Dogs plot Gawn's AFL grand final demise

Melbourne star Max Gawn will be a focal point of Western Bulldogs' attention in the AFL grand final.
Melbourne star Max Gawn will be a focal point of Western Bulldogs' attention in the AFL grand final.

Star Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn faces an AFL grand final reckoning as the Western Bulldogs plot to limit his influence across all parts of the ground.

Gawn looms large over Saturday's premiership decider in Perth, having led his side's preliminary final routing of Geelong with a commanding five-goal display.

His dominance in that game was reflected by the Demons piling on 16 goals from stoppages.

The Bulldogs will rely on Stefan Martin and Tim English to prevent the 208cm Gawn from providing Melbourne's midfielders with first use, although it's yet to be seen whether they will take the physical approach that has had some success for other sides.

As Bulldogs wingman Lachie Hunter notes, that's only part of the equation when it comes to quelling the All-Australian captain's influence.

"He's become a really good player at covering the ground as well from those stoppages. He's really good at getting behind the ball," Hunter said on Wednesday.

"If you can nullify him at the stoppage and get in his way there ... that probably gives you the best chance of stopping him around the ground with those contested marks.

"You can't just allow him to have a free run over the ground at every point. If you're making him exert as much energy as you can, pretty much at every chance, obviously that can limit his influence at times."

Having closely observed Melbourne's trouncing of Geelong, Hunter suggested the Dogs would look to deny the Demons their usual attacking flair out of the middle.

"They did come out the front a lot at centre bounces," he said.

"So even when you do lose the centre bounces, if you're able to force them back or wide and then that clearance probably doesn't land at the top of the goal square, it's a lot easier to defend."

Both sides will train behind closed doors at Optus Stadium on Wednesday, with Hunter predicting Alex Keath and Laitham Vandermeer would overcome hamstring concerns to be available for selection.

Hunter has played all but one game this season, having last year been stripped of the vice-captaincy and given a four-game ban after a drink-driving incident in April.

He later took a short break from playing duties for personal reasons.

The 26-year-old is one of nine available players remaining from the Bulldogs' drought-breaking 2016 premiership side.

"It gives you a little bit of comfort. You know what's coming. But at the same time, most of the elements are different," he said.

"You get a few questions from the younger boys who haven't been there before. But they're just enjoying the experience for themselves as well.

"It's all fresh and it's all new and they're all such good experiences, being away with the team together and having the three wins that we've had in the build-up to this grand final.

"I think they're just enjoying the moment, the young kids."

Australian Associated Press