The Western Bulldogs will be looking to edge closer to the top eight when they take on a Hawthorn side who are out to make progress under first-year coach Sam Mitchell.
The Bulldogs made the grand final in 2021 before losing to Melbourne and things have not worked out quite as well so far this season.
However they are still in the mix for finals with plenty of footy left to be played. Luke Beveridge’s men sit 10th on the ladder. Just one win away from the eight.
Hawthorn are 14th with a 4-9 win-loss record. They are going through a rebuild under Mitchell and there have been some positive signs this season.
The Bulldogs certainly cannot take anything for granted and the Hawks will be out to cause an upset.
What: Western Bulldogs v Hawthorn
Where: Marvel Stadium, Melbourne
When: 19:00 (AEST), Friday 24th June, 2022
Odds: Bulldogs 21/50, Hawthorn 19/10
Bulldogs bang in form
The Bulldogs are starting to hit their straps at just the right time as they look to play finals again in the 2022 AFL campaign.
They have won four of the last five games. Not only that they have been putting some big numbers on the scoreboard in the process.
The doggies scored 99, 106, 161 and 125 points against Collingwood, Gold Coast, West Coast and GWS respectively and will be out to inflict something similar on the Hawks.
Their only defeat in the last five came on home soil against flag hopefuls Geelong. But it was a tight affair with just 13 points separating the two sides.
The fixture list is looking pretty daunting after the Hawthorn game, with clashes against Brisbane, Sydney, St Kilda, Melbourne, Geelong and Fremantle to come.
It will make or break their chances of playing finals so it is even more important they get the four points against the Hawks.
Their hopes could also hinge on getting Josh Bruce back fit and playing as soon as possible. Bruce was closing in on a return to AFL action only to suffer a minor hamstring injury.
The club are confident it is not a big issue but he will not be able to play against Hawthorn nonetheless.
Beveridge will also be missing small forward Cody Weightman, who has booted 21 goals so far this season. He dislocated his elbow in the win over GWS last week.
The Bulldogs coach is well aware of the tough run his side are facing but says it is important they take it one game at a time.
"We believe our best is going to challenge but as we discussed this morning the momentum swings in games we've got to stave off and we're setting ourselves up each week to be a formidable opponent,” he said ahead of the game.
Hawthorn can raise their game
Hawthorn have lost the last three games and it will take a big effort to turnover the Bulldogs on their own patch. However they can take plenty of heart from their last performance against Fremantle before the bye.
The Dockers are flying high but the Hawks gave them a run for their money in the west before losing by just 13 points.
Mitchell’s men have shown they can raise their game and take it to the big boys this season. They beat Brisbane in round 10 and have also defeated Geelong.
They also ran reigning premiers Melbourne close so beating the Bulldogs is not out of the question.
The Hawks are undergoing a rebuild under Mitchell and the signs are promising. Yet another youngster will be handed his debut against the Bulldogs.
21-year-old James Blanck was only recruited three weeks ago in the NAB AFL Mid-Season Rookie Draft and Mitchell will put the key defender straight in against the Bulldogs.
He is the latest in a long line of players to come from Box Hill Hawks, who play in the VFL and have an alliance with Hawthorn.
Such an alliance is paying off. Jai Newcombe, Lachie Bramble and Ned Reeves also came from Box Hill and will play against the Bulldogs.
Blanck will be handed his chance after Sam Frost injured his knee in the loss to Fremantle. It will be a daunting task as he will be up against a Dogs attack that features Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.
But Mitchell has every confidence in him and says he is up to the job.
After the Bulldogs, Hawthorn have a great run of fixtures against GWS, Adelaide, West Coast and North Melbourne, which presents the perfect opportunity to start climbing the ladder.