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Round 4 – Western Bulldogs v Sydney: So close, yet so far

The Western Bulldogs and the Sydney Swans have formed a series of ripping clashes over the past couple of years. On Saturday night, they added another instalment to what has been a hotly-contested rivalry. Only this time, it was the Swans that emerged on top, with a seven-point win over the Dogs in front of 32,870 at Etihad Stadium.


Since 2015, the Swans had only beaten the Dogs once and that was a 42-point thrashing last year, but the rest of their contests have been thrilling games of football that have been won by the Bulldogs. Like these past contests, the start of this one was as heated as possible as the Swans were looking to go after Jason Johannisen once again before the first bounce. These Swans were met swiftly by Johannisen and his team mates who didn’t look like they were going to back down.


That encounter set the tone of what was to be another cracking contest between the two teams.


After a Tom Papley goal kicked off proceedings, the Bulldogs began to have their way with the footy. Over the past couple of weeks, the Dogs looked more of the 2016 premiership team in regards to how they handle the football and how they react when they don’t have the leather product.


The best way to stop the opposition is to keep the football away from them, and at times, the Dogs did that superbly against Sydney and their inside 50 entries were a lot better than we have seen at the start of the season. On top of that, their pressure on the Swans – particularly in the first half was remarkable and had many suggesting that the manic pressure of 2016 may be well and truly back.


A cracking goal of the year contender from Tory Dickson in the first quarter showed that the Dogs were here to play at Etihad Stadium, but for all their hard work, the Bulldogs found themselves up by only nine points at quarter time after conceding a late goal to Luke Parker, which was their fourth goal from only nine inside 50 entries.


Two early second-quarter goals from Tory Dickson and Marcus Bontempelli blew the margin out to 22 points by the five-minute mark of the term and it seemingly looked as if the Dogs could do no wrong. The fact that Bontempelli had time and space to gather the ball, turn towards goal and snap home a lovely goal told the fact.


But then things clicked for the Swans. It started with Lance Franklin, who was matched up with a much smaller Easton Wood and started getting himself involved more as the game progressed. Despite this, Wood matched his speed and athleticism and managed to keep him to just two behinds in the first half, but the signs were pointing to the Swans. After gettable goals went begging for Josh Dunkley and Matt Suckling, Isaac Heeney goaled just before half-time to put Sydney 10 points down at half-time.


The momentum would fully be in favour of the Swans when the second half was underway, with four unanswered goals – half of those belonging to Franklin. The Dogs began to make numerous skill errors and whilst the endeavour was there, the errors proved costly in the end and was overly frustrating to watch from a spectators’ stand point.


Up by 14 points on the back of four-straight goals from the Swans, the Dogs fought miraculously to keep themselves in the contest. Mitch Wallis slotted home a wonderful set-shot from the pocket, whilst Bontempelli fortuitously kicked a goal after two Swans players bundled into each other deep inside the Bulldogs’ attacking 50. More missed opportunities from Suckling and Dunkley meant that the scores were deadlocked at 64-all heading into the final break.


It was lucky to be so as the Dogs turned the ball over in the final seconds, gifting one last opportunity for the Swans to hit the front – they were unable to convert. The luck didn’t last long however, as Buddy Franklin put through his third goal for the evening with a terrific long-range goal, before a good grab from Dean Towers and the corresponding finish gave the Swans a comfortable 14-point buffer 10 minutes into the final quarter.


Just when it looked bleak for the Bulldogs, they found a way back into the contest. After yet another Dunkley behind, Caleb Daniel – who was virtually unsighted all evening – bobbed up with a great and important snap goal to reduce the deficit to just one straight kick. Luke Dahlhaus made up for a shocking miss earlier in the game with a goal to bring the margin back to a point.


But the Swans produced a steady hand in the form of the second-year player Oliver Florent, who found the ball in space on the wing, ran from a much taller Tim English and under pressure, slotted home the sealer from 40 metres out, giving the Swans their third win of the season, and in turn, giving the Dogs their third loss of the season.


It could’ve been a much different result if it weren’t for Josh Dunkley’s critical misses in the final quarter and a dropped chestmark in the goal-square was a horrid sight to see, but nevertheless, I refuse to accept he was at fault for the Dogs’ third loss of the season. It comes to an overall team effort. Matt Suckling missed shots he usually kicks, Luke Dahlhaus missed an easy chance, Mitch Honeychurch missed an easy chance and Caleb Daniel should’ve kicked one in the final quarter that went to the top of the square.


Overall, it’s so pleasing to see this team give it a red-hot go against a team that many expect will be a top-four team this year, but if this club is to go forward this year, it needs to improve GREATLY on its finishing. It was a constant last year and it’s a constant this year – four times in four games this year the Dogs have butchered their opportunities inside 50 and it was their horrible accuracy that cost them the game on Saturday.


Despite their inaccuracies, Dunkley (22 disposals, nine marks and seven tackles) and Suckling (28 disposals, 11 marks and four rebound 50s) were amongst the Bulldogs’ better players although it was a shame they were unable to put goals on the board. Jack Macrae (34 disposals, seven marks and seven clearances) was outstanding once again, whilst Marcus Bontempelli (21 disposals, seven clearances, six inside 50s and two goals) was brilliant floating between midfield and forward.


In just his sixth game of league footy, Tim English (16 disposals, 24 hitouts and seven marks) continues his fine start to the year and has considerably been impressive in the past couple of weeks, taking on the number one ruckman role, whilst I thought the backline of Easton Wood (18 disposals and seven marks), Bailey Williams (20 disposals) and Aaron Naughton (15 disposals, seven marks and five rebound 50s) were solid.


Whilst Franklin (16 disposals, 10 marks and 3.4) and Luke Parker (21 disposals, 10 tackles, five clearances and three goals) were unquestionably Sydney’s best players, Sydney’s defensive unit should be applauded for what was a remarkable defensive effort.


The Swans conceded 60 inside 50s and only allowed 79 points, which was a mighty effort. Dane Rampe (23 disposals, eight marks and four rebound 50s) was outstanding, as was Jarrad McVeigh (21 disposals and seven rebound 50s) and Jake Lloyd (23 disposals and eight rebound 50s), whilst Heath Grundy (17 disposals, six marks and five rebound 50s) did a good job in defence.


On an evening which saw Sydney’s captain Josh Kennedy have an unusually quiet night (15 disposals), it was up to the likes of Isaac Heeney and Dan Hannebery to step up and be strong in the contest, which they were. Hannebery recorded 21 disposals along with five marks and five clearances, whilst Heeney recorded 20 disposals, four inside 50s, four marks and two goals.


This loss hurts, and whilst it should hurt, there should be no time to dwell on it, as the Western Bulldogs get their first taste of the newly-built Optus Stadium next Saturday night as they travel to Western Australia to take on the Fremantle Dockers in what is a big match in the context of their 2018 season.


The Dogs, despite showing signs of life the past two weeks, can’t afford to be 1-4 after five rounds and currently sitting in the bottom four of the ladder right now, the Dogs have to overthrow an almighty drought, having lost their past four games in WA against the Dockers, in which their last win over there dates back to round one, 2009. It’s apparent that the Dogs don’t like playing up in Perth – they hardly ever win there.


But are the signs in the past two weeks good enough to see us shake off this Perth hoodoo?


Western Bulldogs    5.3    7.7    9.10    11.13.79
Sydney Swans         4.0    6.3    10.4    13.8.86



Western Bulldogs: Dickson 2, Bontempelli 2, Redpath, Gowers, Jong, Dale, Wallis, Daniel, Dahlhaus
Sydney Swans: Franklin 3, Parker 3, Papley 2, Heeney 2, Cunningham, Towers, Florent


Alex Docherty’s Best

Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Dunkley, Suckling, Bontempelli, McLean, English, Wallis
Sydney Swans: Franklin, Rampe, Parker, McVeigh, Heeney, Lloyd, Hannebery


For more of Alex Docherty’s readings – opinions or match previews/reviews – go onto

About Alex Docherty

Alex is a diehard footy nut. He loves his Western Bulldogs and loves writing about them every week as much he loves running out and playing footy himself.

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