1. All on the line
A finals berth is up for grabs, it’s as simple as that.
The Bulldogs have it all to play for against the Dockers on Sunday night. The Dockers can’t play finals, but they’ve put a strong block of form together in the run home and will have their sights firmly set on halting the Bulldogs in their tracks.
After results in other games on Friday and Saturday, only a win will do for the Bulldogs.
Melbourne jumped into the top eight after defeating Essendon, while St Kilda locked in their finals spot by defeating the GWS Giants.
The Bulldogs sit ninth at the moment, knowing a win would get them through to the business end of the season for a second consecutive year.
2. Guarding Freo’s forwards
There’s some star power in Fremantle’s forward line.
Big men Jesse Hogan, Matt Taberner and Rory Lobb combined for eight goals in their last outing.
Shutting down those avenues to goal will be ultra-important for the Bulldogs.
They’ve gone with three talls down back, in Alex Keath, Zaine Cordy and Ryan Gardner. Easton Wood also returns to bolster the Bulldogs’ intercept ability, alongside high-flyer Hayden Crozier.
The flipside is, can the Bulldogs’ rebounding brigade – led by the silky-skilled Caleb Daniel – drive them out of defence and into scoring opportunities.
3. Skipper v skipper
It’s a big game for first-year skipper Marcus Bontempelli.
The 24-year-old has been sensational in his new role, leading the Bulldogs to a position where they can reach the finals.
A big test awaits in his opposite number, Fremantle’s Nat Fyfe, on Sunday.
Fyfe has been an influential player against the Bulldogs in recent times, particularly with his stoppage work.
That’s been an area of strength for the Bulldogs all season – and particularly in recent weeks – led by Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Tom Liberatore in the clinches.
4. The conditions
How much impact will the Cairns conditions have?
If games over the past month have been anything to go by, both teams can expect to be confronted with a strong breeze and a slippery footy at Cazalys Stadium.
Who can handle them best remains to be seen.
The Dockers have experienced it first-hand this season, but the Bulldogs will have a bit of understanding too, having played home games at the venue from 2014-17.
Adapting quickly – particular after a day game in perfect conditions at Adelaide Oval – will be crucial for the Bulldogs.