NO LATE CHANGES
Port Adelaide: Sam Powell-Pepper
Western Bulldogs: Anthony Scott
FOLLOW IT LIVE All the scores and stats
Port Adelaide beat Western Bulldogs by two points in a gripping round 23 clash that changed the course of each of their finals campaigns so far. Just three weeks later their paths cross again in a preliminary final. The Power's last-round victory secured their top-two finish and after backing that up with a qualifying final win over Geelong will now play a second home final. The Bulldogs' late-season loss forced them into an elimination final then a tough and tense semi-final last week. While the Power have had a week off for the likes of Orazio Fantasia to freshen up ongoing concerns, the Bulldogs will have to rejig their forward line after losing Cody Weightman from their semi-final team and their backline after an injury to Alex Keath. Marcus Bontempelli has been named despite twisting his knee last week, and Stefan Martin has received a shock call-up.
Where and when: Adelaide Oval, Saturday September 11, 7.10pm ACST
WHAT HAPPENED THIS YEAR?
The Bulldogs charged to an early 22-point lead and didn't trail until the Power kicked the last three goals of the match to snatch both the victory and a home qualifying final. Ollie Wines (34 disposals, one goal) and Travis Boak (31, two) led the Power comeback while Jack Macrae (29 touches) was best for the Dogs.
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In a see-sawing contest the Bulldogs withstood a final-quarter challenge from the Power to steady with the last two goals of the match and cement an early top-two position. Tom Liberatore (27 disposals, 20 contested, 12 clearances) was a beast for the Dogs while Aaron Naughton took a screamer and kicked four goals. Wines (32 disposals) and Boak (30) were best for the Power.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
The Power prefer to play with at least three key forwards and will again turn their tall threat into a potent weapon. Alex Keath's absence is a massive blow so the Dogs defence is certain to be stretched. Zaine Cordy comes in to help out but Ryan Gardner and Bailey Williams will certainly be tested against Charlie Dixon (46 goals), Todd Marshall (23 goals), and Peter Ladhams (13 goals). Mitch Georgiades (32 goals) was left out of the team.
The Dogs' ruck role has been unsettled for much of the season with veteran recruit Stefan Martin injured since round 12 and Luke Beveridge reluctant to trust Tim English. But the Bulldogs coach turned to English after half-time in their semi-final last week as the 24-year-old played 88 per cent of his game in the ruck and helped turn the match. English only had one hitout against the Power in round 23 which is undoubtedly why Luke Beveridge has taken the gamble and recalled Martin to go head-to-head with Scott Lycett.
THE STATS THAT MATTER
It seems a simple game when you consider the Power have won all 17 matches when they have won the contested-ball battle, and lost five of the six times they lost that count. The outlier is a one-point win over lowly Collingwood in round 10. The likes of Ollie Wines, Travis Boak, Robbie Gray and Scott Lycett will hope to match their round 23 efforts when the Power beat the Dogs in contested ball (138-131) and on the scoreboard.
The Bulldogs are the clearance kings, averaging a League-leading 40 a game with a +5.9 differential over their opponents. Tom Liberatore (ave 7.7) leads the competition at the coalface with Jack Macrae (seven) not far behind, but both will need to be at their best to beat the likes of Travis Boak (6.3) and Ollie Wines (5.9) at the stoppages.
IT'S A BIG WEEK FOR…
Ollie Wines has averaged a career-high 32.1 disposals and was named in the Therabody AFL All-Australian team for the first time this season, and now has an opportunity to solidify his place among the stars of the competition. The 26-year-old was prominent in both clashes with the Dogs this season, and in their qualifying final win over Geelong, but was relatively quiet in the preliminary final against Richmond last year. Wines might have Josh Dunkley as close company this time as he looks to have an influence in the harshest of cut-throat finals.
Adam Treloar was well below his best in the Dogs' semi-final victory, with only two kicks in his 10 touches and some poor defensive efforts part of a lacklustre display. The first-year Bulldog might get more onball opportunities with Marcus Bontempelli hurting his knee last week but needs to improve his output and body language to bounce back even if he again spends plenty of time in the front half.
Port Adelaide by 24 points. The onball battle looks evenly balanced but the Power have more forward firepower and a fit and fresh group.