Which Australian player are the best to have a drink with?
The four players who have played their part in bringing Melbourne to the finals, with one in particular taking the most interest: Ben Cousins.
With five finals wins and an All-Australian selection, the 32-year-old is considered the favourite to win a fourth premiership.
But Cousins is not the only one to have had a go.
The foursome also include former Cats skipper Trent Cotchin, who has a history of making a statement in the field, and Josh Gibson, who led the Bulldogs to the grand final last year.
But Cousins and Gibson are not the type of players you want to be in your drinking buddies’ corner when you’re not out and about.
Instead, we are talking about the four who have been in the spotlight this year.
As well as Cotchin and Gibson, the players who are the most talked about at the MCG this season are Sam Mitchell, Jake Stringer, Trent Cotch, Mitch Hanifin and Jack Viney.
The Bulldogs are in the finals with a squad built around three of their best players.
It’s hard to believe it is only four months since the club was awarded its first premiership in 16 years, but it has only just been the third year since the Bulldogs were ranked in the top-eight in the ladder.
And with their club captain, Mitchell, and his star half-back Jake Stringier still at the club, it is hard to imagine they are going anywhere anytime soon.
But there are signs that things are changing.
After the Bulldogs lost all five of their finals matches to come back from a two-point deficit against Geelong in round 16, the club made an all-out push for a spot in the final.
In the process, they also secured their spot in Saturday night’s grand final against Melbourne.
The pressure was on in round nine.
In an interview with Channel Nine, Mitchell admitted he would like to play every game.
“I would love to play a grand final, but I’ve just got to be realistic about what the circumstances are for me,” Mitchell said.
“We’re not playing a top-five team, and I don’t know how long we’re going to be able to keep playing that level of football, but we’re looking forward to it.”
While Mitchell will likely have to play against one of the top eight sides this weekend, the pressure has only increased since the final, when the Bulldogs went into the next round having won eight straight games.
This was the second time the Bulldogs had been beaten by the top four in the last four seasons.
In 2014, they lost to Richmond, who went on to win the grand finals.
It was also the first time they had lost to a top eight team since 2012.
It also meant they had to make a change from the two-man defence that was so dominant at the start of the season.
“It’s not about how you defend,” Mitchell told Channel Nine.
“But it’s about how we play.”
He said he believed the Bulldogs would have been stronger if they had been playing a two man defence.
“Obviously, it’s more of a question of playing a more physical defence,” Mitchell added.
The Bulldogs will be hoping Mitchell can repeat the success they had in the grand round last year against the Tigers, who were in a tough spot due to the retirement of Kurt Tippett and the addition of Nathan Vardy to the team.””
We’ve learnt that and that’s the way to go.”
The Bulldogs will be hoping Mitchell can repeat the success they had in the grand round last year against the Tigers, who were in a tough spot due to the retirement of Kurt Tippett and the addition of Nathan Vardy to the team.
“They’re a tough team to play, but the way they played last year was a testament to how good they were defensively,” Mitchell continued.
“So it’s been really good to play them and get them to that point in the season where they could compete.”
But even with a win over Richmond, the Bulldogs have to fight a losing battle in the standings.
“The expectation is that the Bulldogs will get to the final but it’s going to take them a lot of hard work and a lot more to win it,” Mitchell explained.
“Even if we win, we’re still going to have to beat teams like Essendon and Melbourne.”
If Mitchell can get the team back to that level, the Dogs are well-placed to make the finals again.
But what will be most interesting is if Mitchell can continue to win games against a strong side, such as the Western Bulldogs, and then win the game against a top four team, like the Cats.
The most important thing is to win.
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