Optimism aplenty for AFL GF teams

Hard-charging Sydney expect and the undaunted Western Bulldogs believe.

Given what happened in September, they have equal cause for optimism ahead of Saturday’s AFL grand final.

The Bulldogs are riding a wave of emotion and sentiment, with everyone’s second-favourite team trying to win their second premiership.

Their only flag was in 1954 and their last grand final was 1961.

Two years ago, coach Brendan McCartney left, with captain Ryan Griffen soon following, and the Bulldogs were in freefall.

But McCartney’s replacement Luke Beveridge has been outstanding, winning the last two AFL coach of the year awards.

The Bulldogs have overcome a succession of injury setbacks this season and they are the first team to make the AFL grand final from seventh.

Captain Bob Murphy, whose season ended in round three with a knee reconstruction, has continued to have a massive influence on the team with his off-field leadership.

But to make history, the ‘Dogs have to beat Sydney.

After losing the qualifying final to the Giants, the minor premiers have returned to form with a vengeance and they are the favourites heading into Saturday’s clash

They took early control in their semi-final against Adelaide and then turned an expected tight preliminary final into a whitewash.

Sydney tore Geelong apart with the first eight goals of the match.

It was reminiscent of what Hawthorn did to them at the start of the Swans’ last grand final two years ago.

Clearly, Sydney learned those painful lessons well.

Beveridge and Swans coach John Longmire were adamant on Friday about their team selections.

The Bulldogs are unchanged, while the Swans have recalled co-captain Jarrad McVeigh and Rising Star winner Callum Mills from injury.

But late changes would come as no surprise, especially if the weather turns bad at the MCG.

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