midfield led by (Marcus) Bontempelli and (Tom) Liberatore and some seriously dangerous forwards.
“Then you have (Jason) Johannisen off the half-back line and (Shane) Biggs – they’ve got stars all over the park.
“That’s why they’re in a grand final, they’re a great footy side and a side that touched us up (by four points) at the SCG and we certainly respect them enormously.”