AFL North West: Bulldogs face Nomads in season finale

INSPIRATIONAL: Bulldogs captain Andrew George will lead the Bulldogs into battle against New England on Saturday.
INSPIRATIONAL: Bulldogs captain Andrew George will lead the Bulldogs into battle against New England on Saturday.

Gunnedah will have to be at their “absolute best” to beat reigning five-time premiers New England in Saturday’s grand final at Wolseley Oval, Bulldogs player-coach Greg Piggott has said.

The Bulldogs have beaten the Nomads three times this year but Piggott expects this Nomads side to be the strongest.

And he expects the Nomads to show up on Saturday with an enhanced mentality.

“Obviously you don’t win five premierships in a row by not being able to perform on the big stage. We expect a very solid game,” he said.

“We take confidence with our last few games but understand they’ve won the comp five times in a row. We’re going to have to be at our absolute best to get the result we want.” 

We’re going to have to be at our absolute best to get the result we want

Dogs coach Greg Piggott

The Dogs are expected to be at full strength, with the notable inclusion of Brent Hartley in the side after he missed the major semi-final.

Piggott has a squad with good depth and versatility.

He believes that speed on the outside could be critical but insisted his side is also adept at playing a contested brand of football – a key to their success this season.

“They [the Nomads] have speed to burn but we’ve shown we can match that,” he said.

“No doubt it’ll be a fast game but hopefully on the contested side of things we can come out on top.”

A key component of the Dogs’ success this season has been their midfield.

Scott Hardy and Mark Barrow have fed the likes of Ben Maher and Jacob Spackman through their contested-ball-winning ability.

Spackman and Maher form a lethal combination.

They have the ability to use the footy inside forward 50 with precision but can also hit the scoreboard.

Maher has been a revelation since he ventured to Bulldogs training early last year, got an immediate run in the forward pocket against the Kangaroos and kicked three goals.

Since then, the Year 12 St Mary’s College student has missed one game, through illness, and is the 2017 AFL North West Rising Star recipient. Piggott remarked about his hardness.

“For a little guy – he wouldn’t be 80 kilograms – he doesn’t shirk anything.

“I’ve seen him get absolutely belted and he keeps getting up. He’s as tough as nails,” he said.

Al Hillard also remains the key through his tap ruck work from the centre and stoppages around the ground.

His work gives the side first use of the footy.

The Bulldogs backline have also been rock solid, having stood up against the quality of the Nomads forward line in three of the four matches against them this year. Bulldogs vice captain Brad Jenkinson will be crucial in his shutdown role.