Bulldogs-Saints ready for battle - Sports News - Fanatics - the world's biggest events

Bulldogs-Saints ready for battle

By Roger Vaughan 29/04/2010 06:54:49 PM Comments (0)

The Western Bulldogs-St Kilda clash on Friday night at Etihad Stadium is the sort of battle that can define an AFL season.

Everything will be on the table for two teams who could well next meet this season in the grand final.

It is the perfect start to the league's rivalry round.

Since beating the Saints by 40 points in the NAB Cup final, the Bulldogs have not enjoyed the barnstorming start to the home and away season that many pundits expected.

They have three wins from five games, but only started regaining their best touch in last Friday night's win over Adelaide.

The Saints quickly set aside the Cup final loss, posting four straight wins before a surprise loss last weekend to Port Adelaide.

"(Those) four to six weeks was always going to be a tough block for us, we still haven't played (as) super-consistently as what we'd like," said Bulldogs coach Rodney Eade.

"But we know it's a tough comp, teams are going to be up and down - we started to show some signs last week, which was pleasing.

"We have to play our best against the best teams and that's what you measure yourself against.

"We know how tough a contest it's going to be and we've just got to be able to match that intensity in a game.

"We've spoken about that, that's what our aim is."

The Bulldogs' start to the home and away season featured two six-day breaks in a row and Brisbane away, which they lost.

But they are coming off a seven-day break for the Saints.

"Certainly it can limit you to a degree, but having said that, the players have gotten through that pretty well and we don't have another one now until round 17," Eade said.

That freshness will be crucial for the Bulldogs as they try to maximise their pace and clean ball use under the Etihad Stadium roof.

Saints coach Ross Lyon said on Wednesday that the pre-season final result was "irrelevant" and Eade agreed with him, to a point.

New Bulldogs key forward Barry Hall was best afield with seven goals and Zac Dawson will again start on him.

The big change from that match will be the absence of the Saints' best player and captain Nick Riewoldt, out for more than half the season following hamstring surgery.

"I don't know so much `irrelevant', but it's not going to have much, if any, bearing on the result on Friday night," Eade said.

"You learn a bit more about your own group, more than anything."

Eade said Dawson's matchup on Hall was not as important as how the Bulldogs handled St Kilda's renowned pressure around the ground.

"Their defence has been proven as one of the, if not the, tightest defences in the competition," Eade said.

"It's more of a team defence, we know we have to get some good ball into him (Hall) the right way - it's more than the actual opponent you're playing on."

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