Round 8 – Melbourne v Western Bulldogs: The Battle of the Young Guns with Big Futures

As far as our great game of football goes, many fans will always remember the Melbourne Football Club as a laughing stock. For year upon year they have coincided poor coaching, weak talent and shocking draft picks to make one full stinker of a footy team. After last week’s shocker against Hawthorn (where the classy Hawks blitzed the Dees by 105 points), all of the footy nation sunk back into their chairs and let a cheeky grin slip back onto their face, as the many talented youngsters coming into the Melbourne team caused a huge threat which had just been subsided. The same grin would have stayed on all week, breaking into a laugh at the expense of the rabble that is the Carlton Football Club, until landing on the Sunday afternoon game against the Bulldogs and Demons.

From a neutral perspective, the match was pretty brilliant, as the shock of the result coincided with the dare and thrill of a Melbourne side that adults hadn’t seen before. It all started in a hectic fashion for the Demons, as Vince collected within the first fifteen seconds and booted high to Hogan, who out marked his direct opponent in Roughead and duly slotted the first goal of the game in quick time. That typified the game for the Dees, as 20 year old Hogan stood tall all day, inspiring teammates around him, whether it be youngsters in Brayshaw or Vandenberg or experienced heads in Grimes and Jones.

Then came the arm wrestle, as the talented fresh-faced Bulldogs side got stuck into the game, as a comedy of errors including falls and dropped marks ended in the lightning quick Daulhaus booting the first Dogs goal from close range. After a tough first fifteen minutes with the scores at one goal apiece, the men from Footscray flexed their muscles as straight out of the centre bounce the young starts that make up the Bulldogs midfield was on show. Wallis gathered the ball on hands and knees and gave it off to the talented ex-Marcellin boy in Bontempelli, who curled the ball long on his beautiful left foot to a one on one contest with Crameri, with Jong collecting the front and centre and sliding through an exciting goal.

The two teams then locked horns again, until Melbourne snatched the lead back with two quick goals to Toumpas and Pedersen, as the latter proved to give the Demons the slight advantage at the first break, as they led by a solitary goal.

Wallis then kicked off proceedings in the second quarter, as he gave the Bulldogs the lead with a wonderful kick from around fifty metres that snuck home. Only four and a half minutes in, that would prove to be the only goal that the Dogs would snag that quarter, as the Demons cranked up the pressure and strangled the inaccurate Bulldogs, who kicked three goals and nine points to half time. The Melbourne youngsters then made them pay, as Newton gave them the lead ten minutes in. Recruit Jeff Garlett made Carlton regret getting rid of him, as he centred a classy pass on his non-preferred to the dominant Hogan, who monstered through another goal. A couple of minutes later in the same pocket Matt Jones kept the ball alive and skied it into the goal square, as Howe produced his regular weekly hanger to get the Demons crowd even more excited. Everything was going right for the plucky Dees, who were out running the Dogs in a low scoring yet exciting game. To pour even more pain on the boys from Footscray, tough and gritty captain Nathan Jones put his Demons twenty points up going into the long break with a glorious fifty metre kick.

During the main interval, Channel 7 showed the inspirational Neale Daniher talking to the Melbourne players during the week about the crippling Motor Neurone Disease, as the brave man discussed his will to find a cure. Watching the emotional speech, something inside me thought that maybe Melbourne did have the fight to win this match.

They came out and started off with a bang yet again, as first Pedersen then Hogan slotted through two quick goals to push the margin out to 33 points, as the footy world was left reeling at the current predicament. The worry for the Bulldogs soon ceased, as Easton Wood kick started a five goal third quarter for the Dogs with a huge and controversial bomb from outside fifty. Huge recruit Tom Boyd was subbed off, resigning to the fact that the much hyped Bulldog had been fairly beaten by the rising talent of Hogan at the other end. The ever clever Stringer then weaved his way through struggling Demons to slot through a team lifting goal.

The potential of a quick comeback was momentarily thwarted, as Matt Jones snagged a calming goal. But minutes later the free running Bulldogs replied, with Stringer curling through an even better goal than before, as his right foot dribbler on the outside of his boot sent the Dogs fans into hysterics. The margin had been cut back to 21 points, and the game was well and truly on.

A few behinds to the Demons looked set to close the quarter out, only for Hunter to out run Lumumba to the goal square to kick a thrilling goal with only two and a half minutes left on the clock. Second gamer and substitute Bailey Dale then finished off an exciting piece of play by slamming a goal through to finish the quarter. The differential between the two teams was now only thirteen points at the last break, as a Goodes bump late in the quarter typified the stiffened resolve that the Dogs had shown late in the third quarter.

The final stanza then started off well for the Dogs, as Picken slotted through a wonderful check side goal to bring the margin back to seven points just a minute in. The goal sparked memories of the Bulldogs wonderful finish last week, where they kicked six goals to nearly overrun the undefeated Dockers.

Yet what occurred after the Picken goal was extraordinary, as the dour Demons switched on and ended all hopes for a Bulldogs victory, as Pedersen and then Garlett kicked two wonderful goals, with the latter amassing a large amount of pressure on the Dogs. Garlett’s miraculous right foot banana was then followed by a beautiful set shot on a tough angle by Vince, who all but finished the game after a wonderful chasing tackle on Bontempelli. Toumpas slotted a second major, with Vince putting the icing on the cake by kicking a lovely second goal to compliment a twenty six possession match. In the end, the Dees pulled away to win by a commanding 39 points, as the Dogs took a huge step back after last week’s gallant effort. But as they say, a week is a long time in football.

After all, maybe Melbourne aren’t as much of a basket case as we all thought they were. It must be just Carlton.

Melbourne: 3.3 7.5 10.10 15.13
Bulldogs: 2.3 3.9 8.9 9.10

Melbourne: Hogan, Vince, Spencer, N. Jones, Pedersen
Bulldogs: Wallis, Daulhaus, Wood, M. Boyd

Melbourne: Hogan 3, Pedersen 3, Toumpas 2, Vince 2, Howe, Newton, M. Jones, Garlett
Bulldogs: Stringer 2, Daulhaus, Jong, Wallis, Wood, Hunter, Dale, Picken

Official Attendance: 29,831 at the MCG.

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