Round 6 – Western Bulldogs v St Kilda: One more mountain to climb

Western Bulldogs versus St Kilda

2 pm, Saturday, 9 May

Etihad Stadium

 

             “It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.”   Edmund Hillary

Until last week the Bulldogs were labelled battlers and everyone’s second team. Hopefully the Club will be now re-badged similar to about five years ago when they were a top-four side and played in consecutive preliminary finals. It is hard to pin-point exactly why those teams and the one in 1997 never went on to play in a Grand Final, but it had a lot to do with the physical make-up of the teams. There was an imbalance between the small, medium and tall players.

The Footscray teams had been hindered in their progress relying on a very short back-line over many years. Feisty, brave, but short. Combine this deficit with the lack of talls on the forward line and all that gut-busting running from the likes of Libba, Romero, West and Johnno was wasted.

The best example of punching above his weight height-wise during the 90’s was Steven Kretiuk. And I do mean punching. His opponents at that time included players such as Roger Merrett.

By mid-2000 the short back-line continued with the brave and highly respected Dale Morris taking on the opposition talls. The Bulldogs never seemed to be able to drop ruckmen ‘ back in the hole’ to help him so he was competing with the likes of Dean Cox. Cox was often sent to his forward-line to take an easy mark and kick a few easy goals. This usually happened with about ten minutes to go in the last quarter and with Cox standing tall amongst the exhausted Bulldogs, it was game over.

The other player Dale had to try and compete with was Nick Riewoldt. A win for Dale would to be to break even against the tall and talented Riewoldt. Today Dale is missing injured but if Riewoldt does play, for the first time in ages the Bulldogs have other options to curb his brilliance. Tall options. Plus the other nemesis in the Saints height- department, Justin Koschitzke, has retired.

Last week the mids and small forwards received all the plaudits for the pressure applied to the Swans, especially on the Bulldog forward-line. The settled back-line led by Roughead and Talia, backed up by Easton Wood, Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd were just as important in the victory.

With Tom Boyd improving every week at full-forward, the book-end talls have finally been installed.

Last week the Bulldogs scaled the mighty heights of Mount Franklin and even made an attempt to conquer Mount Pyke, the highest point in the Canadian Rockies. Today their ‘Everest’ will be Mount Riewoldt which so far has denied the Footscray climbers any chance of reaching the summit.

So in my paranoia I look for for the Saint’s champion in the number 12 guernsey to try and assess his fitness and attitude as he leads his team out.

I have vivid memories watching him do sprints towards the St Kilda goals just as a warm-up before he ran his obligatory twenty ks during a match. Not unlike a boxer entering the ring with arms raised letting everyone know he was here to win while at the same time, intimidating his opponent.

It may have been wishful thinking on my part, but Riewoldt did seem more subdued. He looked older and tired like that person who had carried his side for the last decade or perhaps it was because he recently had to endure a family tragedy.

The Bulldogs started with that same manic attack on the ball and their opponents as they showed last week. So far so good. The only downer that brought Bulldog supporters back into pessimism territory was our new tall ( Boyd) missing goals from just a few metres out. Dermott Brereton summed up the quarter by saying the Dogs had a record number of entries into the forward-fifty for only three goals.

The second quarter was the Dog’s quarter. Seven goals to nil. This was the way it was supposed to be and Riewoldt hadn’t stepped in to save his team. Yet.

The third quarter belonged to the Saints. Seven goals to one. To use another boxing analogy, they had absorbed the earlier punches, danced around the ring and waited for their opponent to tire. Most importantly, the Saints never panicked and their coach remained calm. No banging of phones from Allan Richardson.

Only two goals up at the start of the final quarter and Bulldog supporters everywhere could feel the familiar dread. Cursing the fact that we were virtually two men down since half-time. Clay Smith off the field with yet another knee injury and Koby Stevens on the field but unable to run. The rest of the team were exhausted and turned the ball over just like the Saints did in the first half.

The Bulldog team were also emotionally spent after seeing Clay Smith carried off. Without being too dramatic about it, many of the players tapped Clay on the chest and shoulder when he was on the stretcher realising it could be career-ending for him. It was not unlike paying respect at a funeral and it would have been draining for the team and coaching staff.

There was a brief relaxation when the Bulldogs kicked the first two goals, but the rest of the quarter belonged to the Jacks. Young fresh-faced Saints who no-one but Sainters would recognise won the ball, ran with the ball and calmly slotted goals. No need for Mount Riewoldt this time. The job was done by the mole-hills and they were all called Jack. Particularly one called Billings.

There was also a couple of cameo appearances by big hairy yetis in the form of Longer and Hickey. Hickey in particular emerged from the gloom and pounced on the unsuspecting Bob Murphy as he tried to escape with the ball.

Next week against Fremantle the Bulldogs will have to find a couple of their own man-mountains to try and combat Aaron Sandilands. They have survived so far with Cordy who is a mere stripling and with no back-up ruckman, but it’s time to bring Redpath and Campbell back into the team or risk the smaller players burning out by Round 7.

 

Western Bulldogs   3.3 10.3 11.6 13.9     87
St Kilda         2.2   2.3   9.6   14.10   94

 

GOALS

W.Bulldogs: Stringer 4, Picken 2, Goodes, Stevens, Wood, Crameri, Dahlhaus, Cordy, Honeychurch.
StKilda:   Billings 4, Sinclair, Hickey 2, Schneider, Riewoldt, Lonie, Dunstan, Bruce, Armitage.

 

BEST

Western Bulldogs: Picken, Johannisen, Wood, Stringer, Macrae.
St Kilda:   Armitage, Billings, Weller, Longer, Steven, Lonie.

 

Umpires:   Schmitt, Farmer, Stevens.

Official crowd:   29,619

Our Votes: 3 Armitage ( St K ) 2 Billings ( St K ) 1 Steven ( St K )

 

About Neil Anderson

Enjoys reading and writing about the Western Bulldogs. Instead of wondering if the second premiership will ever happen, he can now bask in the glory of the 2016 win.

Comments

  1. Marty Gleason says

    With all due respect to a champion, Riewoldt was terrible. First game back and all that. The game was won by the kids, which is what any fan hopes for.

  2. Luke Reynolds says

    Good write up Neil. There’ll be disappointing losses like this for your young team, but plenty of highs with this great young team.
    Kretiuk, what a wonderful player he was. Vastly underrated. Late in his career often reminded me of (from my club), Gavin Crosisca late in his career, playing on bigger opponents and holding the backline together. And doing it well.

  3. Neil Anderson says

    Don’t know whether Riewoldt was terrible or not Marty, just glad he didn’t dominate for the Saints.
    Thanks Luke. Kretiuk was one of those unfashionable players that the Scrays relied on. I think he was plagued by hamstring problems.
    I see the Bulldogs have three medium size players due back to play against Freo. Great inclusions such as Wallis. I just hope they also include a big guy as well.

  4. Neil re tall defenders, is Roughead in the team ?

    Glen!

  5. Yvette Wroby says

    Thanks Neil good write up from the doggies fans perspective. Reiwoldtscrole up the field allows his athleticism to win out. On replay I could see how he created contests that the mids and forwards them built on.
    The jacks were awesome.your players have 110% effort all game. Well done. Go beat freo!

  6. Neil Anderson says

    Glen, not sure if you mean did Roughead actually play? Or, what about Roughead , he’s a tall isn’t he?
    Roughead did play but I can’t remember his stats. And I did refer to him in the lead-up to the match saying along with Boyd, we now have our bookends. It just wasn’t the answer on the day.
    Thanks Yvette as always, including your report where there is always room in your heart for the Doggies. It was a case from a king ( Riewoldt ) to a Jack (s) handover of responsibility to finish off the match. I really admire your coach’s demeanor when the pressure’s on which is similar to Luke Beveridge. Interesting how we can claim Luke as a Saint and a Bulldog.
    I think our teams meet again in the near future so it will give us a guide which one has progressed in 2015.

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