Two-time AFL premiership coach Denis Pagan is backing the Western Bulldogs, saying they have the mental toughness to overcome their tough preliminary final assignment.
The North Melbourne great also wonders whether the Giants are already thinking about playing in their first grand final, rather than focusing on the Bulldogs this Saturday at Spotless Stadium.
“I hope the Bulldogs win this week, I believe they can,” Pagan posted on Facebook.
“GWS have talent galore, their three key forwards, (Jeremy) Cameron, (Jon) Patton and (Rory) Lobb will be obstacles but GWS haven’t faced any struggles or tough times in their short existence.
“They will have only played one game in four weeks and I am sure a lot of their players with plenty of time on their hands would have been thinking about grand finals and the MCG – that is a recipe for disaster.”
Pagan is impressed with how the Bulldogs have coped with a bad run of injuries this season, comparing them favourably to North.
“The Western Bulldogs have been through the tough times, faced adversity and never whinge about injury – wish my side wouldn’t,” Pagan said.
“They have great leadership on and off the ground, they are united and I believe are ready.
“Finals football is 90 per cent above the shoulders and playing in the moment, minute by minute, contest by contest. That’s the Bulldogs isn’t it.”
Pagan highlighted the importance of contested possessions, particularly in finals.
He noted how GWS beat Sydney in that area a fortnight ago, but the Swans bounced back last Saturday in the semi-final win over Adelaide and the Bulldogs similarly won the stat well in their Friday night triumph over Hawthorn.
“AFL finals football always gets back to contested ball wins -, what happens in the last metre of any contest, whether marking or winning the ground balls absolutely critical,” Pagan said.
“I call it the One Metre Test and in that final 39 inches of any contest your team’s destiny will be determined for the day.” Pagan is a big fan of the Bulldogs and what he calls their “organised chaos” playing style.
“They attack the ball aggressively in numbers, sensational with their ball handling, very quick handball and their unpredictable approach effective,” he said.