AFL Round 5 – Carlton v Western Bulldogs: Buffalo Girls take a break

With footy once again gazing at itself in the mirror like a teenage girl determined to find fault – am I pretty enough? does my game style go with this forward  press? –  it seems strange we haven’t spent more time discussing the impact of the Docklands ground on how the game is now played. The smaller playing area, the roof, the turf sprung like an athletics track, all of these have been useful tools at the disposal of the modern control freak coach and his ever-growing ban of accomplices. A tailor-made petri dish environment for their experiments in denying opposition time and space.

This thought occurs as I sit in Bay 40 amongst a litter of faithful Bulldogs, one of whom has been a football companion for more than three decades. No wet and windy Western Oval terraces now. No mysterious forward pocket breezes waylaying the shots of unsuspecting visitors. The only element to contend with is an errant rooftop floodlight blinding us until someone finds the off switch.

But some things never change. My mate is still an uneasy front runner. A lifetime supporting the Doggies will do that to you. Though all form points west, he is worried about the absence of Morris and Roughead. And the possible after effects of last week’s Canberra sandpit. I’m worried about the absence of Jamison and the horrors of the last fortnight. The first big contest of the evening is the clash of pessimisms.

What we got is not what we expected. What we got was the Harlem Globetrotters v the Washington Generals: a fast-flowing crowd-pleasing down the guts shoot out. To my relief, the Blues were cast as the Globetrotters.

Playing on at all costs, Carlton were greatly assisted by the gangly reach of Warnock and a Bulldog centre square group crucially asleep on the job. Time and again Warnock tapped behind himself to an unmarked Carlton midfielder for a quick clearance. When this happened for the third time we awaited the adjustment. By the sixth occurrence Carlton fans couldn’t believe their luck. Nor could we believe Gibbs was running around unattended, nor how poorly Tom Williams was doing on Lachie Henderson.

What we especially couldn’t believe was that Brett Ratten hadn’t reappeared in the coach’s box. We are playing run and gun a la Ratts to a tee. Leading 7 goals to 3 we were hardly going to argue.

Belatedly, the Dogs tightened up in the midfield and Ryan Griffin decided to take matters into his own hands. Dangerfield attracts most of the headlines, but for mine Griffin gives him a run as the pack busting big-bodied mid de jour. He got to work and in ten minutes the Dogs clawed back 3 goals.

Jack Macrae is the latest Bulldog win in a trade that keeps on giving (Jordan McMahon to Richmond for pick 19, which begat Callan Ward, which eventually begat Macrae). He is a natural ball winner and looks set for a long and illustrious career. But he needs to polish up his work in front of goal. When he somehow contrived to miss from four metres out Carlton took the ball the length of the ground to score, reversing the momentum that had been going all the Dogs’ way.

Carlton led by 5 goals at the half but all things felt possible. Neither side could effectively defend opposition kick ins, so taking your chances would be crucial.

The Bulldogs gained control of the game through the third term but Carlton kept finding a goal to keep them at scoreboard arm’s length . Marc Murphy had demolished Mitch Wallis’ attempts to tag him, seeing Wallis subbed for Gia, who promptly goaled. As Stevens kicked another for the Dogs Chris Judd ran on to a rousing reception. When he limped off minutes later Carlton had a big problem. It got worse, as Curnow crashed sickeningly into a point post, not to return. Crucially, Crameri dropped a simple mark just on ¾ time when Bulldogs were unmarked inside 50.

This allowed Carlton to reach the final huddle 25 points ahead, but with only one usable man on the bench.

The expected Bulldog surge never really got going. Playing catch up football, they needed to take their chances better than they did. Stu Crameri’s night summed them up. A four goal haul looked a decent return, but he squandering several more chances with simple dropped chest marks. When he missed a sitter from 20 metres out with 10 minutes to go the wind deserted Bulldog sails.

After the abyss of last week any win is welcome for Blues fans. That it was achieved in the face of some adversity shows that spirits are still willing – a valid concern given recent events. It was no small achievement from Malthouse to pull things together in a week.

The post-game consensus was that it was temporary respite rather than corner turned. One year and five games into the Malthouse reign a discernable style is still hard to detect. My Bulldog friends were of the opinion they’d let us off the hook with their bad start, and I’m inclined to agree. But a necessary step to success is to seize opportunity when it’s offered. We at least managed that this week.

WESTERN BULLDOGS      3.3    8.6     12.8   13.13    (91)

CARLTON                            7.3   13.6    16.9   18.11   (119)

Western Bulldogs: Crameri 4, Dahlhaus 2, Stevens 2, Boyd, Cooney, Wallis, Jong, Giansiracusa

Carlton: Henderson 5, Waite 3, Murphy 2, Scotland 2, Gibbs, Ellard, Bell, Yarran, Everitt, Thomas

Western Bulldogs
: Griffin, Macrae, Dahlhaus, Stevens, Crameri, Boyd
Carlton: Murphy, Henderson, Simpson, Gibbs, Warnock, Walker

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has passed his 40th year as a Carlton member.


  1. I reckon your Bulldog mates would not have been impressed.

  2. John Butler says

    Frustrated would best some up their mood Smoke. With good reason.

  3. Band of assistant coaches – as in way too many??
    Bane of assistant coaches – as in the ruination of footy???
    Ban on assistant coaches – as in get rid of the air and money sucking white board carriers?
    All of them seem to fit. Which did you mean JB??
    Robbie Warnock leading the way for the Blues?? I thought I would never see the day. Gives me some hope for the South Sea Bubble on Saturday.

  4. John Butler says

    PB, all of the above apply to some extent. The question a club always needs to ask is are they assistants or acolytes?

    If coaching is to be regarded as a collaborative art form now, should we soon be seeing awards for best work with whiteboard magnets? What about best video editing in a non-dramatic performance? (that would include most GWS games).

    ‘Sweet’ Robbie earned his pay alright. Will Minson won’t remember it as one of his finest.

  5. Malcolm Ashwood says

    Good summary JB Macrae for all his promise his moment of lairasing was a turning point of the game and definitely , Warnocks finest game he killed , Minson ,
    again spot on re, Crameri he should have kicked several more , Thanks JB

  6. E.regnans says

    Great observations on the Docklands among many, JB.
    Reading your admiration for the skills of an old fashioned tap ruckman brought a special glow.

  7. Andrew Starkie says

    JB, funny how teams bounce after hitting hard rock bottom. I picked Dogs but by game time had strong feeling Blues would find something. Best way to answer critics is to play footy. Having a forward helped. Dogs will be kicking themselves.

  8. John Butler says

    Rulebook, the Dogs shot themselves in the foot a number of times. Thankfully.

    E Reg, old fashioned is a good word for Sweet Robbie (thanks to the editor who came up with that – it fits so well I shall henceforth steal it). He’s a Spider Burton trapped in the wrong decade.

    Starkers, I confess I couldn’t pick us either after last week. But once it became obvious a shoot out was on then hope sprang eternal. The Dogs allowed us to play on our terms.

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