The Western Bulldogs insist captain Marcus Bontempelli is ready to handle any physical punishment Greater Western Sydney intends in to inflict when the two fierce rivals clash on Friday night.
That the two teams do no like each other has been obvious since the Bulldogs unexpectedly toppled the Giants in the 2016 preliminary final on their way to a breakthrough flag, and there has been much spite in their matches since.
Matt de Boer clashes with Marcus Bontempelli last year. Credit:Getty Images
“I don’t think it necessarily took its toll but you do feel uneasy about it for a period of time. There is no doubt our team is as equipped as ever from an experience point of view to sustain a run which we are doing at the moment.”
One man now better equipped is the masterful Bontempelli, who had been targeted by the Giants after an incident with Nick Haynes in round 22, 2019, which left the Giants defender nursing a fractured larynx. Bontempelli was roughed up in the ’19 elimination final while being restricted to only 13 disposals.
“If he is not at his best with his outcomes statistically in a game, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t tried any less because he is just such a great competitor,” Beveridge said.
“But he has been central to some of the friction historically. I think that was one of the critical things from our group last year is they embraced that a little bit more, the fact that they weren’t as aware of it as they should have been in the final of the previous year. But I think with the depth of our group and what they have been doing, I am sure GWS will spread the physical love further than Marcus.″
The Dogs will welcome back playmaker Caleb Daniel (suspension) and ruckman Stef Martin (managed) but Beveridge said Josh Schache will not be recalled despite a strong VFL opener. They are debating whether Jordon Sweet, who debuted in place of Martin last week, retains his spot.
Giants protagonist Toby Greene missed last year’s clash but has taken his leadership to a new level since becoming fill-in skipper. After a rugged start to the season, the Giants have won two straight, and Greene has been instrumental.
Beveridge said the Giants “had changed a little bit” in terms of the manner in how they play and positional moves, and have injected fresh legs, ensuring this latest chapter of a “fresh rivalry” has a blockbuster feel.
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