AFL Round 5 – Western Bulldogs v Geelong: Too much football is barely enough

To paraphrase Roy and H.G., “Too much football is barely enough,” though Saturdays at our place certainly tests that mantra. It starts at 9am coaching 50-odd Preps at Williamstown Auskick, where our boys Charlie and Jack wear Geelong jumpers with # 26 and # 35 on their respective backs. Jack is already upset that Chappy isn’t playing tonight (out with his usual recurring hammy); Charlie’s disappointment comes later when Tomahawk is a late withdrawal.

Post-Auskick, when talk turns to what’s on for the rest of the day, the Bulldog kids are excited: “We’re off to a party, then we get to watch the footy!” The Bulldog Dads aren’t so optimistic.

From Auskick it was over to the Fearon Reserve, where Williamstown CYMS took on Ormond. The CYs were 0-2 heading into this VAFA D1 clash, having dropped their first 2 games by just two and six points. But they were confident about this day, having earlier beaten Ormond by 20 goals in the preseason. Playing for Ormond was ex-Bulldog (and Cat) Matthew Robbins, and whilst he was on the ground Ormond had the ascendancy. But early in the second quarter Robbins failed to get up after an innocuous tackle: his day, and his back, was done. From there it was all CYs and a 7 goal to one second term saw them run out comfortable 33 point victors. The social rooms were heaving after the first win of the year and 7pm was quickly upon us. Just time enough to exit, sort the kids, hit the couch and catch the game on FOX Footy.

The comedic backdrop for tonight’s match was provided by Geelong players Josh Caddy and Billie Smedts, who earlier in the week were arrested at gunpoint after their prank on teammate Jackson Thurlow went horribly (brilliantly?) wrong. Caddy and Smedts were seen wearing balaclavas[1] and trying to break into a house, thinking it was Thurlow’s new home. But they went to the wrong address, where a neighbour spotted them wearing balaclavas and promptly reported them to police. “We were just in the $2 shop[2] and saw them (balaclavas) and thought it would be a bit of fun to scare young Thurlow at his new house he’d just moved into,” was Caddy’s explanation. Gold. And if you’ve got that much time on your hands that this actually seemed a good idea, then there’s your argument for current day players holding down jobs. But I digress.

Come 7:40pm the main event has finally arrived and it’s the Dogs that start the better of the two sides, with Jones converting a spectacular non-mark followed by Dahlhous doing Suarez[3] proud with a right foot strike from the pocket to make it 13-4.

From there normal transmission resumed, with Geelong kicking eight of the next 9 goals. Selwood (would you expect anything else?) got the Geelong machine rolling with the first goal, followed by others to Motlop, Taylor (with license to play forward or back), Podsiadly and Smedts. At quarter time it was the Cats by 16.

Other notable events from the first term were: (1) Johnson’s no-look pass to Taylor yet another example of players not knowing they’re on the end of a Stevie J kick until it’s on top of them; (2) the Bulldogs so intent on holding onto the footy that they rack up more inside 50s for Geelong than the Cats do; and (3) Lonergan could not get near Jones, which once again had me questioning Tom’s ability.

The second quarter highlight came early from Motlop, who took possession outside 50m and set off for goal at full speed. Just as he was about to steady on his right and kick for goal he saw Picken closing quickly from his blindside. Motlop simply readjusted at full pace and coolly goaled with a right foot banana before Picken could make contact – pure class.

At times during the second quarter the game threatened to get out of control for the Dogs, with the Cats on top and Taylor, Johnson, Kelly and Selwood the goal kicking beneficiaries. But each time the lead threatened to become insurmountable the Dogs responded, thanks to their dominance of the stoppages and the ruckwork of Big Will Minson. The quarter also saw Caddy leave the field with concussion after an errant elbow from Goodes (will be looked at), which, after the earlier subbing of Rivers (knee), left the Cats with a two-man bench for the remainder of the game.

A similar theme played out in the third term, as goals to Motlop, Christensen and three more to the irrepressible Taylor were countered by four to the Bulldogs, meaning the lead never got beyond 7 goals. The Bulldog majors came from two of their most promising youngsters in Stringer and Smith: both kicked two and look likely players. The third term was also notable for a clash between captains Selwood and Boyd – the star Cat left doubled over after a crude round arm from behind. Benefit of the doubt because it was Boyd, but another one for the MRP to look at. At three quarter time the Cats led by 36.

The last quarter saw the Cats struggle to cover the ground, in part due to their reduced rotations. The game suddenly opened up for the Bulldogs, who made an unlikely surge at victory. Three quick goals to Cooney, Jones and Roughead saw them trail by 19 points with 11 minutes left. And it could have been closer, had Jones not missed a left foot snap for his fifth that would have made it just 13 points. Chris Scott then said enough is enough and sent Taylor back to defence, whereby the more polished Cats first steadied, then played out time. After the 3 three quick goals to the Dogs there would be no more for the match. It meant the Cats were kept goalless in the last term (0.5 didn’t help[4]), but they’d done enough to claim a 21 point victory.

Be it forward or back, Harry Taylor ruled the air tonight and laid claim to being just about the best contested mark in the comp. I also noted his reserved fist pump after each of his goals – nothing like the Adam Scott celebration from Augusta but probably indicative of the Cats’ mindset after a tough opening month of football. And just maybe a hint at the impact a fourth knee injury to Daniel Menzel had on the group.

For the Dogs, there’s definite light at the end of the tunnel in Jones, Stringer and Smith, not to mention a fit Adam Cooney. And if Scarlett is happy to anoint Roughead as the player most likely, that’s enough for Bulldog supporters to believe. For the Cats, it was just a game and just an effort, but a 5-0 start to the season is the perfect launching pad for a vital top four spot come September.

[1] I’m pretty sure we haven’t seen a balaclava at GFC since some wag donned one at training and stood on the fence as Andrew Wills ran laps.

[2] Clear evidence of Geelong’s ability to remain under the salary cap, despite their abundance of stars, is that their young players frequent $2 shops.

[3] This could have been any number of soccer stars, but “Bulldogs bite” goes the song, and so does Suarez.

[4] How was Smedts’ shot at goal that was adjudged to have hit the post not reviewed? What a farce the score review system is!


Western Bulldogs            3.1          6.3          10.6        13.8 (86)
Geelong                               5.5          10.9        15.12     15.17 (107)


Western Bulldogs: Jones 4, Stringer 3, Smith 2, Cooney 2, Dahlhaus, Roughead
Geelong: Taylor 5, Motlop 3, Selwood 2, Podsiadly, Smedts, Johnson, Kelly, Christensen 

Western Bulldogs: Jones, Picken, Minson, Cooney, Liberatore, Smith
Geelong: Taylor, Enright, Kelly, Bartel, Motlop, Johnson


Umpires: Hay, Findlay, Fisher 

Official crowd: 26,153

Our Votes: 3 Taylor (G), 2 Enright (G), 1 Jones (WB)

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