Round 1 – Western Bulldogs v West Coast: A False Dawn?

The 2015 season represented for Bulldogs fans the start of another phase in this current rebuilding process. After not progressing at the expected rate in 2014, coach Brendan McCartney was sacked, before captain Ryan Griffen followed him out the door and Adam Cooney joined Essendon under free-agency. The result of our post-season list changes was losing over 1000 games of experience and gaining just 9.

Those 9 games were played by Tom Boyd, whose success at the Dogs may determine the success of the Dogs. With such radical changes to our club came great uncertainty. In past seasons – since we’d last been ‘good’ –6-8 wins in a year during which we’d beat a big team (Collingwood/Richmond last year) and lose an unlosable game (GWS) became the standard expectation.

This season, however, my Dogs-supporting mates and I had no idea what to expect. It was conceivable that we could be considerably worse, because on paper a team that loses and doesn’t replace Griffen, Cooney and Tom Liberatore – whose season ended in pre-season with a knee injury – will be underdogs against most. But if all 8 of our VFL premiership players who were named against the Eagles in round one could step up and become good AFL players, 6-8 wins might become 9 or 10.

I tipped us to come 14th, and despite my previous logic and many people suggesting otherwise, I tipped us to win round one. The absence of the retired Darren Glass and injured Eric MacKenzie in defence meant it would be difficult for West Coast to keep most teams to scores below 100, putting pressure of their forwards to kick a winning score.

The first noticeable impression new coach Luke Beveridge had made was our pressure on the Eagles while they had the ball, although this of course meant we didn’t have the ball. The Dogs couldn’t get many meaningful entries inside 50 for the first 10 minutes, and whenever we gave the ball up the Eagles would use the open spaces to hit on the counter-attack. We responded well to going 2 goals behind, kicking 4 straight to lead at the first break.

The entire game was played with neither side able to kick out to any more than a 3 goal lead, which only made the experience all the more frustrating. We would claw our way back to parity, or even edge ahead, before a silly turnover or basic defensive errors would let them go back in front. The pre-game uncertainty was only compounded.

The Eagles, too, had their chances. After trailing by 4 points at half-time, West Coast – led by Jamie Cripps – kicked the first 3 goals of the 3rd quarter. Cripps got 2 of them to take his night’s tally to 4, benefiting from his midfield winning the quarter’s first 7 clearances and 7 inside-50s. The boisterous home crowd directed blame to the umpires – who were having trouble deciding on a consistent interpretation of the sliding and advantage rules – and encouraged its team to lift.

And lift it did. Prodigy Marcus Bontempelli kicked one, then the maligned Jason Johannisen kicked 2 in a row to erase the Eagles’ brilliant start to the half. Jack Macrae, who with the numerous absentees was seen by many as the best midfielder our side, saw lots of the ball, as did Matthew Boyd, who proved his decision to play on wasn’t just out of necessity. West Coast, through Andrew Gaff and debutant Tom Lamb added two more to the Dogs’ one in the remainder of the 3rd quarter to take a narrow lead into the last term.

The goal-for-goal nature of the match continued for the first part of the last quarter, and I still had no idea which way the game would go. Cripps kicked his 5th to take West Coast to a maddeningly accurate 13.2, and the frustration threatened to escalate to anger after Jarrad Grant and Jake Stringer hit close to the exact same spot on the post within a minute of each other. The Eagles went down the other end and got a goal.

The match from there on was dominated by the Dogs, who had 6 more scoring shots to 1, but we only managed to convert 2 of them. Tom “The Future” Boyd showed us what the future might be like when he marked and kicked truly, before a series of behinds and one final goal to the always accurate Tory Dickson secured an opening round win.

The optimism had returned for the journey home. Without getting too far ahead of ourselves, we assumed we would beat St. Kilda, Melbourne and GWS in the following weeks, and one of Adelaide or Richmond as well. That would mean being 5 and 4 after 9 rounds. The chances of that happening seem good. Unfortunately, the chances of us tumbling down the ladder thereafter are also quite high.


Western Bulldogs 4.0 7.5 11.6 14.13 (97)
West Coast 3.1 7.1 12.2 14.2 (87)

Western Bulldogs: Stringer 3, Johannisen 2, Dickson 2, Picken, Honeychurch, Dahlhaus, Wood, Redpath, Bontempelli, T. Boyd
West Coast: Cripps 5, Shuey 2, Kennedy 2, LeCras, Lycett, Lamb, Gaff, Masten

Western Bulldogs: Johannisen, Macrae, Dahlhaus, M. Boyd, Roughead, Stringer
West Coast: Cripps, Masten, McGovern, Hurn, Shuey

3 Cripps, 2 Johannisen, 1 Macrae


About Tom Riordan

Tom Riordan is in his second year of a Bachelor of Journalism at Swinburne University. He loves all sports, and plays for Brunswick Cricket Club. He supports the Western Bulldogs and can be found on weekends among half a dozen others in Q38 on the top level of the MCC.


  1. matt watson says

    As an embarrassed North fan, I’d prefer a win like yours to the humiliation we suffered.
    Just checking the fixture for our game against the Bulldogs…

  2. would be good to see the bulldogs merge with another team,cannot see much future at all for this club

  3. Tom Riordan says

    Thanks for the injection of positivity Andrew

  4. how can you be positive about a club which has not won a premiership in 60 plus years and is propped up by the afl

  5. The dogs really put in. North played like millionaires. I think they feel they are better than they really are. Autograph books at their last training session on Saturday? Give me a break. Hard nosed professionalism is required down there.
    And it wasn’t a one off. Their last two big games they have been thrashed.
    I knew after one minute against Adelaide that they didn’t turn up. Some players were playing scared. They wanted bruise free football. Weak dropped marks, not standing up. Pussy footed passes. I could name players but anyone can watch the first quarter and see the sissys for themselves.
    North better be careful or they will be seen as conceited wankers that don’t like the hard contest and don’t put their heads over the ball and don’t put pressure on the opposition. They will finish closer to last than first if they continue to play like that again. As a member I am very angry at all the players today that failed to deliver. And throw that autograph pen away until you all decide to play like STRONG MEN. It better happen quickly.

  6. Well written Tom. I like that Simpson and Beveridge are teaching a modern, attacking game style. The players may not be good enough to accomplish it consistently, but at least it feels like being on a journey with possibilities. Its better than scrappy, dumb football and looking backwards – which my Eagles have certainly done in recent years. Both teams have huge structural gaps that will not be quickly filled and recruiting is an ongoing problem for both of us. But I can live with being on the road to somewhere, after several years on the road to nowhere.
    Andrew – defining success in an 18 team comp solely by premierships – means that its 94% failures. Striving is as important as succeeding. There are no failures in AFL footy – just works in progress. I got a real kick out of how Melbourne played on Saturday. Looked like the first down payment on a lot of years of hard work by a lot of people. You can’t build the walls until you have laid the foundations.

  7. cowshedend says

    Great work Tom, it was a ripping game to watch , fast furious and entertaining, agree with PB both these coaches should be praised for dishing this type of footy up.
    And yes Andrew maybe every club that gets financial assistance from the league should fold, be great to see what the next TV rights would be worth with 6 teams running around, you do realise that this is not the EPL or Serie A , there’s not 60 teams waiting in the wings to fill the void .

  8. andrew, I can’t see much future in your grammar, it’s all about sentence full stop, sentence full stop.

  9. Andrew gee whizz, I felt postings here should be informative and supportive of those who enjoy the winter sport. To twice post a brief, AFL bean counter mantra, is the antithesis of this. Maybe to provide balance to your comments you can give us a breakdown of the millions the VFL/AFL poured into Sydney and Queensland to prop up their pet projects, teams with no real history or supporters, unlike the bulldogs.


  10. Neil Anderson says

    Thanks for your defense of the Dogs boys. I re-checked the results again after suggestions of mergers and folding and yes, we did actually win on the day. And as PB said, they did it with attacking football with hardly a kick backwards except when winding down the clock in the last two minutes.
    Perhaps a closer look at other teams that had their glory years forty years ago and are just surviving on those memories could have their worth assessed, before dissing the Bulldogs who are heading in the right direction.

  11. I knew we’d win Tom! Not even discouraged when Leanne Jones briefly led the Coleman on Thursday night – the Dogs had to make radical calls and have.
    Some concerns on certain players but, for now, let’s love watching The Bont, Stringer and hoping Roughy and Tallia can forge a spine. The big forwards need to clunk but let’s just look fwd to a Saturday arvo at the ‘G with a winning chance against the Tiges.
    Go Dogs!

  12. btw andrew, I miss Mark Doyle – erudite even when erroneous.

  13. West Coast certainly franked the doggies form last night! Either that or Carlton are totally crap.

  14. …well said Budge

  15. 2 from 2. Do the doggies dare hope?

  16. Tom Riordan says

    Fair to say we had the last laugh here, lads. Up the ‘Scray.

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