Slippin’ an’ a Slidin’: Dogs Squeak Home Amidst a Sea of Pink.

Another Friday night. Another Doggies game. But this one was a very different beast to last week at the Dome, despite another close result.

The collected works of one John Harms have recently had me pondering the meaning we draw from OGG(© The Wrap). Any meaning we draw must in large part come from our own sense of identity. And when it comes to identity, few would differ as much as these two clubs.

Melbourne: the Establishment club, and spiritual home to football’s original downhill skiers. The Bulldogs (nee Footscray): the epitome of working class battlerdom. In days of yore, this was a classic Upstairs Downstairs encounter.

But times and identities change. Those halcyon Demon days of the 50’s are long gone. If a Red Fox was sighted nowadays at Melbourne, it is more likely the RSPCA would be called. It has currently fallen to an Irish blow-in to resurrect affairs in the face of personal duress.

Those working class Doggies are now helmed by the son of a great capitalist dynasty. And rather than battle, they’ve come to expect a considerable degree of success. Indeed, expectations had reached unprecedented levels for this season.

Lest we think all tradition was out the window, the MCG turned on a rare wet night. Wet weather games aren’t really like the old days, as there’s nary a speck of mud to be seen. But the slippery conditions undoubtedly influenced the playing of this game. It served to remind that the impact of roofs and smaller ovals should never be discounted when current playing styles are debated.

The sea of pink ponchos was appropriate to the conditions, and gave sober testament that some of life’s struggles dwarf those which occur on football fields. Not that the poncho wearers seemed overly sober. They’d come to celebrate life, and what it offers.

The Dees seemed focused on stopping Cooney and Griffen as the ball was thrown into the air. McDonald and Bruce were respectively charged with the task. Unfortunately, it seemed everyone had forgotten Boyd was back, and he strolled unaccompanied inside 50 to goal in the first minute.

Theories tend to divide when it’s wet. Some reckon it brings better sides back the field. But more often, I think superior class will stand out in difficult conditions. If that is so, then Dees supporters would have been delighted that it was their younger brigade who took it right up to the Dogs. Scully, Trengove and Grimes were prominent, as their team held its own in the run of play.

The one thing missing for the Dees was a finishing capacity up forward. For all their good work, they only eked points as a return. When Stack ran one home, and then Higgins demonstrated his class with a lovely spin and snap, the Dogs had cleared out on the scoreboard. A committee of umpires was formed to debate a Dunn volley, but it was deemed touched, and ¼ time found Melbourne lamenting a 0-6 score line.

Term 2 opened with Jamar missing a mark 40 out, only to watch the ball swept down the ground for Everitt to goal. This left the Dees trailing 0-6 to 4-2, a worrying margin in the conditions.

Undeterred, the Demon tyros continued to hold their own. Jack Trengove and Tom Scully showed poise beyond their years; Trengove good in traffic, whilst Scully was the proverbial energiser bunny. Suddenly, the older Demon brigade got into gear. In a burst, Davey and Bate goaled, and then Bennell produced the sort of outside-of-the-boot dribbler that used to be the sole preserve of Peter Daicos. Dunn had a couple of chances to claim the lead, but could only produce narrow misses.

Half time saw the Doggies resting uncomfortably on an 8 point lead. With Cooney, Griffen, Murphy and Gilbee having little impact, the burden had largely fallen to Higgins, Giansiracusa and Cross to keep them ahead.

The Dogs had assessed conditions pre-game, and decided to drop a tall for the more nimble Hill. This paid dividends when he scored to open term 3. But that was the extent of Doggie joy, as Bate and Dunn asserted themselves. Soon Johnson fed Green and Melbourne led. Matthew Bate has always looked a promising player in search of a better side to play in. His time may be coming. That Morris had to shift from his job subduing Sylvia was a tribute.

Just when they were on the back foot, some Doggy cream rose to the top. Aker and Higgins lifted noticeably, and they started to win all the crumbs on offer. Aker read a Scully handball and goaled from the intercept, then Gia found Hill and the Dogs led again.

Bennell literally lifted on the wing to take a screamer, and this announced another Melbourne burst, with goals to Scully and Jones leaving them 3 points ahead at ¾ time. The Dees had a sniff, and the Dogs had problems aplenty. This season wasn’t going to script as far as they were concerned.

A couple of Trengove clangers early in the final term indicated he was tiring, but things couldn’t have been more different for his partner-in-draft. Tom Scully was everywhere, on his way to an amazing 18 possession last quarter, which probably should have seen his team home.

Instead, the Dogs kept the ball trapped in their front half, but found little reward. The time since their last goal grew ever-longer, visions of last week haunting. When Bate snuck clear for his 3rd goal, then missed with a snap moments later, the Dees threatened to assert themselves. Dunn snapped, and the committee formed again. Once more, they deemed it touched. With 8 minutes remaining, Melbourne led by 9 points and seemed in control.

But sides not used to winning often struggle to clinch the deal. Lake was thrown forward as desperate dice were rolled, and his particular brand of random chaos proved telling. The bounce eluded Frawley for Lake to goal, then the unfortunate defender was pinged for deliberate OOB.  Football justice saw Lake miss. But Griffen had been gradually working his way clear, and now he bounced one through off the left foot to regain the lead. With their nose in front, the Doggies superior ball control held sway, and they weren’t headed again. The final margin was a precarious 4 points.

One side issue needs to be mentioned. In tribute to the Pink Ladies, the umpires were attired in pink. Unfortunately, some genius had overlooked the fact that Melbourne were sporting pink yolks in similar tribute. There is no doubt that Demon players mistook the umps for teammates several times in the closing stages. Only an AFL spin doctor would suggest that it couldn’t have affected the outcome. For all their palaver about clash strips, away strips, yada yada… the AFL’s attention to detail again stands exposed when direct commercial concerns aren’t at issue.

The Dees will feel stiff, but can console themselves in their obvious improvement. They certainly have some beauties amongst their younger brigade.

Whether this is a win that steadies the Bulldogs season remains to be seen. Big Bad Bazza hasn’t proved to be an absolute answer to their forward structure, and they don’t appear to have ever really got on a roll so far, post the pre-season hit and giggle cup.

But flags aren’t won in May, and this win gets them on the right side of the win/loss ledger. There’s time yet get things right.

Melbourne  0.6  3.9  7.10  9.12 (66)
Western Bulldogs  3.2  5.5  8.7  10.10 (70)

GOALS
Melbourne:
Bate 3, Davey, Bennell, Green, Jones, Scully, Hughes
Western Bulldogs:
Hill 2, Higgins, Stack, Boyd, Grant, Everitt, Akermanis, Griffen, Lake

Best:

WB- Higgins, Gia, Cross, Morris, Hudson, Hill

MEL- Scully, Trengove, Bate, McDonald, Dunn, Warnock, Jones

Votes: 3- Scully  2- Higgins  1- Bate

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World’s Most Livable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. Nice report Mr Butler, it seems like the first match report on the Almanac each round is always by a person with initials J.B, but this round it’s a different J.B. to usual.

    Hall hasn’t exactly lived up to his pre-season form, the Dogs’ are much more predictable now and were very lucky to win.

  2. John Butler says:

    Adam

    I’m presuming Josh is being held against his will. You normally have to get up early to beat him to the punch.

    Cheers

  3. I’m getting too old to finish reports before midnight.

    Nice report too JB, Friday thrillers are just great.

  4. John,
    I was really distracted by the umps kits. Often as the Dogs won possession I would look ahead and see space filled, only later seeing that it was the umps. On the night, I’d thought the Dogs disadvantaged by the clutter of “opponents”!

  5. David Downer says:

    “particular brand of random chaos” – exquisite JB.

    On the Ump colours clash, Melbourne should go hard here. They should be writing the AFL asking THEM for a patented “PLEASE EXPLAIN”.

    Chief Deputy AA should cop his fair whack …he’s giving it the “We’re sorry, lets just move on”. No, not good enough. I’m not questioning the intention of the Umpires in pink, but surely it’s HIS turn to face the wheels of rigid football justice (that he invented), and cop his own fine/suspension for an “error in judgement”. Everyone else does!

    The poor timekeeper’s apprentice rubbed out for 5 weeks for placing an earth-shattering $5 bet on a match – that he wasnt even close to officiating – he didn’t have the privelege of just pleading “ok, I’m sorry, lets just move on…”

    DD

  6. John Butler says:

    Dave

    AA has obviously learned at the feet of a master, to whit, his boss Andy D. Between them they have footwork to rival Fred Astaire.

    Crio, I bet you weren’t half as distracted by the umps as the Demon players who kept firing handballs at them!

  7. JB – I understand Lake took himself forward late in the game without any instruction from the box. Do you know if this is correct? If so, lucky it came off.

    I reckon we might look back on teams who have just beaten the Dees a little differently once their true form becomes the “norm”. They are far from easy beats. The Dees are playing some smart footy. I reckon they have a better list than Carlton, Richmond, Essendon, North, West Coast, Port and the Crows, especially when they get all their players on the park. They just need a good big body at CHF or CHB.

  8. Dips,

    I reckon the Dees’ list is very healthy, better than all those clubs you mention. Even second-tier players like Brent Moloney would be handy in most teams.

    I still worry about them as a club, though. They might assemble the world’s best list but there’s still the nagging query over their genuineness as a club, and therefore their ability to win a premiership.

    Just what community do they serve? Flynny made a good point about the Cats on the JTH post last week when he commented on the strong proportion of the Geelong population at Geelong games between the wars. Geelong people feel very much aligned with their club.

    North Melbourne also has a negligible community, in its case because of geography. If you draw a wedge in the roughly north-west direction from the Arden Street Oval, that wedge is immediately blocked by the support areas of Carlton and Essendon. If you draw a wedge west, you immediately bump into Footscray’s natural support zone.

    The only real community support behind North has come from the North-Melbourne-Kensington-Flemington triangle. If you go post Flemington, you hit Ascot Vale, which is an Essendon area. If you go north of Flemington, you hit Brunswick, which is a Carlton area. North’s natural community of supporters is tiny, but vociferous. That vociferousness was evident in their two flags in the ’90s.

    Melbourne used to have the Kew area as a natural band of support, but Kew people now follow Hawthorn. Prahran was a Melbourne area, but I’m not sure who Prahran people follow now. Maybe Prahran is still a Melbourne area. (If so, relocate their training ground to Toorak Park!)

    By the way, North has great list of young guns. I hope the Roos and Dees rise up the ladder together.

  9. Stephen Cooke says:

    Off the topic I know, but does anyone remember which side Kelvin Matthews and Brian Peake kicked with?

  10. Cookey,

    No more off the topic than what I’ve just written.

    I reckon both were right-footers. Kelvin Matthews wore No.4 and Brian Peake wore No.7. One was considered one of the best players in Australia; the other had a brother who fitted that category.

    These are very unremarkable stats.

    Actually, Kelvin Matthews ended up at Geelong. Not sure what number he wore there.

    Am I getting warm re- your interest?

  11. John Butler says:

    Dips

    Mr Lake (nee Harris) often leaves the impression that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do from one moment to the next. It’s entirely conceivable he made the move himself.

    BTW, despite appearances, Lake’s record suggests he’s crazy like a fox. Regardless, you’d still reckon he’s taken a few years off Rocket’s lifespan.

  12. Peter Flynn says:

    Kelvin Matthews wore 7 at Geelong and is the subject of scuttlebutt (he wasn’t at Geelong at this stage) re the reasons behind the fiery 1985 Hawthorn v Geelong clash.

    “Pasties” Peake wore 27 while Matthews wore 7 and then took over 7 in 1983.

    What was the free kick count on Friday night?
    Surely it favoured Melbourne.

  13. Daff – you make a good point about the Dees and who they actually represent. Perhaps Mt Buller?

    But if/when Liam Jurrah wants to play in a really good team we’ll have him at Geelong in a second. Scully can come too.

  14. Chalkdog says:

    Was it just me or were the 18 possessions in the last qtr by Agent Scully some of the cheapest going round. He was nearly always way behind the ball and half of them resulted in turnovers. Not putting the knock on the kid, but I think footy is better viewed with perspective rather than purely on numbers. I havent seen a match report or heard a radio or tv expert do anything other than rave over the quantum without looking at the quality.

  15. Tony Robb says:

    Paul,
    I concur with your thoughts re Melboune’s “genuineness”. I think if you read throught my recent post you may get an indication of their supporter base. Lots of corporate and MCG members rather than MFC members. However, Trengrove and Scully might excite young kids and hopefully build up a real supporter base rather than blow ins. On a differnt note. I.m starting to sense why the AFL didnt include a side from Tasmania. Are we soon to see the emergence of the “Tassie Tigers”. It is the only way that Richmond can survive based on present circumstances. They will be killed by the concessions given to GC and WS and there isn’t too much on their list that you can say will lead them out of the desert to the promised land. And as soon as your hear that a “former club great” has called for action at Board level you know they will continue to hurtle down the worm hole as that has been the call for 30 yrs.
    cheers
    Tony

  16. John Butler says:

    Chalkdog

    I reckon that’s a pretty hard call on young Scully’s performance.

    On a wet night, you have to move the ball somehow, and the kid was constantly presenting and looking like he believed.

    His disposal could do with a tidy-up, but if a couple more of his senior colleagues had joined him in spirit, they’d have probably won.

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