By Lance Jenkinson
Western Bulldogs will head to Ballarat on Saturday to take on the Brisbane Lions in a home game without a distinct advantage.
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge reiterated his club’s desire to build on its connection with the Ballarat community and said the team enjoys playing in the region.
As for a home ground advantage though, it is still a work in progress.
“Our record down there is not as flash as we’d like yet,” Beveridge said. “We put that down to a number of things.
“We enjoy going and playing in Ballarat. We love the ground, the surface is unbelievable.”
Western Bulldogs will arrive in Ballarat tomorrow and stay overnight before the game.
The Bulldogs see it as one of the ways they can embrace the local community.
“As much as it’s our home game, we treat it as a bit of a retreat and an interstate type of approach, and we go down the night before and get involved in the local economy and spend some time in the region,” Beveridge said.
“We look forward to it, so we like to think we can play better than we have in recent times and really give one of our best performances.”
While much of the hype surrounding the Western Bulldogs this week has centred on young key forward Aaron Naughton after his break-out game in the win over Richmond, this game is likely to be won or lost in the midfield.
The midfields of both the Bulldogs and the Lions have been on song this season.
Marcus Bontempelli has been one of the form players in the competition for the Bulldogs.
Jack Macrae, Josh Dunkley, Mitch Wallis, Tom Liberatore and first year player Bailey Smith have all impressed in the centre square.
Young ruckman Tim English is beginning to form a synergy with the Bulldogs onball unit.
Brisbane’s midfield has been just as impressive.
Led by new recruit Lachie Neale, the Lions could have the likes of Dayne Zorko, Mitch Robinson, Hugh McCluggage, Jarryd Lyons and Jarrod Berry used on he ball, while battle-hardened ruckman Stefan Martin will present a new challenge for English.
Beveridge rates both midfield groups highly and believes the battle in tight could determine the winner.
“It is always important that midfield grind and who wins the day there,” he said. “That will be an intriguing battle because both midfields are more than capable and I think they’re at the upper end of the competition when they’re at their best.”
Brisbane goes in as the underdogs, despite sitting in fourth spot on the AFL ladder.
The Bulldogs will go out in search of their fourth win of the campaign, which would square the ledger for their win-loss record.
Defender Matt Suckling is expected to return from injury for the Dogs.
The first bounce at Mars Stadium will take place at 1.45pm.