AFL Round 2 – Bulldogs v Kangaroos : The Pain of Winning

Western Bulldogs versus North Melbourne

4.40pm, Sunday 30 March

Etihad Stadium, Melbourne

Ask anyone who was there and they will tell you the first half of this game was the worst half of league footy they have ever seen.



My mate Gavin – Carlton man, former AFL umpire and sharp footy brain – and I took our spots on the ground floor thoroughfare, centre wing, city side. We prefer to stand – it gives the Dungeon some outer authenticity. The roof was closed on a beautiful Autumn afternoon and a small crowd was in.

In the first quarter, both teams committed their bodies. That’s about as positive as I can be. The Bulldogs had plenty of the ball, especially Dahlhaus, who hasn’t lost anything since getting rid of the dreads, however, they sprayed it everywhere, particularly when in front of goals.

North blasted long to its tall forward line, which included Currie for his first game, where it usually spilled off a pack to be cleared by Murphy and Picken, who towelled Lindsay. McKenzie and Drew, who has fallen back into the bad habit of playing from behind, kicked the only goals for the quarter.

Cooney’s neat running goal in the opening minute of the second term gave hope. Unfortunately, things only grew worse, with the play resembling a stodgy game of schoolyard rugby, or a Yr7 boys’ Drama class, with rolling packs stacked on the ball. Neither team was capable of an effective clearance, or a string of slick handpasses followed by a well directed pass that would open the game up.

Jones finally managed another for the Bulldogs just before half-time while North missed, the worst from Cunnington, who tried to dribble a shot from the top of the goal square along the ground, only to hit the post. It was horrible.

Meanwhile, the crowd switched off. Dungeon staff handed out free hot food to hungry Bulldog members while Gavin mulled over more interesting things he could be doing with his Sunday, like a round of golf or spraying his ex’s front garden with Roundup. At one point he walked off to find a toilet and eventually returned some minutes later to find the play in the same pocket it was when he left. The bloke beside us called for the mercy rule.

A collective sigh of relief met the half time siren. North led by 2 points and with two goals each, it was possibly a case of next score wins. At least I’ll be home in time for Rake, I thought.

Gavin gave up and spent the second half in the Whitten Bar, while I watched from behind the North cheersquad at the southern end goals.

The footy improved a bit. The Bulldogs hit the front early in the third quarter through Griffen and could have gone on with the job if they had only found a forward, their perennial problem since the retirements of Grant and Johnson.

North started to run and spread for the first time this season. Boomer wore the look of a bloke who was sick of this crap and Drew kicked his second to edge out to a 10 point lead three-quarter time lead, which would have been more had Black not missed two set shots.

The result was in the balance halfway through the last term until Johannisen missed and North finished off with a handful of goals. Boomer kicked two more in a best on ground performance which should make his younger teammates uncomfortable. Del Santo also played well. For the Dogs, Murphy, with his beautiful balance and skills, was their best, which again says a lot.

Final margin 29 points. Although the second half was an improvement, this was not a game befitting league footy. Is it just me, or has the gap between the good and rest, the have and have nots, widened?

Afterwards on the train, I contemplated how during the off-season many talked up North’s chances on the rationale we had a bad year in 2013, therefore we are due a good one. I was less confident. North doesn’t have the required ruthlessness, on and off field, for sustained success.

Anthony, Jacobs, Firrito,Wright and McMahon, none of whom played in this match (the latter two were dropped after round 1) should have gone after last season. Compare this conservative approach to Hawthorn’s, who moved on Buddy (let’s not pretend they were sad to see him go) and put Sewell on the table two days after lifting the premiership cup, or Geelong, who let go a handful of premiership players.

North lacks the belief to regularly defeat top sides and allows lower teams to dictate the tempo of games. I know we’re only two games in and pressure around the ball against the Bulldogs was better than last week, however North has no run, confidence, direction, and leadership without the injured Swallow. And that’s a worry.

I arrived home in time for Rake.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.3 2.3 5.4 8.6 (54)

NORTH MELBOURNE 2.2 2.5 6.8 12.11 (83)


Western Bulldogs: Cooney, Jones, Griffen, Stringer, Dahlhaus, Stevens, Crameri, Macrae

North Melbourne: Harvey 3, Petrie 2, McKenzie, Currie, Wells, Greenwood, Ziebell, Black, Adams


Western Bulldogs: Murphy, Dahlhaus, Picken

North Melbourne: Harvey, Del Santo, Thompson.

Umpires: Margetts, Nicholls, Hosking

crowd: 28,512 at Etihad Stadium

Malarkey Votes:

3 – Harvey (NM); 2 – Murphy (WB); 1 – Del Santo (NM).


  1. Rick Kane says

    Good report AS. I couldn’t stop tapping my foot to ‘Faith’ as I read. Oh, and what is the mercy rule?


  2. Andrew- I enjoyed your report and especially the Rake references. Although I reckon Cleave has enough chaos in his own life without being a football fan, he’d probably support the Saints. They could at least keep him in work.

  3. Andrew Starkie says

    Rick, no one would’ve complained if this game was called off at halftime.

    Mickey, Cleave’s a good bloke out of luck. Although, I think this series has lost its way a bit. Might be time to rap it up.

  4. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Andrew good honest report and totally agree the gap between the top sides and the rest seems to have widened there have been some diabolical games and it’s only been 2 rounds . I think it’s a combination of the style of the game , at times seemingly all 36 players around the ball and the addition of 2 extra sides and there is not enough genuine talent to go round there are some v average players getting a game at a lot of clubs ( the last 5 players picked in the lower sides would not get on the list of the top sides that is where the gap comes in to play big time ) Thanks Andrew

  5. Love your work Starks.

    It is NEVER time to wrap up Rake. More Cleave, less Fuzz. The kid’s a pain in the arse.

  6. Andrew Starkie says

    Steve, trust me I’m a big Rake man. I’d love to be him, however that’s difficult when you go to bed before 10pm. I just feel the series has lost its way. Too many subplots? A bit all over the place? Dunno.

  7. Great read Andrew. Always enjoy your stuff. On the standard of the game, I’d venture my Bulldogs dragged you down to our level. We’re not travelling too well at the mome.

    PS Gigz and I watch from that same spot … thoroughfare, wing, city side … though we usually get muscled towards the pockets. Hope to run into you at the next Nth Dogs game. Heck, maybe we continue our tussle on the Merry Xmas thing (and get a little closer to each others point of view.) The beers will be on me for leaving the last one on a sour note.

    Double PS. Ed, what’s goin on with the formatting? Crammed paragraphs aren’t helping the writers .

  8. Anthony, Jacobs, Firrito, Wright and McMahon.

    Jacobs aside, about whom I’m more optimistic than you given he’s still only 21, sure move them on but replace them with what? Pick 65 in an ordinary draft? Keep Ben Mabon and Ayden Kennedy on the list instead? Trade for different-but-the-same fringe players? I’d be surprised if 3 of those weren’t moved on at the end of this year anyway, and they’re at least reasonably proven depth in the meantime.

    Still, your pessimism about whether the club as it currently is has the ability to be good enough worries me too.

  9. Cowshedend says

    Grat read Andrew.
    The Dogs seem to have the ‘kids on red cordial’ game plan, where you run and wrestle until you fall down with exhaustion.
    It is a game plan with high attrition, and when you have no one in your front half to kick to there is no stoppages to give respite, so it’s run up run back tackle stir and repeat.

  10. Tony Robb says

    I firmly believe they should reintroduce the top five again as at least three teams will play final that have as much credibility as Carlton’s appearance last year.

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