It will be a formidable challenge for Richmond when they take on the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium on Saturday night, for they are a team that has an overall blend of strong defence and attacking flair. It will be the 152nd meeting between the two clubs and Richmond actually holds a narrow advantage, winning 78 games to 71 and there has also been two draws. It’s been tight recently though, with three wins each side since 2011. Specifically in relation to Etihad Stadium though, there have been 13 contests for six wins each and one draw. The Bulldogs have won six of nine games in 2016 at Etihad. This is only the fourth time Richmond has played at the venue in the last two seasons.
The Tigers will have their work cut out for them around the ball, as Richmond Assistant Coach Brendon Lade mentioned in this week’s edition of Roar Vision’s Opposition Analysis. The Bulldogs are after all, a team renowned for their contested ball, tackles, clearances and pressure. The Dogs also remain the highest disposal team this season with 425.9 per game. That said though, Richmond has sustained the pressure through the midfield this season somewhat and will thus be hoping to do the same on Saturday night. The midfield mix for the Western Bulldogs is strong and Marcus Bontempelli in particular, can also drift forward and dominate at times. He is the highest ranked Bulldog in the Shick AFL Player Ratings, with the young star sitting fifth. If Bontempelli does indeed surface on the Dogs forward line during the game, one of the Tiger defenders will go to him and stay camped in the defence half throughout.
Another player that Richmond will need to wary of is the dangerous Bulldog forward Jake Stringer. The Tigers are likely to assign either Dylan Grimes or Alex Rance the role of curbing his influence on the game, as both have played on him previously and done quite well. Lade compared Stringer to Dustin Martin in that he’s likewise very hard to match up on and is a noted goal kicker. Yet another player that has been on Richmond’s radar in their preparations for Saturday night is Jason Johannisen. The defender returned from a nine-week stint on the sidelines due to a severe hamstring injury in the previous round against the Sydney Swans and had an immediate impact, netting 20 disposals and kicking the winning goal. He adds a lot of run to the Dogs side along with his natural dash and flair, so the Tigers will need to have their wits about them.
The pressure is off the Tigers now, with finals off the table, so they will be looking to finish off the season as strong as possible in an effort to shape the top eight. The Dogs will be guarding against a letdown against the Tigers though, coming off a memorable win over the Swans. With a top-four spot in reach, the Dogs shouldn’t lack the motivation as they continue to try to build on their modest percentage.
What do you think will happen on Saturday night?