Aaron Naughton and Jamarra Ugle-Hagan celebrate a goal for the Western Bulldogs against Essendon in R5, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

SYDNEY is confident its undersized defence can handle the Western Bulldogs' tall timber on Thursday night as the Swans look to extend their lead at the top of the ladder.

Sydney were able to keep Carlton's tall forwards under wraps last week, restricting Charlie Curnow, Harry McKay and Tom De Koning to just three goals between them, despite still being without key defender Tom McCartin (concussion).

McCartin (194cm) will miss again against the Bulldogs on Thursday night, but last week's result has given the Swans confidence they will be able to blunt a Bulldogs offensive unit led by tall threats Jamarra Ugle-Hagan (197cm), Aaron Naughton (196cm) and emerging star Sam Darcy (208cm).

John Longmire and Lewis Melican celebrate Sydney's win over Hawthorn at the MCG in round seven, 2024. Picture: Getty Images

This despite the key defensive trio of Lewis Melican (194cm), Aaron Francis (192cm) and Dane Rampe (187cm) giving up a combined 28cm - almost a foot - to the Dogs' three talls, although the 196cm Nick Blakey could also play a role.

"The strength of our group has been that we've been able to bring players in to play a role," Rampe said.

"Aaron Francis came in and did an exceptional job, and Lewis Melican's starting to really get the reward of consistency in his body and show his professionalism and what he's capable of.

"We're seeing the benefits of all that now and (the Bulldogs) do have a big forward line, but we feel like we can match them."

The Swans received a boost on Wednesday when they met with club legend Bob Skilton and fellow Hall of Famer and Team of the Century member John Heriot at their captain's run ahead of Thursday night's clash.

Club legend Bob Skilton meets with Sydney players in Melbourne on May 22, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

Rampe says the Swans are prepared to carry a target on their backs for the rest of the season having dropped just one game so far and surging six points clear on top ahead of next week's mid-season bye.

But they face a difficult assignment against the unpredictable Bulldogs (5-5) at Marvel Stadium, fully aware they have become the hunted in the flag race.

"The nature of the beast is that teams are going to figure out what we're doing now and keep coming after us," Rampe said.


"If we don't look for ways to get better and improve, then we're going to get caught out pretty quickly."

Sydney have won six straight games by an average margin of almost eight goals and destroyed flag hopefuls Carlton on home soil last week.

They are wary of a Bulldogs outfit that have won their past two matches in convincing fashion - against Richmond and finals contenders GWS - after dropping their previous two.

"As of last week they're in some great form ... their best players can be really damaging if you let them be," Rampe said.

"We're preparing for a red-hot Western Bulldogs at the end of a really good block that we've had."

Club legend Bob Skilton meets with Sydney players in Melbourne on May 22, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos