Round 3 – Western Bulldogs v Essendon: Dogs on the board in 2018

From My Blog Site – Bulldogs Centre

It wasn’t pretty at times throughout this contest, but what matters is that the Western Bulldogs got their first premiership points on the board in season 2018.

They were horribly inaccurate all throughout the game, but the Bulldogs fought through to take home a 21-point win over the Essendon Bombers to make it four wins on the trot over the Dons, but more importantly, gets that badly-needed win after a horrid fortnight of footy.

In front of a healthy crowd of 40,499 who flocked to a closed-roof Etihad Stadium in what was a very warm April afternoon, the intensity from the Bulldogs was on from the first bounce, after it had been missing greatly in the opening two weeks of football. The pressure and the harassing brought shades of 2016 back into this Bulldog team and they had firm control of the game.

If it weren’t for the Bulldogs peppering their shots on goal, the margin would’ve been much, much greater to what it actually was – seven points separating the two at quarter time – Essendon butchered the footy so horribly and it started with one of their on-field leaders in Brendon Goddard. A poor kick in defence resulted in the opening goal of the match through Toby McLean.

A couple more errors from Goddard set the tone for what was a difficult afternoon for the Essendon football club. There were kick-ins by Goddard that missed targets and even one chip into a back pocket that went a tad over the line on the full. The Bombers struggled to get it outside 50 as the Bulldogs did to put goals on the board and really make them pay for their errors.

The Bombers hit the lead briefly when Jason Johannisen made the bonehead error of forgetting to bounce the ball whilst running across the defensive 50, eventually forcing the umpire to pay a free kick to Essendon straight in front of the goals – where Johannisen was pinged for the infringement. The Bulldogs eventually got some goals on the board before quarter time with Bailey Dale finally converting one from a difficult angle, whilst JJ made up for the mistake minutes after, with a very impressive goal on the run.

The second term saw the Dogs continue to put goals on the board, with Marcus Bontempelli out-marking two Bombers up forward to slot home his first for the afternoon, before Mitch Wallis marked his first game of the year with a goal to put the Doggies up by 19, before a second goal from Bontempelli put them up by 23.

But there were two highlights that I thought stood out from this term. One moment was where Mitch Honeychurch – continually criticised by Bulldog fans for a lack of polish put his body on the line in a contest against a much bigger Mitch Brown. The other moment saw a 30-year old Tory Dickson run down a younger Conor McKenna, who for the record, is a very quick player. It’s moments like these that make you believe that the Bulldogs wanted the ball more.

Statistically speaking, the Bulldogs were dominant in most aspects. They recorded 40 more disposals and nine more inside 50s at quarter time and by half time, they had amassed 68 more disposals and had only been tackled 15 times – which is an indictment on Essendon’s game.

By half-time, the Bulldogs, despite a much more accurate quarter in front of the big sticks (5.1), only found themselves ahead by 16 points, when really they should’ve been up by more. It didn’t matter who had the ball in their hands in defence, Essendon’s players struggled to get it out of there without causing a turnover in the defensive half.

The third term should’ve seen the Dogs wrap it up, but their continuous butchering of the leather product continued. Bailey Dale should’ve handballed over the top to an open Bontempelli but instead selfishly went for it himself, Luke Dahlhaus and Lin Jong miss easy shots and Bontempelli’s dribble from the pocket collected the goal post in what was just purely unlucky, but he made sure he didn’t miss again with a snap from a tight spot to give the Dogs a game-high 32-point margin.

But the Bombers would not go away. They needed Zach Merrett and Joe Daniher – who both endured quiet first-halves – to step up in the third term and they delivered with crucial goals to turn it into a 20-point ball game. But once again, disposal in the back 50 proved to be their achilles’ heel as another turnover – this time coming from Andrew McGrath – caused a Lachie Hunter goal which steadied the ship, before another Joe Daniher major before the final change kept Essendon in it with 21 points separating the two teams.

The fourth quarter was frenetic, it started with the two Baileys – Williams and Dale – kicking two goals in as many minutes to give the Bulldogs a 33-point lead early, yet once again failed to really put that nail in the coffin as relatively easy misses to Billy Gowers and Lachie Hunter could’ve potentially cost them the match, because Essendon made one last charge to pinch what had been an unlikely victory all afternoon.

It started with a snap goal from former Dog Jake Stringer – facing a loud echo of boos around Etihad Stadium all game long got the ball rolling. Josh Green got on the end of a good coast-to-coast play with his second major and a silly 50-metre penalty conceded by young Aaron Naughton led to a James Stewart goal and all of a sudden it was 16 points with about six minutes to go. They were coming.

But the big moment of this match came just a minute after Stewart’s goal. With the Bombers going forward once again. Joe Daniher rose up to the plate with a phenomenal grab just 10 metres out, not much of an angle to worry about. Instead of going back like any other key forward would, he thought with 5:30 to go in the match, he would be unselfish and give it off to Josh Green for a third snag, which came off in the worst way imaginable.

A poor handpass and a poor decision would prove to finally finish off the Bombers after they had been statistically smashed from start to finish. Within seconds, the ball was up the other end and Toby McLean drilling home that final nail in the coffin from 40 metres out, ensuring the Dogs first win of 2018. The fact that Luke Beveridge gathered everyone – and I mean everyone – associated with the Bulldogs to sing the song in the rooms a second time sent a passionate message to those that knocked the club with ill-advised rumours throughout the past number of months.

McLean was one of many Bulldogs that starred in the win (25 disposals, seven marks, four inside 50s and two goals). Lachie Hunter (35 disposals, 13 marks, seven inside 50s and a goal) and Jack Macrae (30 disposals, seven marks, six inside 50s and five clearances) continued their barnstorming starts to the 2018 year, but for the first time, they had help from a number of players. Luke Dahlhaus (31 disposals, six marks and five tackles) and Caleb Daniel (27 disposals and eight marks) were also terrific in the middle.

Bailey Williams had his best game in his short career, with 26 disposals, 12 marks, seven rebound 50s and his first AFL career goal. The backs were brilliant. Captain Easton Wood looks more comfortable in defence, Zaine Cordy was fantastic, whilst Ed Richards (17 disposals, seven marks and five tackles) looked right at home in his second AFL game.

It’s hard to find a single Bulldog that didn’t play well, from the much-loved Marcus Bontempelli to blokes that find themselves maligned from the supporters like Mitch Honeychurch and Matt Suckling to the young boys playing their second, third and fourth games (Richards, Naughton and Tim English). Everyone played their role well on Sunday afternoon.

The same can’t be said for the Bombers, who are looking everything but finals contenders. The number of turnovers that they made when they tried moving it out from defence was staggering. Even coach John Worsfold went on the record to say that this was worse than any performance in 2016. The stats were damning. They had recorded 94 disposals less than the Bulldogs, had allowed the Bulldogs over a 100 more uncontested possessions, 72 more marks – 140 uncontested marks to Essendon’s 68 – and 10 more turnovers than the Bulldogs.

Not many players stood out for the Bombers. I thought David Zaharakis (26 disposals and five rebound 50s) tried hard, as did captain Dyson Heppell (21 disposals, five marks and four clearances). Michael Hurley (21 disposals and 10 rebound 50s) did what he could in defence, whilst Devon Smith (20 disposals, four inside 50s and a goal) and Andrew McGrath (20 disposals, five marks and three rebound 50s) also battled hard.

The Dogs are now out of last place on the AFL ladder, but next week looms as a massive test for the Bulldogs as they take on the Sydney Swans at Etihad Stadium next Saturday evening. The Swans are looking like they’ll be up there again this season following a huge win over the Giants on the weekend, but if the Dogs show the same tenacity and the same hunger they had against Essendon on Sunday – anything is possible.

 

Western Bulldogs    3.9    8.10   11.16  14.20.104
Essendon                  3.2    6.6     9.7       12.11.83

 

Goals

Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli 3, Dunkley 2, Dale 2, McLean 2, Johannisen, Wallis, Gowers, Hunter, Williams

Essendon: Daniher 2, Stewart 2, Green 2, McDonald-Tipungwuti, Parish, Green, Hooker, Smith, Stringer

Alex Docherty’s Best

Western Bulldogs: Hunter, Macrae, Williams, McLean, Bontempelli, Dahlhaus, Richards

Essendon: Zaharakis, Heppell, Hurley, Smith, McGrath, Green

 

For more of my readings – opinions or match previews/reviews – go onto www.adbulldogscentre.com

About Alex Docherty

Alex is a diehard footy nut. He loves his Western Bulldogs and loves writing about them every week as much he loves running out and playing footy himself.

Comments

  1. Len Rodwell says:

    Good report Alex. The Dogs accuracy in front of goal is a serious cause for concern. In every game to date we have recorded more behinds than goals. On the Daniher handpass everyone is getting stuck into him and maybe rightfully so, but there has been no criticism of Josh Green who called for the ball. However, I am glad he Green did make the call.

  2. george smith says:

    Unbelievable. Somebody insults the Bulldogs, calls into question their ability as a football team, and they get up and win! Can’t remember that happening recently…
    What next? Winning because it’s someones milestone? Where will it end…

    Is it possible that Peter Gordon paid a team of professional insulters to run around the Western Suburbs during the 2016 finals and tell everybody they’re not good enough:
    “You’ll never beat Hawthorn”,” You’ll never win a grand final” etc. If so, it worked…

  3. Colin Ritchie says:

    When teams need to rebound after poor performances, it always happens against the Bombers! The Bombers have played poorly the past two weeks but have been able to stay in the game and not get blown away. I’m looking forward to the Bombers eventually getting it together then we may see a different team playing.

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