The clash between Fremantle and Sydney is set to be a tale of two philosophies, with the Docker’s miserly defence against the run and gun of the Swans.
Fremantle have built their campaign around stopping teams scoring and the numbers reflect this.
They are the best team in the competition at restricting goals from their forward entries as well as at not being burned on turnovers and limiting the other team’s ability to go coast-to-coast and score.
The Dockers are so good at restricting ball movement they also rank sixth for preventing opposition getting into their forward 50 from the back 50.
This leads to them being ranked second in overall points given up and led St Kilda coach Brett Ratten to label Fremantle’s defence the best in the AFL.
However, the seventh-placed Swans will put these numbers to the test.
Their form has been patchy, with big wins against St Kilda and the Western Bulldogs punctuated by losses to 16th-placed Essendon and Port Adelaide, who are 12th.
But their season numbers show they are a force to be reckoned with when they get it together, ranking in the top five clubs for scores, score per inside 50, scores from turnovers, defensive 50 to inside 50 percentage and points from defensive half.
Most importantly, they are the second-best team at converting Inside 50s into scores.
This efficiency could prove the difference for the Swans, but they will need to get past lion-hearted Andrew Brayshaw, who is leading a hot midfield, to ensure they are not giving Fremantle a chance to deploy their defence.
Brayshaw is averaging 30 disposals a game to go with more than four clearances, but it’s been his one-percenters that have caught the eye in recent weeks.
In round 16, he laid a match-saving tackle on Port Adelaide’s Jeremy Finlayson, who was primed to send the ball back inside 50 with the Dockers clinging onto an eight-point lead late in the last term.
He had sprinted 45 metres to put the pressure on, with his actions jarring the ball lose and resulting in a turnover that snuffed out Port’s chances of a remarkable comeback.
And these efforts aren’t unusual, with the 22-year-old ranked seventh in the league for tackles at just over six per game.
He also averages an elite 59.4 pressure points every week and has recorded a total of 15 smothers this season – ninth in the competition.
Sydney have a 50/50 record at Optus Stadium, winning three, including the first-ever game, and losing three, but star spearhead Buddy Franklin loves the ground, having kicked 14 goals from just two matches there.
The match-ups are mouth-watering, and the game could be looked back on as the result that solidified or cost the Dockers a spot in the top four or Sydney a place in the eight.