The Western Bulldogs return on Saturday to the ground where they announced themselves as a reborn AFL force against Sydney.
The SCG clash is this weekend’s match-of-the-round by some distance, with the Swans (10-3) bidding to go back on top of the ladder and the Bulldogs (9-4) aiming to bounce back from a heavy defeat to Geelong that preceded their last-round bye.
If the Dogs are in need of any motivation, a review of last year’s round-five victory would do the trick.
In one of their first games under then barely-known coach Luke Beveridge, the Bulldogs pulled off a superb four-point win that Bob Murphy called the best of his career.
Assistant coach Rohan Smith says it helped mould the side into the fighting force they are today.
“It gave our players belief they were good enough. It was great for our players,” he told AAP.
“No one thought we could come up and win that game. Our first interstate trip for the year. In the wet. A slog.
“It really did gel us together and projected our season.”
Talked about as flag contenders but currently eighth on the ladder, the Bulldogs have used the bye round to heal after a damaging loss to Geelong.
Smith said five changes to their side – only one of which was forced – wasn’t a reaction to the 57-point loss but reflected the chance to return long-term absentees.
Will Minson, who hasn’t played a regular-season game since round 15 last year, returns from the wilderness to replace Tom Campbell and share ruck duties with Jordan Roughead.
“He’s bided his time in the reserves and has been playing some good footy,” Smith said.
“We just felt we needed a bit of a change and Will was ready. We felt Tommy needs to go back to the reserves and find something he’s missing.”
Half-back Jason Johannisen (hamstring) is back after 11 weeks out and acting captain Easton Wood (hamstring) resumes after a month off.
“I don’t think I’ve seen (Johannisen) fitter. He’s done the work,” Smith said.
“He’ll play the role he did in the start of the year. He gives us great speed, great ball use and defensive one-on-one action.”
The Bulldogs also celebrate possession-machine Lachie Hunter’s 50th match, with Smith lauding the 21-year-old’s season.
“Lachie’s been playing some great footy. He has the work ethic to play in all phases of the game … we’re really happy with his game at the moment.”