Round 6 – North Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: The Game That Divides Two Friends

Before we progress any further, I want to take you back just briefly to round 22 of last year, where the Bulldogs were playing North Melbourne in front of a strong crowd at Etihad Stadium on a late Saturday afternoon. I went to that game with my good friend Ellen – about as diehard as a North supporter as I am a Bulldogs supporter – in what was the first of many Dogs-North games we’d probably attend together in our lives. It was a fantastic afternoon of footy which saw my Dogs get up by 23 points, and post game we’d both agreed to attend the next contest between the two.

Which brings us to today, or this evening more rather. As North Melbourne host the Western Bulldogs in the first Friday night game for the Dogs in four years. I can’t believe it had been that long, being subjected to Sunday twilights and Saturday games I couldn’t attend all those years. Ellen and I had been keen to go to this match pretty much since the last time these two met, and the time had finally arrived.

The build up for this match had been extraordinarily pumped up by the media, especially since it’s 1st vs 2nd on the ladder, but the banter between the two friends had been more low-key. Ellen was concentrating on work and studies, while I had been bogged down with the flu most of the week, and when I haven’t been in bed, I’d been out at work But I was adamant that wasn’t going to keep me from going to this game.

We still had a jab at one another on Facebook, what two friends don’t when their favourite clubs go head-to-head? I showed her a picture of Jake Stringer and ex-Dog, now Roo Shaun Higgins engaging in a push and shove. She knows I thoroughly despise Higgins since he left us for the blue and white. She shared a video to me on Brent Harvey who kicked a winning goal between the two sides in 1998. I despise him as much as I despise ol’ mate Higgo, I find him extremely irritating.

I met Ellen on the train from Highett Station and she greeted me with one question.

“Ready to lose tonight?”

I’m a proud Dogs man, so the answer was of course going to be a resounding no, but I did have a few doubts running into the game. North still had a reasonably healthy list and unbeaten for the season heading into tonight, while the Bulldogs’ injury-list was growing by the week. The train ride to Etihad was filled with talk of footy, from tonight’s game to my game of footy the next day. We talked through both our teams and even I did admit at one point I had tipped North Melbourne going into tonight. With Matt Suckling, Jason Johannisen, Caleb Daniel and Robert Murphy out, I was convinced that would be enough to see North over the line. Barely.

It wasn’t too long then we had arrived at Southern Cross Station, and we both had pre-booked tickets during the week. We still had well over an hour to kill before the first bounce, so we went to Nando’s and ordered chicken burgers for our dinner. I haven’t had Nando’s in years, we took our seats at the Stadium with about 50 minutes to go until first bounce. We were sitting in the front row in the pocket at the Bulldogs end of the ground. I thought that would’ve annoyed Ellen, but to my surprise she said she’d rather be sitting our end because she would enjoy all the whining and complaining when we lose. Can’t argue with that, it’s always good to see disappointment on opposition supporters faces, like Ellen’s last year, she wasn’t so happy.

The game gets under way and the opening half of that quarter indicated that we were going to be in for a beauty. Shaun Higgins kicks the first goal of the game and I voice my displeasure. Higgins always had the talent, but his work-rate and inability to get on the park was what irked me the most during his time at the Western Bulldogs. Lin Jong misses a shot on goal, but makes up for it with a good mark and corresponding goal to put the Dogs ahead. Big Ben Brown and Marcus Bontempelli trade goals, before Jarrad Waite shows everyone why North were so keen to grab him by kicking two goals. He’s been one of the in-form players so far this season, so for him to be up an about early worries me.

Lin Jong should’ve had two goals at quarter time, but Jake Stringer tried to go for a brand new car, resulting in a free kick to North for an unrealistic attempt for a mark, despite the ball just missing his fingertips. I was not happy about it. Young Kayne Turner does a hamstring midway through the quarter which is good news for the Bulldogs, but I was a little disappointed really, because I like the work he does around the ground.

From the moment Waite kicked his second goal, things became a real ugly scrap around the ground. The pressure applied from both sides, turned the leather ball into almost a bar of soap. The tackling pressure from Ben Cunnington, North captain Andrew Swallow and Jack Ziebell was first rate.

Tom Campbell sprays a couple of shots on goal horribly to start the second term, whilst Ziebell shows the Dogs’ ruckman how to convert, but he really should’ve told his team mate Daniel Wells, who missed two shots on goal himself – possibly the only negative in the night he had, he was terrific for the Roos. Goals were extremely hard to come by and the Dogs looked like they weren’t going to kick one anytime soon, before Toby McLean kicks a superb running goal. He’s having a impressive season so far. The margin still two goals at the main break.

We both hoped that the second-half brought a bit more life into the scoreboard at least. Eight goals kicked between two teams is a pretty pathetic scoreline to say the least, but it’s not for a lack of effort. Both sides have been giving it their all. Tory Dickson kicks the first goal a minute in via a free kick in the goal square. Robbie Tarrant who was pinged for a hold, tried to argue it with the umpire, but fell on deaf ears. North responded crucially when Lindsay Thomas went back with the flight and marked, and goaled. That’s two goals in two minutes. Things are finally picking up….Or so we thought.

It became another 15 or so minutes of back-and-forth footy. Drew Petrie runs down a sluggish Fletcher Roberts in North’s attacking 50, but misses to the right. Matthew Boyd takes a strong grab over Ziebell and he misses his shot on goal. Jarrad Waite though, breaks the dreadlock after again taking an impressive contested mark and follows-up with a good set shot on goal. Sixth-gamer Marcus Adams couldn’t do anything about it. He takes another strong grab following the next centre clearance, but to the relief of all the Dogs supporters, he misses. Koby Stevens responds at the other end with a goal of his own, when Scott Thompson gives away an unnecessary 50 metre penalty in the Dogs’ forward 50. I make sure Scott Thompson knows how much of a idiot he is.

I think I spoke too soon though, as Drew Petrie at the other end, doesn’t miss his next shot on goal, and North extend the lead to 19 points. It’s not much, but goals are extremely hard to come by. Luke McDonald provides a contest and gets his hand on the ball as he crosses the boundary line. We all expected a boundary throw-in but the umpire says deliberate, free kick to the Bulldogs. Ellen and every other North supporter gets up and shows their disapproval, and I can’t blame them, especially when you see it on the replay. It’s been an ugly game, but the umpires certainly weren’t doing their bit to improve it. Quite a number of their decisions have been questionable to say the least. Luke Dahlhaus goals as a result to the free-kick, and an extremely loud boo echoed across Etihad.

Still two goals down at the final break. I was hoping for a finish similar to last year, when both sides just go goal-for-goal and the Dogs coming out on top. Well I got the opposite. Lachie Hunter copped an absolute beheading from one of the league’s most hated players. Everyone in our area made sure he heard us. One bloke resorted to a racist remark, which is absolutely not on. We try and find out who said it, so we could give him a telling off, but no avail. Ellen loves Lindsay Thomas just for the sheer fact that everyone else hates him.

Both defensive units have been magnificent all night. The Dogs consistently butchered the footy inside 50 and Scott Thompson was able to gobble up the ball and fire it back out. This is just like the Brendan McCartney era. Marcus Adams and Dale Morris on the other end were tirelessly foiling North’s efforts to go further ahead. But you just couldn’t stop Jarrad Waite on this night, he took another mark in between Matthew Boyd and Shane Biggs, and converted truly.

At this point, Ellen asked if I thought the Doggies were still a chance. Given that we’d only kicked six goals and we’re midway through the last quarter, I doubt we’ll get the win now, but I hadn’t given up hope completely. Jordan Roughead takes a good grab close to goal, but inexplicably misses. That’s when I knew we’d lost the game. Jake Stringer missed another shot on goal shortly thereafter to cap off a dirty night for ‘The Package’.

The Doggies night was summed up best when Liam Picken gave away a free kick for wrestling ‘Spud’ Firrito in the closing seconds, and furthermore, giving away a 50 metre penalty for antagonising Ben Jacobs. So frustrating. The siren sounded and Ellen got to sing her mob’s song. Fair to say that North deserved it, because the Dogs didn’t look like kicking a winning score for most of the night. The midfield was solid and the defence outstanding, but the forward structure was a shambles. It just shows how much Tom Boyd is missed in this side, even when he doesn’t have a huge impact. It takes a little bit of pressure off of Jakey Stringer and Tory Dickson.

Despite the result, it was a great night with a great friend. So many laughs, and despite how ugly the game was, it was still a very tense game of football, and I’ll take those over blowout margins anyday of the week, twice on Saturdays.

Western Bulldogs 2.1   3.4   6.6   6.9.45
North Melbourne 4.1   5.4   8.6   9.7.61

Western Bulldogs: Jong, Bontempelli, McLean, Dickson, Stevens, Dahlhaus
North Melbourne: Waite 4, Higgins, Brown, Ziebell, Thomas, Petrie

Alex Docherty’s Best
Western Bulldogs: Hunter, Macrae, M. Boyd, Morris, Dahlhaus, Stevens, Adams
North Melbourne: Waite, Cunnington, Thompson, Wells, Ziebell, Swallow

Umpires: Donlon, Bannister, Pannell

Crowd: 47,622

Votes: 3: J.Waite (North Melbourne) 2: L.Hunter (Western Bulldogs) 1: D.Wells (North Melbourne)

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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.


  1. bob.speechley says

    Fully agree with your comments wrt Tom $Boyd who is a great target and offers easy pickings for the crumbers at his feet. With him improving further and Crameri back and on song the future is looking bright. Adams, Suckling and Daniel have been excellent additions to the side.

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