Strength to strength
Hawthorn are so easy to love. While 99% of the population is (not so) quietly praying the Hawks get rolled long before the Grand Final, they’re already topping up their stocks for next year’s tilt, with Jaeger O’Meara all but signed up to help ensure their fans get that rare and elusive premiership in 2017. You know, the one they’ve been so desperately craving for about 20 minutes since the hangover finally dissipated from their last three.
One more bark
This week the Hawks ($1.56) face the people’s team, the Western Bulldogs ($2.50), who were just about write-offs a couple of weeks ago as they limped into September. Yet they’re now well and truly in the frame for a preliminary finals berth, having travelled west and dismantled the Eagles in one of the performances of the year. The Dogs’ brand of run and gun footy they produced last week is good enough to beat anyone, and it stacks up well against the precise but sometimes less pacey style the Hawks are renowned for.
A sign of things to come?
Brown and gold haven’t exactly been good omens for the Dogs this year. Their three-point loss against Hawthorn in Round 3 came after they were well up at three-quarter time, and it also cost them captain Bob Murphy for the season. Intriguingly, it was young forward James Sicily who proved the difference on that occasion with three third-quarter goals. Sicily was a late withdrawal from Hawthorn’s side last week, with the club citing gastro, despite Sicily reportedly being present for the team’s pre-game meeting. Because in an age of clubs seeking every miniscule advantage, they’d definitely risk giving an entire team the runs on day one of a four-week finals campaign…something doesn’t quite smell right, and it’s not just Isaac Smith’s kicking under pressure. Expect Sicily to be out there tomorrow night.
Hawthorn were one accurate kick away from being straight through to a prelim, so it’d be folly to write them off, but they’ve been at their most vulnerable this year against teams with genuine pace – GWS, Melbourne, the Bulldogs, to name a few. There’s no doubt they’ll have plans in place to shut down the Bulldogs’ ball speed, but if the Dogs start to open things up, they’ll beat anyone. Dogs in an absolute cracker.
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Last time they met: Rd 3 – Hawthorn 14.9 (93) def Western Bulldogs 13.12 (90)
Best bet: Western Bulldogs 1-39 ($2.88)