The last time the two Wollongong giants met in the Shoalhaven, it ended in heartbreak for the Bulldogs.
But coach Lee Murray believes the Dogs – who have played in every grand final since 2010 – have found their best at the right time.
Arch-rivals the Lions ended the Bulldogs premiership streak last year with an epic one-point victory at Nowra Showground.
On Saturday, they meet again, across town at Bomaderry’s home ground, Artie Smith Oval, a grand final spot against Kiama on offer for the winner.
The Lions outgunned the Dogs just two weeks ago, but Murray said they’ve found another gear since, beating Shellharbour last weekend.
“It was definitely one of our better games, we took a lot out of it,” he said.
“We only really played well for two or two-and-a-half quarters last time against the Lions, this was a more complete four-quarter performance.
Murray has vast experience at ensuring the Bulldogs find their best in September.
And while they might be lacking a key forward like Evan Smith or Kent Delbridge, the Dogs have turned to a more agile, fast-moving style. Murray said the Dogs are on high alert for the return of the league leading goalkicker Alex Cotter.
Cotter suffered a cheekbone injury in the final round loss to Kiama, but could yet be part of the Lions premiership plans.
“We’ll be ready for him if he does play,” Murray said.
“Whether it’s him, Godzilla, or anyone else they put out there, we’ll just worry about how we’re going to play.”
- AFL SOUTH COAST
WOLLONGONG LIONS v WOLLONGONG BULLDOGS
Artie Smith Oval