1. Dead Eye’ returns
Tory Dickson has been a consistent contributor for the Western Bulldogs for the best part of a decade.
The 32-year-old returns this week for a crunch clash with the Cats.
It’s his first game for 2020, but Dickson is no stranger to the big stage and has some solid scratch-match form behind him.
His track record of 181.61 from 113 games proves he knows where the big sticks are.
And in what are expected to be dewy, night-time Gold Coast conditions, Dickson’s goal-smarts could have a big say on proceedings.
2. Bontempelli v Dangerfield
You’d imagine these two are likely to go head-to-head at different stages on Friday night.
But even if they don’t, the impact they are able to have on the game will be critical.
Bontempelli, the Bulldogs’ skipper, has put together a scintillating fortnight of football to lead his side to wins against Melbourne and the Adelaide Crows.
Dangerfield has similarly had an important impact over the past two weeks.
Both are among the competition’s elite midfielders, for their ability to win the ball around the stoppage and generate an offensive impact.
3. Dogs’ track record
Make no mistake, the Bulldogs will have a point to prove.
Their record against current top-eight sides this year is 0-5 – with early-season losses to Collingwood and St Kilda followed by a string of defeats to Richmond, Port Adelaide and the Brisbane Lions in the first ‘footy frenzy’.
Despite those outcomes though, the Bulldogs sit in eighth spot on the ladder.
It makes Friday night’s clash against the Cats super important.
A win would go a long way to solidifying that spot inside the eight, but a loss could see them slip back to 11th – depending on other results across the round – and make those finals ambitions just a little bit harder to achieve in 2020.
4. Stop the Tomahawk
Bulldog boss Luke Beveridge admits Tom Hawkins is going to take some stopping.
The Cats’ spearhead has had a sensational 2020 season, not only leading the Coleman Medal tally with 33 majors, but being a joint leader for goal assists (16).
Stopping Hawkins goes a long way towards the Bulldogs getting four points.
That job looks likely to fall to new defensive chief Alex Keath.
Keath has had an outstanding debut season in red, white and blue and will no doubt be excited by the challenge – and probably hoping for some aerial assistance from time-to-time from the likes of Easton Wood and Hayden Crozier.