Round 5 – Fremantle v Western Bulldogs: Pulverised in Perth

After two weeks of promise and cause for excitement, which should’ve produced two wins, the Western Bulldogs have come crashing back to reality after a listless second-half resulted in a 54-point loss to the Fremantle Dockers in their first game at the new Optus Stadium on Saturday night.

It was an uphill battle for the Bulldogs, who do not have a pleasant history playing in Western Australia. They haven’t beaten Fremantle over there since 2009, and this loss makes it five-straight away losses to the Dockers. The news of former Fremantle Dockers forward Shane Yarran’s passing on Friday evening only looked to inspire the purple army to even further lengths.

I send my heart-felt condolences to the Yarran Family at this most difficult time

Fremantle led from start to finish and were hardly troubled all throughout the game. It looked as if it would be Matt Taberner’s game to dominate after taking a few contested grabs within the opening few minutes, but was out of the equation by quarter time as he had a suspected fractured foot. That didn’t seem to faze the Dockers at all though, as they piled on four of the first five goals of the match to take a controlling lead by quarter time.

It was a beautiful sight to see Tom Boyd back playing top-tier football. His set shot from long range in the opening quarter cleared the defenders in the goal-line and I was rapt to see his team mates get around him afterwards. It has been a tumultuous time since his match-winning performance in the Grand Final and overall, it looked as if he is starting to enjoy his footy once again.

On an evening when the rain came down and forced the ball to be very slippery, the Dockers adapted to the conditions better and after a small patch in the second quarter which had the Bulldogs come within a kick of the home team, the Dockers put them to the sword from virtually the half-way point of the second quarter until pretty much full-time. Their pressure was outstanding and at times, did result in critical turnovers

The Bulldogs were reduced to 21 men after Tory Dickson pinged his hamstring early in the second quarter and that only compounded the Bulldogs’ forward issues, but there was one issue that the Bulldogs failed to address – the fact that they were unable to compound Fremantle’s spread from the stoppages. Too often throughout the game, there way too many open players wearing purple, particularly going forward, and that was what caused them to run away with the four points at the end of it all.

As well as how defensively inept this side was, kicking is still a serious issue. Granted it was a wet ball and mistakes will be made, but professional teams still shouldn’t be consistently missing targets from 20-25 metres with no pressure whatsoever. This team has been overall a shambles with hitting targets, and I would’ve thought that was what training during the week is for. Expectations are that we should be on par with the Fremantle Dockers, who I acknowledge as a side on the rise.

Throughout the game, I saw players such as Luke Dahlhaus, Matt Suckling and Jason Johannisen, players who should be setting the example for the young boys in this side, constantly butcher the footy. It is simply not good enough for a side that have regressed to the first two weeks of the season. There were others as well, but these three were quite poor on Saturday night, when everyone knows that they can do better.

After a dominant third quarter from the Dockers, which saw them kick six goals to one – including an eight unanswered goal run that started from the second quarter, the Dockers had the game sewn up by the final change, leading by 50 points, and were ahead by as much as 64 points in the last quarter. But if there is any shred of positivity to take out of what was another abysmal performance, it is that the Bulldogs kicked more goals than points for the first time this year.

Despite the fact that we are missing quality veterans such as Liam Picken, Dale Morris, Tom Liberatore, Tory Dickson for over a half of footy, even the suspension of Lachie Hunter can’t be understated – this side is not 54 points behind Fremantle. It was such a disappointing game and there wouldn’t be too many Bulldogs that could hold their heads high on Saturday night.

I thought Toby McLean’s game was outstanding, recording 25 disposals, seven marks, six tackles, five inside 50s and a goal in what was a spirited effort. Tim English (19 disposals, nine marks, 13 hitouts, three clearances, three tackles and three rebound 50s) was admirable on against a much bigger opponent in Aaron Sandilands, whilst Jack Macrae had the tag of first-year player Bailey Banfield, but finished with 26 disposals, six marks, five clearances and four tackles in a solid four-quarter effort.

Mitch Honeychurch is not a classy player in terms of skill, but the one thing he does so well is knuckle down and punch through in dire situations. I thought for most of the game, he battled hard, and it showed, recording 20 disposals, nine marks and seven tackles. Caleb Daniel (22 disposals, seven tackles and five marks) and Lin Jong (23 disposals, six marks and four inside 50s) also tried hard for most of the game.

I also want to praise Aaron Naughton for coming back onto the ground after he suffered a big head knock which could’ve result in much worse than a split inside the mouth, and also Patrick Lipinski in his second game showed a little bit of promise, kicking his first career goal in the second quarter.

Three wins at Optus Stadium from three starts for the Fremantle Dockers, it looks like they are enjoying their new home. Credit to where it’s due, because the Dockers looked hungrier for the contest for longer and now that they are generating some offence, it’s going to be exciting for the Dockers supporters to see them progress as 2018 goes along.

Have we just witnessed the return of 2015 Nat Fyfe? On Saturday night, he was simply unstoppable in the midfield. It didn’t matter whether or not Luke Beveridge had someone to attempt to stop him, the Dogs just had no answers for the 2015 Brownlow Medallist, who looks to be back in form after leg issues over the past two years. He recorded a career-best 43 disposals to go along with 13 clearances, seven marks, seven inside 50s and a goal in a best-on-ground performance.

His partner-in-crime in the midfield Lachie Neale (29 disposals, five clearances and five inside 50s) was also very good, whilst the tap-work from veteran ruckman Aaron Sandilands (53 hitouts) was crucial in providing the Fremantle midfielders first use of the football in the stoppages. David Mundy (21 disposals, eight tackles) and Ed Langdon (26 disposals, three clearances) benefited greatly.

Connor Blakely (23 disposals, 12 marks, five inside 50s and four rebound 50s), Luke Ryan (21 disposals, nine marks and three rebound 50s) and Nathan Wilson (career-best 27 disposals, five marks and three rebound 50s) provided the drive for the Dockers in defence, whilst Michael Walters paid tribute to his great mate Yarran with a five-goal haul in what was a great performance in the wet.

Their first year players showed great signs for the future ahead. Top five picks Andrew Brayshaw (17 disposals and five tackles) and Adam Cerra (15 disposals, two goals, five marks and four tackles) are going to be great players, whilst I was very impressed with how Bailey Banfield (18 disposals), Mitchell Crowden (17 disposals and five tackles) and debutant Taylin Duman (15 disposals and three rebound 50s) have adjusted at AFL level.

The Western Bulldogs face a six-day break, before travelling back home to Etihad Stadium to take on the Carlton Blues in the first of four Friday night games this season. It’s going to be an interesting battle, because even though Carlton have yet to win a game in five matches, they showed positive signs against a strong team in the West Coast Eagles on the weekend.

Granted, they are missing a couple of their best players, including captain Marc Murphy and All-Australian Sam Docherty, but if the Bulldogs turn up to Etihad Stadium with the same mindset, and the same skill-level that was shown on Saturday night, then it is a very strong chance the Blues will get their first win at our expense. Between now and then, there’s a lot of stuff to work on.


Western Bulldogs    1.2    3.3    4.4      8.6.54
Fremantle                 4.0    6.3   12.6   16.12.108


Western Bulldogs: Boyd 2, Gowers 2, Wallis, Lipinski, McLean, Jong
Fremantle: Walters 5, McCarthy 2, Cerra 2, Ballantyne 2, Matera, Fyfe, Mundy, Taberner, S. Hill

Alex Docherty’s Best

Western Bulldogs: McLean, Macrae, English, Jong, Honeychurch, Daniel
Fremantle: Fyfe, Walters, Wilson, Sandilands, Neale, McCarthy, Blakely

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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