The Western Bulldogs are backing the resilience that has underpinned their barnstorming season, no matter how hard Sydney hit them in the AFL grand final.
Two years after Hawthorn’s brutal grand final opening left them shell-shocked, the Swans are now the fast starters as they aim for their second premiership in five years.
Sydney took early control in their semi-final win over Adelaide and then killed off the preliminary final against Geelong with a blistering eight-goal start.
But Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge notes his team also starts well, even if that has not shown at times on the scoreboard.
No matter what happens, Beveridge is confident his players will hold firm.
The Bulldogs are the first team to make the grand final from seventh place, having overcome repeated injury setbacks this season.
“They get out of the gates quickly, no doubt,” Beveridge said.
“We do too – we just don’t kick goals.
“We’re looking for a strong start … unfortunately we’ve been a bit wasteful in the last three games.
“Both teams start well, but the Swans have had some really emphatic starts.”
Missed shots on goal have proved critical in AFL grand finals – ask Geelong about 2008, or Fremantle about 2013.
But Beveridge is backing his team to find a plan B, as the Bulldogs did when they missed early chances and Hawthorn then threatened to take control in their semi-final.
“That (goalkicking accuracy) is the old throwaway, isn’t it. but to our players’ credit, even though we’ve been wasteful, they don’t lose their focus,” he said.
“We’ve stayed composed enough to then come again.
“If it happens again, we just have to keep our heads and fight our way back into it.’
Swans coach John Longmire said there was no guarantee his team would be able to replicate their flying starts against the Crows and Cats.
“We’re aware of their strengths and we need to be really good to match their strengths, regardless of what we’ve done over the last two weeks,” he said.
Beveridge and Longmire were adamant about their selected sides before Friday’s grand final parade.
The Bulldogs are unchanged, with Jordan Roughead’s eye specialist giving him the all-clear and Matt Suckling particularly unlucky to miss out.
Sydney will regain co-captain Jarrad McVeigh and Rising Star winner Callum Mills from injury.
There is plenty of support around the league for the Bulldogs, whose only premiership was in 1954.
They are in their first grand final since 1961, but Beveridge says he feels no weight of history.
“It’s exciting that we can possibly put the second cup in the cabinet – there’s a bit of room,” he said.