AFL Round 16 – Western Bulldogs v Essendon: Another honourable loss (sigh)

As I walked across the Burke Street footbridge, I found it difficult to think of this game with any kind of optimism. Recently, our encounters with top-four sides have not been enjoyable.

For the Bulldogs, it is a time where the fickle ‘band wagoner’ fans have dropped-off and the committed die-hards hang tough. Week after week we – Bulldogs supporters – wrestle with the question, “Is it a good idea to go to the footy today?” Somehow, I always manage to convince myself it is. The recurring fear of not knowing which Doggies side will turn up – the fighters or the layabouts – is the most difficult thought to navigate.

This week though, I used the Jobe Watson injury as motivation. Surely, the Bombers would struggle without their star man and spiritual leader – so we would be a chance. “If we win and I’m not there, I’d be spewing,” I told myself.

I was running late for the game. It was a relief to enter the protected warmth of the stadium. Before I’d had a chance to thaw I noticed the scoreboard – my heart sank. The Bombers lead, six goals to one. I quickly put my glasses on in the hope my eye stigmatism was playing funny buggers with me. Unfortunately, it was not the case. Thankfully, in the time it took to find my seat we pegged two goals back and I was feeling slightly better about the situation. I told myself to stay positive.

The second quarter started with a bang. The youthful zip of our boys brought a smile to my face. We peppered the Bombers for the quarter and when Koby Stevens kicked a beautiful dribble goal on the 18-minute mark, I had a feeling that something special was brewing. We were up and about.

Nathan Hrovat’s poise and energy continued to excite me as he again gathered a cluster of possessions. My mind wandered off into the future, a time when our centreline will read Hrovat-Stringer-Macrae. Oh, the possibilities with those three. ‘Big Will,’ continued his dominance around the ground and Liam Picken’s attack on the ball and man in his 100th game was a pleasure to watch, as always.

“We are on the right track,” I told myself whilst considering our future.

The inexperience of our boys was clear for all to see. Each time we were able to put a dent in the Bombers lead, to their credit, they struck back. Winderlich kicked a stunner from the boundary and mid-way through the third quarter Courtney Dempsey slotted another which kept us at arms length. I enjoyed watching Dustin ‘forever young’ Fletcher go about his business. His knack of getting either one of his four limbs famous limbs in the right place at the right time to spoil is a joy to watch.

‘Lord’ James Hird, strutted around the boundary line just before the three quarter time break. Bombers fans – male, female, old and young – swooned at the sight. As is expected, he looked smug. I wondered how strange it was how the cheers for him had grown so much louder following the recent controversies. I wondered how I would react if the same thing happened to my Bulldogs – I concluded, without doubt, it would be different.

We entered three quarter time with a 13-point deficit. We were a real show.

Adam Cooney showed flashes of his best and his work in the packs was stunning. Bob Murphy’s poise, skill and impeccable decision making is reason alone to turn up to the footy.

Brett Goodes’ goal on the run at the 11-minute mark of the last quarter reduced the margin to 12 points. I allowed myself to get carried away, thinking of how much I would enjoy watching Lord James’ post-match press conference.

Then, the ‘advantage’ incident occurred. Hrovat took the advantage from a free kick paid in the centre and kicked a running goal – margin now six points. Frustratingly, the umpire disallowed the goal and brought the play back to the original free kick. Essendon flooded back and we quickly turned over the ball. Opportunity lost.

Again, inexperience reared its ugly head. When the ball should have been held it was rushed forward and turned over too easily. Essendon soon killed the contest with a flurry of late goals. It was another honourable loss for the Bulldogs.

“Keep positive,” I say. Libba played a blinder – he schooled the Bombers in contested footy. Hrovat, Dalhaus and Stevens had exciting games – all of these boys are young and have huge futures.

The difference between our best and worst football is still too great. “That will come with time,” I tell myself.

About Brenton Shaughnessy

Brenton is a student Journo. Having grown up in Ballarat, he gained his football education on a wing at the North Ballarat City footy club. He is also a long suffering, ever optimistic Western Doggies fan.


  1. cowshedend says

    Great review,how i despise the mob at the other end of the 82 tramline. Melksham’s goal from a metre outside the chalk was a wonderful example how everything that happens at Essendon stretches the boundaries.

  2. Hi Brett, how did Jones play? He’s an impressive mark, just need to tidy up his kicking. Watching him reminds me a bit of former Geelong/Melbourne forward Peter Johnston, who could regularly take marks that were contenders for mark of the round, but was famous for missing set shots ; often at costly times.

    Did young Dickson play? He showed flashes of promise last year .


  3. Neil Anderson says

    Enjoyed your report Brenton. You are a gutsy and loyal supporter turning up week after week on behalf of us stay-at-homes still in our foetal positions since March.
    Good to see you outline the positives regarding the future stars for the club rather hearing us oldies bang on about the good old days. Or should that be good old ‘day’.
    I was hoping for no more than a five goal defeat before they started and missed it by that much. I thought it was the best effort since round 1.
    Don’t know why the footy gods were hovering, but thought they out-did themselves with Hrovat’s play-on goal disallowed, Melksham’s out-of-bounds goal and Winderlich’s snap goal when he was almost behind the point-post.
    Sorry to go back to the olden days again, but I saw a replay of the 2000 match on Channel 7 when the Bulldogs stopped the eventual premiers Essendon’s winning run when Grant snapped a goal around the corner at the death. An ending like that would have been nice yesterday to get rid of those smug looks off the opposition coach and players.

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