While they boast the same win-loss record as Melbourne, the Western Bulldogs are the AFL competition benchmark, according to Demons defender Jake Lever.
The teams clash on Friday night at Marvel Stadium in a mouth-watering contest between the league’s runway leaders.
But with the Bulldogs coming off a 111-point win over St Kilda and the Demons suffering their first loss of the season, a shock one-point defeat by Adelaide, Lever says their opponents deserve favourite status.
“We’re looking forward to the challenge because at the minute they are the best team,” Lever said on Monday.
“Watching them for the past three or four weeks they are a really quality side … based on last week’s results you’d think we are the underdogs.”
Some pundits have said that the loss may prove a good thing for the high-flying Demons but Lever didn’t buy into that theory.
“We’ve gone into the season wanting to create a winning culture and for us, we’re really happy to keep on winning so I don’t think it was a loss that we needed.
“I think if you look at the nine games previously we’ve had some learnings from those so we were bitterly disappointed.”
He said that Melbourne weren’t able to play the game on their terms and the team’s defence, which was their foundation, was a little bit off.
“We got into a game that we didn’t want to be in and we went away from the way we’ve been playing defensively,
“We’ve been one of the better defensive teams in the competition and on the weekend we were about five per cent off and it cost us.”
Lever said the Demons would look to stifle the Bulldogs’ red-hot midfield while, as a defender, he also expected to have his hands full with the likes of Aaron Norton and Josh Bruce.
He noted the Bulldogs did damage in their pre-season clash with their handball game and it would be a focus for his team.
“That’s something we will definitely look at … in the Marsh Series game they were able to get us on the outside and their handball game was really elite.
“I think our midfielders and that first layer of defence up forward for us is going to really have to be on as that’s where they can really expose teams.”