There’s been no shortage of hype surrounding the GWS vs Bulldogs preliminary final rematch in the media, as the GWS Giants look to make amends for their shock exit in last year’s home preliminary final. It is a big night for the Giants, who have been awarded their first ever Friday night AFL game where they’ll be front and centre stage for the AFL world. They come up against last year’s premiers the Western Bulldogs, who are sitting at 4-1 for the season despite having a few scares against North Melbourne and Brisbane on their preferred home deck Etihad Stadium.
Looking at the key numbers, the Western Bulldogs game style has evidently changed from last year. Their numbers on contested football are down, whereas that was the benchmark of their game in 2016, and the scoring in their games both for and against has subsequently gone up. As they did for much of 2016, the Western Bulldogs are having to rely on having an even contribution from their list in hitting the scoreboard, as they lack a prolific key target with Travis Cloke, Jack Redpath and Tory Dickson all sidelined at the moment. Livewire Jake Stringer leads the goalkicking tally for the Bulldogs currently, with ten to his name, followed by gun midfielders Marcus Bontempelli and Lachie Hunter who each have seven. The Bulldogs are relying on their midfielders to hit the scoreboard for them week in week out.
After a surprise thrashing in Round 1 to an Adelaide team that is clearly an elite outfit, GWS have been super impressive this season. Shane Mumford is in career best form, and he has supreme quality joining him at each clearance in Callan Ward, Josh Kelly, Dylan Shiel and Tom Scully. The Giants are dominating clearances and contested possessions each week, with differentials of +13 and +21 in these categories respectively.
When you dominate the footy in and around the contest, and combine this with the silky foot skills and outside pace that the Giants have in spades, you have a dangerous team that can move the footy quickly and efficiently away from the contest. In terms of their forward line, GWS have a much more traditional composition than the Western Bulldogs, with three solid talls in Jeremy Cameron, Jon Patton and Rory Lobb, plus three electric small forwards in Toby Greene, Devon Smith and Steve Johnson. Amazingly, Greene is currently sitting third in the Coleman race, one ahead of team mate Jeremy Cameron who sits in fourth position.
In terms of line-up quality, both of these teams have plenty of talent, illustrated by the table below where we break down the number of players in each class category for tonight’s teams:
GWS have more players in the top 10% of their position, while the Bulldogs have a very healthy eleven players in our “A Grade” (above average) category. The Bulldogs strength is certainly their midfield, however the GWS midfield group has been an absolutely dominant force from round 2 onwards this year. Both teams have class and pace (think Zac Williams and Jason Johanissen) in the backline, however it’s the forward line where the GWS have the Bulldogs covered comfortably.
Furthermore, for the year to date, the Western Bulldogs have been allowing opposition key forwards to outperform their expected player rating by a significant margin, whereas GWS actually restrict opponents forwards to ratings below their expected. This is a key difference between these two sides, and one that GWS will look to exploit tonight with their forward line in good form against a side struggling to defend anywhere near as well as they did last year.
GWS vs Bulldogs: Prediction
GWS by 27 points
GWS vs Bulldogs: Betting Approach
The market on this game has been bouncing around a little bit. It was as low as -19.0 at Pinnacle around 9am this morning, however it now sits closer to our fair value at -25.5, which means there is not enough value to take the Giants as a bet.
If you’re looking to get on this game keep an eye on the market later today, and if you can find yourself -19.5 we would suggest a stake of 3.5 units on GWS at the line.
Best of luck for the weekend of punting ahead!
For more information or to join the AFL Bets package click here, or listen to Daniel’s pre-season appearance on the Betting 360 Podcast.