Win or go home! The first week of the AFL Finals are finally here and the qualifying finals on Thursday and Friday night were just an entrée for what will be a monster double-header of elimination finals on Saturday! The Saints will square off against the Western Bulldogs in the first game of the day from 4.40pm and we have you covered with a full preview and betting tips for the clash below!
Remember, we will be providing a dedicated preview and betting tips for every single game in the AFL Finals, so make sure you check out our dedicated AFL Betting Tips page for more content regularly.
Gabba, Saturday 4.40pm (AEST)
These two teams have had a historic rivalry since the turn of the decade, when both started to show massive improvement after lengthy periods without success. The Saints defeated the Dogs in back to back prelims in 2009 and 2010 but it was the Dogs who got the last laugh, capturing that elusive premiership in 2016. They will add another chapter to the rivalry on Saturday afternoon from 4.40pm.
It’s been a really impressive season to date for the Saints, and fans will no doubt be excited for what’s to come over the next five years with some really talented youngsters at the helm. The Saints finished the season with a 10-7 record but could have easily pushed for a top four spot, losing heartbreaking games to Dockers, Lions and Demons by a combined margin of just 11 points.
The Saints have a fantastic looking injury list heading into the finals series, with only Jade Gresham set to be ruled out of their potential best 22. Most of the credit for the Saints improvement this season has been put down to their recruitment in the off-season, but one would need to only watch a few games to realise that is not the case. The likes of Nick Coffield, Hunter Clark, Ben Patton, Rowan Marshall, Max King and Jack Steele have all taken the next step in their development and give the Saints an extremely talented core to call upon.
Zak Jones had a monster game when the two sides met back in Round 2, racking up 29 touches including 14 kicks and a goal in a best on ground performance. He will be back in the Saints side after a week off to freshen up before finals and should be raring to go in an increased role in the middle of the ground.
The Bulldogs have had one of the more inconsistent seasons of any finals team. They finished the year with a 10-7 record but their season desperately lacked one thing, a big scalp that proves they can be competitive in the finals. Of the seven other teams playing finals, the Western Bulldogs only defeated one of them this season, and that was an extremely depleted West Coast side by just two points in Round 16.
Compare that to the Saints, who boasted wins over the likes of Port Adelaide, Richmond, and the Western Bulldogs themselves this year, and it’s a little baffling how the bookies have come to the conclusion that the Dogs should be favoured here. The Dogs are also bringing some injuries into the post-season, with the likes of Matt Suckling, Mitch Wallis and Aaron Naughton all needing to pass a fitness test to play this week.
Josh Dunkley has been uncharacteristically quiet since his return to the line-up, most likely due to the expanded midfield roles of the likes of Bailey Smith. However, Dunkley has a dominant record against the Saints, averaging 33 disposals per game in his last three matchups. Has cleared the 20 disposal mark in two of his last three and we expect him to again this week, especially with Jack Steele likely to go to Jack Macrae.
The Saints defence should be a real problem for the Western Bulldogs, who have struggled to find an avenue to goal this season, relying on the likes of medium sized forwards in Mitch Wallis for the bulk of the goals.
Like the look of the Saints here. Of course it’s a final, and any final at the best of times can be a toss-up, but when you look at it analytically, all of the signs point towards St Kilda winning this one. Although the two sides finished with the same record, the Saints boasted more impressive wins and smashed the Doggies back in Round 2. Take the value.
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