It will be a case of the long and the short of it when the Western Bulldogs face off with Richmond at the MCG on Saturday night.
Luke Beveridge will bank on the size of the fight in his Dogs to conquer Richmond’s “land of the giants” at the MCG on Saturday night.
Alex Keath (hamstring) and Zaine Cordy (concussion) are the Western Bulldogs’ latest tall timber cut down by injury, paving the way for ex-Hawk Tim O’Brien to make his club debut.
The Tigers selected eight players standing at least 192cm compared to the Bulldogs’ seven, with five of those standing 196cm or taller, but that’s only part of the story.
Ryan Gardner, O’Brien, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and Aaron Naughton are the Dogs’ only key-position players in that group, while Tim English will go head-to-head in the ruck with Toby Nankervis.
Tall midfielders Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae and Josh Dunkley will provide support but Beveridge said medium-sized defenders Bailey Williams, Bailey Dale, Ed Richards and Taylor Duryea must step up.
“It would have exacerbated it a little bit more if they kept Ivan Soldo in the team as well,” Beveridge said.
“On paper, there’s a theoretical advantage (for Richmond) in the air, so we’ll need pressure on the footy and to have wise heads going inside our 50, and make sure that we’re finding our teammates in space to advantage. ”
The Tigers lost co-captain Dylan Grimes (hamstring) – replacing him with Ben Miller – but regained star duo Jack Riewoldt and Dion Prestia as they try to level their win-loss ledger and dump the Dogs in a 1-3 hole.
Beveridge’s men were favored in their past two meetings with Richmond but went down both times, something he is well aware of.
“Backs to the wall, there are not many teams or clubs better in the competition,” he said.
“Our challenge will be to find that intensity that’s going to at least be able to match the ‘Tiges’ at the start of the game and be ready for an arm wrestle.”
Beveridge confirmed Bontempelli (shoulder/ankle) was good to go thanks to the nine-day break between games and that Tom Liberatore would receive more midfield time as his match fitness increased.
There were also encouraging signs in the past fortnight from No.1 draft pick Ugle-Hagan, but his coach refuted suggestions Richmond’s defense was ripe for the picking without Grimes.
“The challenge is more going to be for our medium-smalls and how we play that aerial part of the game, where we need the boys to compete in the air and at least bring some of those balls to ground,” Beveridge said.
“I think Aaron and Marra will do that reasonably well (but) I don’t anticipate that this Richmond backline is in any sort of state that we’re just going to rip them apart.
“There’s some very, very good players down there, but hopefully we get enough supply to give ourselves a chance in the first instance.”
Originally published as AFL: Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge backs his players to overcome size disadvantage against Richmond