1. Point to prove
Over the past two seasons, the Saints have a 3-0 record against the Bulldogs.
That includes a 27-point win in late 2019 followed by two wins in 2020, one immediately after the competition’s resumption and the other in an elimination final that ended the Bulldogs’ season.
Had that final gone another two minutes… who knows.
But the Saints got the job done by three points, after blowing the game open in the third term.
The Bulldogs have shown they’re better equipped to deal with those momentum swings in games this year and will be eager to get one back on the Saints.
2. Battle of the big forwards
Both teams have some dangerous tall targets close to goal.
For the Bulldogs, it’s a blossoming partnership between former Saint Josh Bruce and young gun Aaron Naughton.
Bruce sits equal-second in the Coleman Medal tally with 27 majors and Naughton isn’t far behind, in equal-seventh with 22.
Up the other end, the Saints have emerging star Max King, accompanied by the consistent Tim Membrey and a combination of Shaun McKernan and Paddy Ryder.
3. Off-season additions
Adam Treloar and Brad Crouch were two of the higher-profile off-season acquisitions.
They’ll be important to deciding this contest.
Treloar has slotted in seamlessly at the Kennel, averaging 26.2 disposals per game in a role that has seen him split time on the inside and outside of a potent Bulldogs’ midfield.
Crouch has bolstered the Saints’ midfield, averaging 24.9 disposals and more than five clearances per game.
4. Stopping the Bulldogs’ backs
How do the Saints restrict the Bulldogs’ prime movers across half back?
All Australian playmaker Caleb Daniel had Saints co-captain Jarryn Geary for company for parts of last year’s elimination final – and Geary is back in the Saints’ side this week.
But the Bulldogs have developed a wealth of rebounding options.
Alongside Daniel, there’s Bailey Williams and Hayden Crozier, the resurgent Taylor Duryea and forward-turned-defender Bailey Dale.
They’ll be keen to keep things moving quickly under the roof at Marvel.