Western Bulldogs versus West Coast
3.20pm, Sunday, 28 July
First of all, I’ll be totally honest and say I came into today’s game against West Coast with real confidence. After consecutive “honourable losses” against the front-runners Essendon and Hawthorn, I couldn’t help but have a spring in my step bounding up the Docklands ramp to the sparsely populated top level.
The Eagles would have seen last week’s fixture against Sydney as a blockbuster at the start of the season and perhaps a game to reignite the rivalry that captivated every supporter of the game in 2005/06. But they were completely outplayed on their patch by simply a stronger outfit.
The team news offered further hope; Eagles’ outs were in sync with their flightless season: Glass, Shuey, Lecras and Naitanui. It turned my glimmer of hope into realising this was a genuine opportunity to take advantage of a club on its knees.
Our midfield had been our strength all year, so to have skipper Matthew Boyd returning from a jaw injury further heightened our chances in Tom Liberatore’s 50th game.
After a dour first 10, Jack Darling kicked the Eagles’ second by merely bumping Michael Talia out of the pursuit for the ball in an open 50 and running in to nail a simple goal. Talia, Rising Star nominee just weeks before, was facing his toughest opponents yet: Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy, who, coming into the game, had kicked 21 goals in his last 3 games against us.
It was evident early the clearance battle was also going to be an important one. Their initial superiority was largely thanks to Matthew Priddis and Scott Selwood firing the ball out to the likes of Andrew Gaff and Sharrod Wellingham, who were both able to breach the Bulldogs’ defence and find themselves with a wide open forward line. The Eagles held a 7 point lead at the first break and, somewhat worryingly, other than a typically flashy Josh Hill banana from row 5, all 3 of West Coast’s goals had an aggregate distance of about 9 metres.
Koby Stevens had seemingly gotten all nostalgic and was playing essentially as a West Coast player, burning the ball with incredible consistency. Luckily for the umpires, the Eagles missed a couple of set shots handed to them for no apparent reason and we were able to hit the front midway through the second term. Josh Kennedy’s 40 metre chase and tackle on Luke Dahlhaus was the highlight of the half, and just as surprising as well. Happily though it sparked the dreaded one into life and he kicked a late 2 goals to give us a 1 point lead at the long break.
Bob Murphy’s class and inch-perfect kicks had him as one of the best at half time. His composure in the last line and will to get first hands on the ball were proven when he bolted 25 metres to take an intercept mark, ahead of a flat-footed Eagle against the boundary.
Dahlhaus extended our buffer to 19 when he burst through the centre square and slotted a goal from on the paint as we looked to take the game away from the Eagles in the third quarter. Kennedy’s infamous stuttering approach proved a novelty again, shanking one set shot almost 90° right and then cut the margin to 14 with a gun-barrel straight kick soon after.
Early in the last quarter the umpiring finally swung our way, but to be quite frank, I didn’t care. By the time we’d surpassed a 30 point lead almost inevitable that we’d chalk up our fifth win of the season and us Dogs’ fans were soaking up the procession to victory. Unfortunately for my fingernails, West Coast found a spark and kicked 3 in quick succession to peg the score back to 14 points. The procession had now become more like a walk across a see-saw; the point at which it had gone over the top was when a clearing kick out of a pack from Selwood on the wing bounced almost 180° away from his teammate to roll 15 metres over the line, only to be met by cries of “deliberate!”
Thankfully, we managed to consistently find the boundary line and get ball-ups to stem the flow of West Coast. The sealer was kicked by Dylan Addison, his third of the afternoon, and immediately after the cheering had died down you could hear sighs of relief all around the ground as a loud “Thank God” rang out. Fittingly, it was Stevens who kicked a point after the siren.
Western Bulldogs 3.3 7.7 12.10 16.15 (111)
West Coast 4.4 7.6 12.8 13.11 (89)
Western Bulldogs: Dahlhaus 4, Grant 3, Dickson 3, Addison 2, Cooney, Giansiracusa, Boyd, Murphy
West Coast: Hill 3, Kennedy 3, Cripps 2, Darling 2, Wellingham 2, Dalziell
Bulldogs: Dahlhaus, Murphy, Liberatore, Griffen, Minson, Grant, Cooney
West Coast: Gaff, Wellingham, Priddis, Wilson, Cox, S.Selwood
Umpires: Fisher, Foot, Wenn
Official crowd: 17,019
Our Votes: 3 Dahlhaus (WB) 2 Murphy (WB) 1 Liberatore (WB)