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Match preview: Hawthorn v Western Bulldogs

Pick a Winner: Haw v WB Duck and Browny preview the Hawks v Bulldogs

Where and when: MCG, Sunday March 31, 3.20pm AEDT

Last time they met: Marvel Stadium, round 16, 2018. Western Bulldogs 9.5 (59) lost to Hawthorn 19.8 (122)

Hawthorn star Luke Breust led the charge as the Hawks obliterated the Bulldogs by 63 points. Breust kicked a career-best six goals, four of those in the first term, while Jarryd Roughead and Jack Gunston booted four apiece. Daniel Howe had the job tagging star Marcus Bontempelli, with the Dogs vice-captain gathering 23 possessions but he had little impact. The loss for the Dogs effectively ended their hopes of making the finals.

TV, radio and betting: Click here for broadcast guide

What it means for Hawthorn: Many pundits didn't have Hawthorn in the top eight this season, and while a shock win over the Crows may have swayed a few, the Hawks need to keep the momentum going and bank as many early wins as possible. 

What it means for Western Bulldogs: The last time the Bulldogs beat the Hawks was in a semi-final during their premiership-winning year. If they can nab the four points here, the confidence levels at the Kennel will be sky-high.

 

How Hawthorn wins: It was an even contribution across the board against the Crows. Ben McEvoy was impressive in the ruck, and if he can continue his dominance and give first use to young Hawks James Worpel and Jaeger O'Meara, they will be hard to stop.

How Western Bulldogs wins: Round one saw the Bulldogs return to the manic pressure that delivered them a premiership in 2016. If they can keep that up, it will go a long way to stopping the Hawks in their tracks.

The stat: The Bulldogs struggled last year when it came to entries inside 50. They were ranked 12th in the competition, averaging 52 per game. Already there is a huge improvement in 2019, with 68 against the Swans in the opening round, which has them leading the competition. 

The match-up: James Sicily v Aaron Naughton

Aaron Naughton announced himself as the Bulldogs' No.1 forward against the Swans, his athleticism and presence causing plenty of headaches for the Sydney defence. He kicked three goals and took five marks inside 50. James Frawley probably doesn't have the speed to keep up with Naughton, with young Hawk James Sicily a better match-up. Sicily spent time on Taylor Walker in round one and kept him goalless, while having 26 disposals, 15 rebound 50s and taking 10 marks himself.

It's a big week for: Chad Wingard

The question is will he play? He has said publicly that he is eyeing off a return in round two following a pre-season marred by a troublesome calf. Should he make his debut for the brown and gold, he'll need a good showing to justify to the Hawks giving up young gun Ryan Burton and last year's pick 15 in the NAB AFL Draft.

Recruit Chad Wingard will want to make a good impression for his new club - if he plays. Picture: AFL Photos

Big call: Worpedo stars again, new favourite for the Brownlow

Prediction: Hawthorn by 17 points

The views in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of the AFL or its clubs