Round 7 – Western Bulldogs v Gold Coast: No Wood, No Bont, No Worries

From My Blog Site – Bulldogs Centre



The Western Bulldogs have won two games in a row for the first time this year and the first time since round 17-18 last year. They have won back-to-back games with their first-ever win in Ballarat’s Mars Stadium. It didn’t come easy though, as the Gold Coast Suns were formidable all throughout Saturday afternoon, but the Dogs stood up through the adversity and claimed their third win this season with a thrilling nine-point win.


Just under 7000 spectators made the venture to Mars Stadium on Saturday and whilst it won’t go down as one of the game’s most epic encounters, it was still a thrilling contest from start to finish with both sides trading leads as the game rolled on. However, it was the Gold Coast Suns who had the upper hand early on in the contest.


It didn’t start well pre-game with Marcus Bontempelli, set to stand-in as captain, a late withdrawal with hip soreness, after it was revealed during the week that captain Easton Wood is set to miss three weeks with a hamstring strain. After the game kicked off with Josh Dunkley opening up the scoring with a goal in the opening minute, the Suns took a hold on the contest in the opening stanza.


Since taking over from Rodney Eade at the end of last year, Stuart Dew has preached a more contested-style to his young brigade of Suns and when they have won games of footy, they have often beaten their opposition in tackling and contested possessions. In the opening quarter of footy, they had recorded 10 more contested possessions and were 22-9 up in the tackles at quarter time.


The free-kick count was a little lopsided as well, with the Suns ahead 14-1 early in the second term, but that was because the Suns were in control and had first use of the footy more than anything else. If it weren’t for the Suns bad kicking at goal – kicking 2.6 from 19 inside 50 entries in the opening quarter – it could’ve set up a comfortable lead at quarter time. Brad Scheer, Brayden Crossley and Alex Sexton all missed gettable opportunities in the opening quarter, and they eventually became costly misses.


After Jack Martin kicked a goal early in the second quarter to extend the margin to 16 points, the Dogs began to show some fight that was desperately needed and expected after a quarter and a bit that was controlled by the Suns. Sam Day and Aaron Young could only add minor scores to take them up to 4.8 and given that they had amassed that from 28 inside 50s by the 12th minute mark of the second term, it was only a matter of time before the Dogs found their bark again.


The decision to move Jason Johannisen from defence to forward looked good as he got the Dogs’ second goal in the 14th minute mark of the second term and from there, it sparked a string of goals for the home team. Following Johannisen’s goal, Billy Gowers continued his streak of kicking at least one goal in every game so far this year and then a pair of Patrick Lipinski goals gave them the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the contest.


However, the Suns managed to sway back the lead before the half-time buzzer, courtesy to first-gamer Charlie Ballard and Sam Day. The Suns held a four-point lead at half-time, but the Dogs matched the Suns in tackles (25-24 Bulldogs way) and Contested possessions (48-49 Suns way) in that quarter and it proved the catalyst in that four-goal burst midway through the quarter.


Gold Coast got off to a good start in the third quarter with another debutant drilling home his first career major in Brayden Crossley, sporting a cracker of a handlebar moustache. But from that point on it became a bit of a goal-for-goal contest for the entire third term. Crossley’s goal was cancelled out by Lin Jong, before a brilliant run by Jack Macrae set up Bontempelli’s replacement Mitch Honeychurch with a goal to give the Dogs back the lead.


This lead was snatched back by the Suns with Alex Sexton converting a shot on goal after a missed opportunity from Lachie Hunter just seconds beforehand. The Dogs regained the lead moments after through Jack Macrae, who was having some sort of game at this stage, but it was cancelled out via Gold Coast’s Touk Miller, who converted his set-shot to give the Gold Coast a three-point lead heading into the final quarter.


All signs pointed to a Bulldogs win early in the last quarter, as they absolutely controlled possession, particularly early on in the piece. A pair of misses from Jason Johannisen as well as a minor score from Caleb Daniel levelled the scores early in the term, but it should’ve been a Bulldogs lead as the opportunities were coming and true to form, butchered horribly. But to the defence of the Dogs, the game was played in typical breezy Ballarat conditions.


The Dogs found that breakthrough goal in the form of an unlikely goalkicker in ruckman Tim English, who was on the receiving end of a dubious free kick. But he took advantage of the opportunity for his first career goal. Despite their domination on the stats sheet, the Suns found ways to keep on coming. Aaron Young kicked his second moments after to tie the scores back up before goals to Gowers and Bailey Williams took the Dogs out to a 12-point buffer 20 minutes into the term.


A free to Jack Martin resulted in a goal in the 23rd minute mark that put the Suns back to within a kick with still some time to play, however, the Suns couldn’t find another goal from there. The Dogs’ repeated forward 50 entries (A club record 24 inside 50s), the fact they dominated possession for that final quarter (122-76) and the fact that they were harder at the ball at a crucial time in the game (57 contested possessions to Gold Coast’s 35) was enough for their third win this season and five wins in a row against the Suns.


Yes 3.8 in a dominant last quarter is pretty poor, but the Dogs thoroughly deserved this win and even though one might sense wins will be hard to come by, this will be a pretty memorable win, considering there was no Easton Wood, no Marcus Bontempelli, no Liam Picken, no Dale Morris, no Tory Dickson – almost no veteran presence out there on Saturday. Only Luke Dahlhaus, Jack Macrae, Mitch Wallis and Matt Suckling were the only Dogs that have played over 100 career games.


The average age of the playing group was at 22 years and 218 days and the average games amongst the 22 that played on Saturday is only at 53 games. It’s a pretty damn young team out there.


The man that stood in for the stand-in captain Lachie Hunter had himself a fine captain’s game, recording 34 disposals, nine marks, seven inside 50s, four clearances and four rebound 50s. But the star of the show was of course Jack Macrae. Last time he was playing on the turf of Mars Stadium, he dropped 41 disposals on Port Adelaide. On this occasion, he was almost unstoppable in the midfield, recording 40 disposals along with a career-best 12 clearances as well as eight tackles, six inside 50s, five marks and a goal in a crystal-clear best on ground performance.


Luke Dahlhaus enjoyed one of his better games this year, recording 29 disposals, five tackles and three clearances, but Toby McLean was very important in a game that demanded players that thrived on contested footy. He had himself a career-high 33 disposals, a career-high 13 tackles, seven clearances and five marks on a career-high afternoon. Matt Suckling (24 disposals and six rebound 50s), Josh Dunkley (19 disposals and nine tackles) and Mitch Wallis (21 disposals, six tackles, six inside 50s and four clearances) were also very prolific.


The younger Bulldogs also continue to impress. Aaron Naughton (12 disposals, five marks and five rebound 50s) just continues to amaze for someone who is only in his seventh career game. Billy Gowers (16 disposals, three marks and two goals) looks better with each game and will most likely be a valuable piece up forward in years to come, likewise goes to Patrick Lipinski, who snared another pair of goals on Saturday, whilst Bailey Williams (21 disposals, eight rebound 50s, six inside 50s and a goal) is going to be a star in defence for years to come too.


In terms of the Gold Coast Suns, I think they are going in the right direction under Stuart Dew. Despite having their two most important players in Tom Lynch and Steven May not playing, there is plenty of promise in this side. I don’t see why they can’t rise up again. Today’s game is all about pressure and tackling and causing turnovers, and the Suns have proven that they can tackle teams into submission and they nearly got themselves another win off it on Saturday.


Ben Ainsworth (26 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s) looks like he’ll be a star for the Suns down the line. Likewise Touk Miller (26 disposals, nine tackles, five inside 50s, four clearances and a goal), who was arguably the Suns best midfielder on Saturday. Jarrod Witts monstered the ruck contests, recording 58 hitouts and dominated both Tim English and Tom Boyd. He also had 21 disposals, five clearances and five rebound 50s.


Although Jarryd Lyons (11 disposals) was kept quiet, there was still a bit of midfield power in the team. David Swallow (25 disposals, six clearances and six inside 50s) was very good. Matt Rosa (24 disposals and four tackles, overcame what could’ve been a serious shoulder injury in the third quarter, whilst Jack Martin (23 disposals, seven marks, six tackles, four inside 50s and two goals) and Aaron Young (22 disposals, five tackles, four inside 50s, four marks and two goals) were also very good for the Suns.


The Western Bulldogs can make it three on the trot as they head back under the roof of Etihad Stadium to tackle the winless Brisbane Lions on Saturday night. Don’t let the record fool anyone here, the Lions are capable of some good footy. It is just the inexperience in the team that has been a bit of a let down at times this year.


Having watched their game against Collingwood on Sunday evening, they really pushed the in-form Pies to the final minute of the game and the way they moved the ball around the ground shows that they’re not too far away from gaining their first win of 2018. Whilst I’m excited at the prospect of being 4-4, watching Brisbane serve it up to Collingwood is a little bit scary, as they showed polish that the Dogs have struggled to find so far this year.


I await next week’s war with the Lions with great anticipation. After the start the Dogs have had in 2018, being even at four wins and four losses would be an alright sight to see.


Western Bulldogs    1.2    5.5    8.7     11.15.81
Gold Coast Suns      2.6    5.9    8.10   10.12.72


Western Bulldogs: Lipinski 2, Gowers 2, Dunkley, Johannisen, Jong, Honeychurch, Macrae, English, Williams
Gold Coast Suns: Day 2, Young 2, Martin 2, Ballard, Crossley, Sexton, Miller

Alex Docherty’s Best

Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Hunter, McLean, Dahlhaus, Williams, Naughton, Suckling
Gold Coast Suns: Ainsworth, Miller, Martin, Witts, Young, Rosa, Swallow

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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.

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