Sat, Jun 17, 12:50pm by Senior Writer
Western Bulldogs v Melbourne, Etihad Stadium, Sunday June 18, 3:20pm AEST
In what is the tightest year in recent memory, just percentage separates Melbourne in sixth and the Western Bulldogs in eighth heading into their crucial clash on Sunday. While it is too early to call this one season-defining, it is certainly of significant importance for the Bulldogs, who have lost three of their past four and are at risk of slipping out of the eight.
The bookies think they can snap out of that mid-year funk and have them as $1.67 favourites to win this one, having dominated clashes between these two over the past decade. The Bulldogs have won 11 of the past 13 against the Demons, while they haven’t lost to them at this venue in ten years.
Melbourne are coming off a hard-fought Queen’s Birthday win over Collingwood and are looking to make it a hat-trick of wins for just the second time in seven years. They are $2.25 outsiders and are given a 7.5 head start at the $1.92 line.
Coming off a heavy defeat to Sydney last time out, the Bulldogs have made five changes, with Matthew Boyd among those axed. Boyd, Travis Cloke, Fletcher Roberts, Marcus Adams and Tim English are the outs with Tom Liberatore, Tom Boyd, Dale Morris, Mitch Honeychurch and Zayne Cordy coming in.
Changing nearly a quarter of your side at this stage of the season seems highly unusual, but there is no doubt the Dogs have lost their edge. They have lost their run off half back, they are second last in the competition in clearances and as a result the scores have dried up.
They have failed to score more than 81 points in their past six games, four of which they have lost, while overall this year they have scored 34 goals fewer than Melbourne. They have just two players score more than 10 goals this year
Melbourne have an unusual distribution of goals as well. The absence of Jesse Hogan has meant they have not had a forward to take contested marks and they are second bottom in the competition in that regard. Jeff Garlett has been a real bonus for them with 27 goals, while Jack Watts is next best with 17.
Then we have the fact that neither side currently plays a specialist ruckman, meaning they occupy the bottom two spots when it comes to hit outs. So much for third-man up saving the future of the ruckman!
What it means is that looks a difficult match to read, with the Dogs far too short given the form they are in and the changes they have been forced to make. With that in mind, we are happy to be on the Demons to cause the upset here but by a small margin.
Suggested Bet: Melbourne to win by 1-39 points at $2.80
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