Round 19 – Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: Aaron Naughton terrifies me





Aaron Naughton terrifies me. He’s only 21! That’s scarier than how much he looks like Stevie Windwood.


Ben Brown’s kicking scares the hell out of me! But not as much as it does Ben Brown. Heart on sleeve is great, but each time he takes a mark he inhales so much we all feel nervous.


And therein lies the rub.


Melbourne’s main problem, it seems, to me, is the one they had before the coming of the bandwagons. Goals. If McDonald ain’t firing, and he’s no superstar, sorry, they just can’t kick enough of them in games that matter.


Damn it Benny! I like you. Everybody likes you! You’re the new Richo! You snagged a few to draw your team closer, but your early misses, when the game‘s tone was being set, set the tone. The Demons won’t win a flag with your kicking.


My dislike of Bruce scares me. Even if it’s as comic book as he is. Poncing about like the villain in a 70s porno action movie. Feeling up his teammates after goals, not just patting them. But, lately, he’s been kicking goals when they matter. Not force of talent, not brute strength or ability. Just… somehow. Credit to him.


Bomp scares me. I watched him close tonight, the way he seamlessly finds his way out back, for the release handball, then charges so smoothly through chaos.


The thought of Bomp v Oliver scares me. No tagger could hold either of them, so have at it! Bomp looked better, those long strides, his usage, but Oliver in close, those over the head handballs, the boot slaps in chaos, I was about to call it a mighty draw. Mighty! Head-to-head, silk and splinters. Then Bomp aced the last five minutes and took a red-hot contest between two teams vying for top spot into a comfortable win, and a truer indication of where both mobs are at. For now, anyway.


The thought of Melbourne without Gawn scares me. Why bother showing up if that happens? Make a mould of a man, and  he and English are twins, more or less the same size, build, muscle, but then there’s want! English is handy, in the traditional middling Hawthorn ruckman role, but Max is next level. He won everything, often grabbing and booting it, because he’s tougher of character.


The fact Melbourne couldn’t capitalize on this more bothers me. Greatly. It was slippery. There were a lot of tricky taps out back to blokes who got brief hands to the soap before bumps and tackles and sharking. The Dogs have such a good, mean spread around the ball, once it’s neutral, they’re away. Belting if forward more might have been an option.


How much Baily Smith touches his hair scares me. Bush back the left side, right, pat the top down. Yet, with the footy, a super handy, hard at it, fast, second tier player.


Steve May scares me.


He just does.


Much of the Bulldogs game is how hard the backline spreads, providing not one, but four or five options. And, also, how much their forwards run in hard straight lines. They really push, with everything, through the middle. But not all of them. There’s usually one or two lingering a line further back to kick to. You can almost hear them whispering “It’s your turn… Charge. I’ll hover in the danger zone.” It’s awesome. But when May comes with them towards a pack, over 100 metres from fullback, full charge, when he leaps he’s going to throw that tank of his at someone, damn it!


But all of that is secondary.




Melbourne’s game seems to be built around the best in-close handball you’ve ever seen. It’s breathtaking. Pingpingpingping… and out! The Bulldogs’ game, I believe, is built around five or six defenders who spread like farm sheds in tornadoes, and run, oh man, just run like lightning!


The pace with which they slice down the ground is frightening! They get the ball at full tilt, by hand or chip, and go into full bullet mode! Cutting through the bog of zones, still scrambling through midfield u-turns.


Of course, teams try to have plans for that, and sometimes they’re stopped. But they get enough goals from open forward lines to make the difference between winning and losing.


And then there’s cattle. Melbourne and the Doggies both have a top six to die for, but the Scraggers’ bottom six are, if not better, better at executing their team’s game plans and structures.


Even on-ball, tonight, Hunter and Libba pipped Harmes and Viney. Their workhorses were better.


Weightman’s absolute speccie over Gawn scared the hell out of me! As a slow moving donk who’s job it was to push back and fill the hole, once every year or two I’d feel a knee in my ear, just before hearing the delirious crowd roar that belongs to a screamer. I very rarely got to see the great marks I was a part of.


It’s a bad, unrepressed memory! And Max gets them replayed ad nauseam! AFL promotional ads built around them, magazine covers dedicated to them, posters, banners!


If I won Mark of the Year over Gawn, when they gave me my $10,000, I’d slip him a twenty.


Jason Johannisen’s game scared me. He was just brilliant across half back for the Doggies! His run gave me eyes blisters!


Jayden Hunt’s game scared me. He was just brilliant across half back for the Demons. BoG for them, easy. Though, with Ed Langdon in the team, some of that may have been the Lord brothers factor.


The thought of a Cats v Dogs Grand Final amuses the child in me. Especially if it rains. Yet the thought of a Cats v Dogs Grand Final scares the footballer in me happy! It would be epic!


But the chickens haven’t even made it to the yard, let alone come home to roost. Favourites get knocked out in Prelims time and again, and premierships are often won by middling teams who play one brilliant month of footy. Just ask the Bulldogs.


There was a lot to thrill and bedazzle and be scared of tonight. Until the end.


Damn it Bomp! You turned a wham-bam affair into something a bit too comfortable.



MELBOURNE                                 1.4      2.7       7.9     9.11 (65)
WESTERN BULLDOGS               3.2      6.4      10.5    13.7 (85)


Brown 2, Fritsch 2, Pickett 2, McDonald, Petracca, Viney
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli 2, Bruce 2, Hannan 2, Naughton 2, Daniel, English, Smith, Ugle-Hagan, Weightman


 Oliver, Petracca, Neal-Bullen, Lever, Gawn, Hunt
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Daniel, Macrae, Smith, Hunter, Liberatore, Schache 


Western Bulldogs: Keath (hamstring), Richards (concussion)


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  1. george smith says

    Could it be…

    The Dogs, unlike our mob, have a premiership coach. They have Bontompelli, but unlike the Whitten, Hawkins, Templeton teams of old, their team is not based on one player. They have folks who have won premierships.

    Here’s an interesting stat – the Dogs have only lost one grand final since 1925. Compare this to our mob’s 21!

  2. Hayden Kelly says

    Great read Matt . It was a cracking game and as a Bulldog supporter a joy to watch albeit I am the worst TV watcher of all . TV doesn’t allow the spectator to take in the full pattern and nuances of the game .
    Naughton scares me because I fear he will do himself some serious damage with his high flying antics .
    Alex Keath getting injured scares me as he is pivotal to our structure
    English as versatile as he is scares me on a dry day against a monster like Max
    As for JJ most Bulldogs supporters are scared Bevo will continue to pick him
    Oliver with the looks of a Scottish backpacker is a superb player in any conditions .
    It was a great night for the Italians Bont ,Libba and Petracca . Bont has gone to another level and is leading his team in a manner which reminds of Carey in his prime at North .I now rate him the best Dogs player I have seen noting i didn’t see EJ in his pomp.
    When Melbourne beat us earlier in the year their bottom 6 were clearly better on the day so the bottom sixes are now 1 all
    Geelong scare me the most btw

  3. Matt Zurbo says

    George, so do Richmond and Hawthorn, yet they aren’t close. I agree premiership players help, but they are far from the be all and end all when an up-and-comer is on the charge. And I can’t tell if you’re joking or not about the Dogs only losing one to your 21. I know which record of success I would rather have over the years!

    Hayden, cheers mate. Yeah, Geelong have tat great mix of old and young, solid and fast. Maybe lacking a bit on the ruck, and could use a standout defender, but such a well balanced team!. All in all, very similar to he Doggies!!! Ha!

  4. Daryl Schramm says

    Loving this. Seem no vision whatsoever but have a fair idea on what transpired.

  5. Rulebook says

    Great stuff,Old dog personally reckon in general,Brown is a good kick tho love the Bont v Oliver comparison
    ( bulldogs changing there mind in the last few minutes before drafting,Bont has proven to be a great decision) English yes seemingly lacks a bit of mongrel the concussion certainly hasn’t helped ) keep em coming old dog

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