A year later, same teams, same venue and both teams playing for the same reward: a spot in the Grand Final.
St Kilda look to bury the nightmares of 2009.
Western Bulldogs look to defy the overwhelming odds of an unlikely victory over a team that denied them so cruelly of a Grand Final birth last year.
The Saints will go in as clear favourites. So they should. They look fresh from the week off and with the return of their Captain Nick Riewoldt, they should prove too strong for an undermanned Bulldogs side.
The Bulldogs showed great heart and determination to come from behind to defeat Sydney and keep Brad Johnson’s career alive. But to be honest, their victory was less than flattering. Sydney kicked 2.8 in the second half. Yet, the final scores never lie, the Bulldogs are through to a third consecutive Preliminary final. The first time in their club’s history.
One of the keys for the Bulldogs’ fortunes is the possible return of defender Dale Morris. Morris is the Bullies best shut down defender and crucial to their defensive setup. If he can prove his fitness, he will be able to free up Brian Lake. Without Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen and to a lesser Robert Murphy are their only two midfielders who have the explosive speed to break the lines and worry the Saint’s midfield. If Griffen and Murphy can get off the leash, then expect a close contest at the MCG.
Nick Riewoldt, Brendan Goddard and Lenny Hayes loom as the major threat to the Bullies. With doubt over Lake’s fitness and the unlikely-hood of Morris’ return, Riewoldt, as always, is a huge concern for the Bulldogs’ defence. He torched Harry Taylor the other week with his unmatchable running ability and contested marking. Hayes is the motor in their midfield and Goddard is their General and playmaker. As Geelong showed in the second half in the first final, if you shut down Goddard you limit St Kilda’s transition from the back-line to the forward line.
Expect the Saints to be too slick and physical for an undermanned Western Bulldogs outfit.
St Kilda by 28 points.