PANMURE hopes to stretch Merrivale with a tall forward line in today’s Warrnambool and District league qualifying final at Noorat Recreation Reserve.
The Bulldogs will have four talls — Gary Robinson, Chris Bant, Daniel Roache and Brandon Cole — up forward for the second-versus-third showdown.
The tactic is an acknowledgement that they will need an even spread of goalkickers if they are to progress to a semi-final against minor premier Kolora-Noorat.
Bant booted 11 of 13 goals when the sides met in round seven, single-handedly lifting the Bulldogs to victory after they trailed by 27 points at quarter-time.
But he is unlikely to have things his own way against the third-best defence in the competition.
Playing coach Simon O’Keefe said he expected a different contest to that memorable May afternoon.
But he admitted he learnt much from the way the Tigers rushed to an early lead.
“They got the jump on us in the midfield and they killed us in the first quarter, we couldn’t stop them,” he said.
“We’ll definitely pay their midfield a lot of respect, especially with Todd McLean going through there.
“We just started manning them up (in the second quarter), really it wasn’t hard.
“Our main focus is to isolate our talls in the forward line, try and stretch them.”
O’Keefe said he was “really happy” with the way the Bulldogs performed in the run towards finals.
“We’re playing good footy and playing the way I want them to be playing,” he said.
“We can’t fault our preparation. We’ve left no stone unturned.”
Merrivale has a host of players it could use to counter the Bulldogs’ forward quartet.
Scott Kelly and Sam Greene are likely to get first crack at Bant and Robinson.
But Todd McLean, Jack Grace and Sean Barnes could also find themselves in a defensive role.
Merrivale coach Jason Porter was understandably tight-lipped about how the Tigers would match up.
Porter said he knew how potent Bant could be but would back in his defenders before considering double-teaming him.
“We’ll back our blokes in first and if he gets a hold of us we’ll make changes,” he said.
Porter said he wanted a dry day so Merrivale could implement its long-kicking game.
“We like to move the ball very quick and kick it long and back in our runners,” Porter said. “We’ve got a lot of quick guys with good skills.”