Big is back as Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons make headline budding uptrend

“The Big Four played really well. You score 22 goals in one game [and]sometimes we looked very dominant in the air, which is a great sign for us,” Smith said.

“There’s been a couple of times they’ve flown against each other, but that’s great. It shows their competitiveness and their willingness to fly in the air. But the synergy and cohesion they had in our forward line was outstanding.”

Speaking of Demons, their much-vaunted All-Australian ruck duo of Max Gawn and Brodie Grundy – veteran backup for Luke Jackson – scored six goals in a 50-point demolition from Richmond on the same day. Tom McDonald added three majors of his own, and Ben Brown also had three shots.

Center forward Bayley Fritsch is also expected to recover from foot pain in time for the Dogs’ clash and has scored 114 goals in the last two seasons.

Melbourne need Gawn and Grundy to spend plenty of time in attack, assistant Adem Yze admitted, but McDonald and one of Brown or untried young shooter Jacob van Rooyen are also likely to be within 50.

The Demons are enjoying early success with the Brodie Grundy-Max Gawn combo.

The Demons are enjoying early success with the Brodie Grundy-Max Gawn combo.Credit:AFL photos

“They want them all to play well and we also have Jacob van Rooyen on the wings who’s in really good shape so there’s some pressure for places, which is what we want,” said Yze.

“We have some talls on our side but obviously we have a spot on the bench that they can rotate as well so we’re going to play it week in and week out and see how that mix works. But at the moment the big ones are working really well together.”

Yze’s bench reference is relevant because the AFL has tweaked the offseason substitution rule so it’s more tactical than purely medical.

It has already been speculated that this could mean even more clubs could add two ruckmen to their matchday squad, knowing they have the option to replace them with a smaller teammate if they so choose.

More key forwards could also be an unintended consequence – and it’s far from just the Western Bulldogs and Melbourne, the big finalists of 2021, who are considering a “Land of the Giants” approach.

Port Adelaide jointly selected Charlie Dixon, Todd Marshall and Mitch Georgiades last year and could even play Scott Lycett and Jeremy Finlayson.

The Crows will send Taylor Walker, Darcy Fogarty and one of Elliott Himmelberg or Riley Thilthorpe, while Gold Coast is poised to pick at least four of Ben King, Levi Casboult, Mabior Chol, Jack Lukosius and Joel Jeffrey – and maybe all five.

Essendon could squeeze Peter Wright, Sam Weideman, Harry Jones and Jake Stringer into the 22 (or 23), and Fremantle could fit into Matt Taberner, Nat Fyfe, backpacks Sean Darcy and Luke Jackson and Jye Amiss or Josh Treacy.

Carlton is hoping one or both of Tom De Koning and Jack Silvagni can complement Coleman medalists Charlie Curnow and Harry McKay, and Geelong added Ollie Henry to the deadly Tom Hawkins-Jeremy Cameron duo.

The Brisbane Lions replaced Dan McStay with Jack Gunston, who will partner Joe Daniher and Eric Hipwood.

Collingwood, the Giants, Hawthorn (once Mitch Lewis is fit again), North Melbourne, Richmond, St Kilda (if Max King returns), Sydney Swans and West Coast could all have a three-pronged attack too.

Preseason Mirage or True Trend? We don’t have to wait long. Big is back as Western Bulldogs and Melbourne Demons make headline budding uptrend

Ryan Sederquist

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