AFL Round 22 – Brisbane v Western Bulldogs: A strange beast

As the sun languidly retreats towards the western horizon on yet another sumptuous winter’s day in south-east Queensland, my six-year old and I stride expectantly toward the light towers in the middle distance. His first full season of playing the indigenous game has awakened a passion for footy in our boy that delights his Dad and leaves his Mum melancholy. And so it is that we find ourselves here to watch Cal’s ‘second team’ go around against most discerning footy fans’ third team, the valiant sons of the ‘Scray.

It’s a late season contest with potentially nothing more than bragging rights as the reward. This is despite the fact that both teams have been playing rather more meritorious footy in recent weeks than they managed in some of the earlier stages of the season. In the case of the Doggies, this has resulted in a distinctly more positive outlook emanating from the environs of the Western Oval. For the Lions, it has coincided with the inexplicable (in my view) sacking of their coach and favourite son. Footy really is a very strange beast at times.

The locals begin the game with a spark, their endeavour seemingly indicative of a belief in the possibility that the Bombers’ travails might just result in an opportunity to embrace finals footy sooner rather than later. Their willingness to go in and win the footy is coupled with an almost manic desire to shift it rapidly and the Dogs have no answer to their approach for much of the first half.

Ryan Harwood exemplifies all that is good about the Lions in the early stages when he wins a contested ball across half-back and shows the courage and ability to seamlessly begin dashing away from the congestion. A rapid ‘give and go’ handball interchange then sees him running free through the middle of the ground before hitting a leading target inside 50. The whole passage looks like a training drill and the Dogs are doing very little to correct this misapprehension

While the absence of Lions legends Brown and Black is undoubtedly a disappointment to many in the crowd it is rendered irrelevant on the field as the goals continue to flow freely. Brisbane players appear to be working the ball around within the confines of a shoebox (let alone a phone box) and this results in teammates careering away into open space on numerous occasions. The subsequent clinical conversion in front of goal means half-time can’t come quickly enough for the Dogs.

As we return to our seats for the second half, ‘Sauce’ Merrett is being stretchered off after a heavy collision and the Dogs suddenly find something. They win the ball in close as Leuenberger’s influence is curtailed and begin to find players on the outside who can run and hit targets. Luke Dalhaus provides a homage to Queensland’s Origin heroes with a ‘play-the-ball’ goal from less than a metre out and the momentum is now palpably with the visitors. The siren for three-quarter time has the Doggies still well back but with a reason to believe.

The last term has everything: quality goals (honourable mentions go to Bob Murphy and Andrew Raines in this regard), perplexing umpiring decisions, and an increasingly fractious home crowd. The Bulldogs dominate possession and field position and creep ever closer on the scoreboard. A young Lions fan two rows in front of us hurls his cap down at his feet in disgust as the visitors celebrate yet another goal and draw to within a kick. The discarded cap is immediately retrieved and calmly placed back on the young man’s head by his father. It seems that it’s time for wiser heads to prevail.

As if in concert with the father’s thoughts, the Lions find a way to hold their nerve and wrest back the advantage in general play. The siren rings out to close a game that showed both teams in a positive light at different stages. The Lions take the points and the Bulldogs affirm the growing self-belief amongst their supporter base that better days are drawing nearer.

And as Callum enjoys the kick-to-kick on the ground after the siren I consider the startling ebbs and flows of the game we have witnessed. One more goal from the Doggies in that last quarter could have set them up to perhaps overhaul the fourth-largest deficit in VFL/AFL history.

Footy really is a very strange beast at times.

Brisbane Lions                      7.1       13.2      14.3     15.10.100

Western Bulldogs              2.5          4.6        8.11     13.15. 93



Brisbane: Merrett 2, Rich 2, Green 2, Staker 2, Raines 2, Zorko 2, Leuenberger 2, Bewick

Western Bulldogs: Dahlhaus 3, Addison 2, Giansiracusa 2, Wallis, Murphy, Minson, Griffen, Dickson, Campbell



Brisbane:                 Rockliff, Zorko, Leuenberger, Patfull

Western Bulldogs:   Dahlhaus, Liberatore, Boyd, Minson


Umpires:    Leppard, Schmitt, Fisher                   CROWD: 20, 130


OUR VOTES:  Rockliff (3), Leuenberger (2), Dahlhaus (1)

Leave a Comment