AND THEN THERE WERE THREE;
By James Campbell of Betfair As it stands, the AFL ladder tells us that there are three teams that, at the moment, appear to be genuine premiership contenders.
The next two weeks sees both the Western Bulldogs and Hawthorn square off against reigning flag holders Geelong for top spot on the ladder and bragging rights leading into what will be one of the most hotly contested finals series in recent history.
Amazingly, after 15 rounds of football, the Cats and the Bulldogs have only lost one game apiece. The only thing separating the two teams at the top of the competition ladder is an unfortunate draw that Bulldogs star Jason Akermanis described as 'deflating a game with no winners.'
Bookies all over the country will have their pencils and erasers out, looking to either chalk Geelong up as near un-backable to take out the Premiership, or slot the Western Bulldogs in beside them as red-hot Premiership favourites.
Surprisingly, in recent years, the Dogs have had the wood on the Cats, winning six of the last 10 games.
It should be noted that seven of those games were played at what is fast becoming a fortress for the hard running dogs - the Telstra Dome. However, Skilled Stadium on an icy midwinter's day with a hoard of screaming Cats fans is a far cry from the covered roof of "the Dome."
No side has made the journey down to Geelong and come away winners since Port Adelaide won there this time last year.
Last time the two teams played, Geelong embarked on a scoring spree that sparked an undefeated run which only came to an end when they went down to Collingwood by 86 points earlier this year. In that game they ran out easy winner by 77 points.
The Bulldogs have had astounding luck with injuries throughout the season. In the 13 games they've won, at least 10 of the sides have been forced to withdraw three or more key players through injury while they have remained injury free.
Geelong is no exception. The whole of Geelong gasped in horror as first, the "mayor" of Geelong, Cameron Ling was carried from the field after a sickening elbow from Fremantle hard man, Dean Solomon. Not long after, the same gasp was heard as Gary Abblett Junior grimaced in pain and hobbled from the field with the assistance of two trainers. Ling is out for up to four weeks and Ablett will be lucky to play against Hawthorn next week, bringing their injury list to six.
Many of the Dogs' young guns have really begun to motor this year and they have developed a free running midfield that could match Geelong's.
Adam Cooney has put himself forward as a genuine Brownlow chance while Lindsey Gilby continues to rack up possessions across centre half-back. The seemingly unconquerable Jason Akermanis has revamped his career at the Dogs and may well be a chance at a fourth premiership in just six years.
Geelong's depth means that, although they'll miss Ling and Ablett, they are more than capable of contending with the Bulldogs who have everything to play for here.
For those looking to make this game even more exciting than it already shapes up to be, there are plenty of options in AFL bets that offer exceptional value. Head-to-head, the Bulldogs are paying around $2.45 to Geelong's miserly $1.50. For more value look to the points margin. If either side win by a blowout then look for these odds to triple if not quadruple. Another good bet would be 1-19 points either way.
The Geelong/Bulldogs halftime/fulltime double is offering around $7.00 in some markets while quarter-by-quarter betting also looks great value.
Either way, get set for a great scrap between two of the longest standing enemies in history - cats and dogs.
James Campbell writes courtesy of Betfair
ROUND 16, 2008
GEELONG UNSTOPPABLE, EARN ELEVENTH WIN ON THE TROT
By Ben Jensen AFL ROUND 16 GEELONG V WESTERN BULLDOGS GEELONG stampeded all over a timid Western Bulldogs side by seventy-five points in front of a healthy crowd of 44,688 at the Telstra Dome tonight. Tom Harley celebrated his 150th match, and eleventh win as Captain in style, although he had his hands full with Brad Johnson early on. David Wojcinski limped from the field in the second quarter with what looked could be a serious knee injury; but at the end of the game the official report was a corked knee, and not the one he had reconstructed in 2005.
Harley led his side's backline in the absence of All Australian full back Matthew Scarlett, a late withdrawal. Scarlett's replacement, David Johnson made the most of his chance, playing a key defensive role and also kicking two goals. The win was just the tonic for a town rocked by the announced closure of Ford's engine assembly plant in 2010, after the better part of a century in Geelong.
21 JULY 2008 GEELONG UNSTOPPABLE, EARN ELEVENTH WIN ON THE TROT
GEELONG 8.2 13.6 15.11 20.18 (138) DEFEATED
GEELONG: Mooney 4, Mackie 2, Corey 2, Selwood
2, Stokes 2, D Johnson 2, Chapman 2, S Johnson, G Ablett, Enright, Ling
GEELONG: Ablett, Bartel, Mooney, Mackie, Milburn,
Enright, Selwood, Ottens
CATS INJURY LIST
Player (Injury) Onset; Estimated Return
AFL 2008, ROUND SIXTEEN
GEELONG V WESTERN BULLDOGS
SATURDAY 19 JULY 2008, 14:10 AEST
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