The Meadows Greyhounds Division 1 action doesn’t stop over the Queen’s Birthday weekend, with local rivals North Heidelberg and Macleod locking horns at Shelley Reserve.
Despite the disparity in ladder positions, Saturday’s standalone match is a crucial one for both sides as the home and away season approaches its midway point.
The Bulldogs suffered just their second defeat of the season last week and will be seeking a response after being outplayed on their home patch by a Greensborough side which confirmed its status as the side to beat in 2019.
After kicking three of the first four goals, the Bulldogs conceded 14 of the next 19 to suffer a 38-point loss to the competition’s undefeated ladder-leader. The Boro’s 18.15 (123) was the highest score kicked against Brent Harvey’s side this year.
The Bulldogs have now coughed up an average of 108 points in the two matches since the representative break, after conceding a total of just 133 points across the three games between Rounds 3-5.
Given the Bulldogs have booted an average of 98 points over the past two weeks shows the great increase in points conceded is not necessarily indicative of the Bulldogs defence struggling, but more so a sign that recent games have been more free flowing than the preceding month.
Jesse Tardio missed last week’s loss to Greensborough and is expected to remain sidelined in upcoming weeks. While his absence is a major blow, the Bulldogs do have plenty of cover in the midfield, which is arguably the strongest line across their formidable line-up.
Billy Hogan has been in career-best form in the opening rounds of 2019 and continues to rack up the footy and hit the scoreboard. The 24-year-old currently sits inside the top 10 in the Coaches MVP voting and has booted nine goals in seven games.
If he, Brent Harvey and Kyle McDonald get on top in the middle of the ground, the Bulldogs look to have too much firepower up forward for the Macleod backline to contain – with Shane Harvey, Jhye Baddeley-Kelly and Shane Biggs already combining for 56 goals.
Macleod has conceded the fourth-fewest points of any side in the competition, despite sitting in seventh spot, however the Dogs’ spread up forward may force the Roos to play Brad Leggett in defence – denying him from spending time in the ruck where he has been a revelation this year.
While the Bulldogs will be desperate to win this weekend to cement their place in the top-three, the game is arguably even more important for Macleod who needs to claim a big scalp to keep its finals hopes alive.
The Roos’ shock five-point loss to Hurstbridge last week saw them slip two games and percentage outside the top-five and they now have significant work to do to reach a fifth-consecutive finals series.
This week’s match begins an exceptionally tough five-week period for the Roos, who take on each of the top-five in consecutive matches. At 2-5, they would likely have to win at least three of those games to remain in the finals race.
Hitting the scoreboard has become a deficiency for the club this season, with no player yet to reach 10 goals for the campaign. The Roos will hope Patrick Martin can continue his recent good record against North Heidelberg, with Martin kicking 14 goals in his past four matches against the Bulldogs.
If Macleod needed any further motivation going into this weekend’s match it would need to look no further than stalwarts Daniel O’Brien and Justin White – who this weekend reach significant milestone games.
O’Brien will become Macleod’s games record holder when he plays his 251st senior game. The underrated defender surpasses two-time premiership captain Kane Shaw as the club’s most capped player.
It’s also game number 200 for White who has been a much-loved figure at De Winton Park over the past decade – having captained the club, along with winning two premierships, a best and fairest, five representative appearances and eight Division 1 Team of the Year selections.
In the head-to-head stakes, the sides have shared two wins apiece since North Heidelberg’s return to the top-flight last year.
The Bulldogs won the most recent encounter, when they recorded a 33-point triumph at De Winton Park in the opening round of the 2019 season. Hogan was best afield, while the defence – led by Morgan Persson-Clark, Nick Matthews and Ryan McGhie – contained the Roos to just seven majors.
Ladder Position: 3rd
Points For: 698
Points Against: 504
Average Winning Margin: 47 points
Average Losing Margin: 21 points
Leading Goal Kicker: Shane Harvey – 32 goals
Coaches MVP Leading Votes: Jesse Tardio – 24 votes
Ladder Position: 7th
Points For: 476
Points Against: 548
Average Winning Margin: 21 points
Average Losing Margin: 23 points
Leading Goal Kicker: Anthony Doherty – 9 goals
Coaches MVP Leading Votes: Brad Leggett – 20 votes
HEAD TO HEAD IN 2019
Round 1: Macleod 7.9 (51) def by North Heidelberg 12.12 (84)
Best Players: B. Leggett, R. Brandt, L. Hobbs, J. Bianchin, S. Doherty, K. Manuel
Goal Kickers: P. Martin 2, L. Hobbs 2, L. Brandt, S. Doherty, A. Burns
Best Players: B. Hogan, M. Persson-Clark, L. Gilbert, J. Jones, N. Matthews, R. McGhie
Goal Kickers: S. Biggs 2, K. Green 2, L. Gilbert 2, B. Hogan 2, B. Harvey 2, R. McGhie, J. Jones