Western Bulldogs are relishing Sunday’s crunch clash with Greater Western Sydney, knowing full well it is a game that will shape the AFL’s top four.
The Bulldogs, GWS, Sydney and Hawthorn all boast 6-2 records after eight rounds; creating a ladder logjam under North Melbourne and Geelong.
The Hawks face Sydney on Friday night, setting the perfect stage for two teams to make big statements about their top-four credentials.
The Giants are coming off a five-game winning streak, the latest of which was a clinical 91-point shellacking of Gold Coast.
The expansion side are also undefeated at home this year.
“It’s going to be a massive game. Two emerging sides going at it,” Bulldogs veteran Matthew Boyd told AAP.
“We’re both on the same win-loss record so it’s an important game.
“They’ve been playing some unbelievable footy. They’ve got such a talented group and a really even spread around the whole ground.
“It’s going to really test us.”
The Bulldogs hadn’t played away from Etihad Stadium until round eight, when they defeated Melbourne by 32 points at the MCG.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge can’t wait for the club’s first trip outside Victoria.
“You can become too familiar,” Beveridge said.
“Even though we played our first seven games under the roof, the players have been looking forward to the next part of the season.
“We’re looking forward to going up to Spotless.”
Beveridge noted the Giants were one of the form sides of the competition.
“GWS is going to be a big challenge up there. They’re obviously going extremely well, they’ve had a couple of big scalps,” he said.
“They’ve got momentum. Every part of their game seems to be in order.”
The two teams have a burgeoning rivalry – established through off-field actions as much as anything else.
Ryan Griffen was captain of the Bulldogs when he quit in 2014 to join GWS, having lost his love of the game at Whitten Oval.
Griffen and Tom Boyd, the No.1 draft pick who joined the Bulldogs as part of the trade involving Griffen, will both miss the upcoming contest.
Griffen is nursing a back injury, while Boyd is recovering from a shoulder complaint.