Tall Bulldogs out to test Demons' defence

Josh Schache has been recalled for the Bulldogs to help in the match-up against Melbourne.
Josh Schache has been recalled for the Bulldogs to help in the match-up against Melbourne.

Picking extra height for an AFL blockbuster expected to be played in wet conditions is a gamble for Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge, but one he is willing to take.

First meets second at the MCG on Saturday night, with the Dogs going tall in a bid to match up against the intercept marking power of ladder-leading Melbourne's vaunted defence.

Demons duo Steven May and Jake Lever are in All-Australian contention and Harry Petty has been a valuable contributor in the back half.

That combination has prompted Beveridge to recall Josh Schache for his second game of the season - just his fourth senior appearance in two years - alongside fellow tall forwards Aaron Naughton, Josh Bruce and third-gamer Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

Tim English will do battle with Demons skipper Max Gawn in the ruck.

"We're probably similar now, height-wise, to how Melbourne have selected their side," Beveridge said.

"When you consider it might be a bit of a wet night and the conditions might be a little bit ugly, it sort of flies in the face of conventional thinking to a degree, but both sides will be similar in their make-up.

"It's an approach that we feel is the right one to play against Melbourne."

Schache is one of three inclusions for the Bulldogs along with former Demon Mitch Hannan and tough on-baller Tom Liberatore, who returns after a week out managing soreness.

Melbourne tagger James Harmes is also back after an ear infection sidelined him last week and looms as a likely midfield match-up for Liberatore.

It comes after Demons coach Simon Goodwin threw a curveball by sending Harmes to Liberatore when the teams last met, in round 11.

Liberatore managed just 16 disposals and four clearances that night - well below his 2021 averages of 23.9 and 8.4 - as Melbourne won by 28 points.

"We've got to plan for that and some other scenarios that might be in front of us but there's a possibility that happens again," Beveridge said.

"(Liberatore) is having a really productive and influential year for us, and he's really imposed himself on the competition.

"This is one of those games where you consider the circumstances around last time and the way it played out and his role in the team that day and what it might be (on Saturday night), he's going to be a key figure in how this outcome is influenced."

Melbourne have retained top spot on the ladder despite throwing away a 27-point lead in a draw with lowly Hawthorn and have produced inconsistent form in recent weeks.

They have won just two of their last five matches, but Beveridge said the Demons remain the "benchmark" of the competition.

"There's a respect there for what they've been doing and we've got to tap into our resources to be at our best," Beveridge said.

"Their best against the teams around them has been as good as anyone's."

Australian Associated Press