Round 8 – Western Bulldogs v Brisbane: Macrae the Marvellous

Western Bulldogs v Brisbane Lions

7:25PM, Saturday May 12

Docklands Stadium



With the Western Bulldogs languishing last on the ladder following a second-round thumping at the hand of the West Coast Eagles, the thought of the Western Bulldogs sitting 4-4 after eight rounds was more of distant pipe dream than it was a realistic proposition. On Saturday night, the Western Bulldogs recorded their third consecutive win with a hard-fought 14-point win over the win-less Brisbane Lions.


Despite winning all four of their games against sides below them on the ladder – Essendon, Carlton, Gold Coast and now Brisbane – the win has them back on track for finals momentarily; one game and an absurd chunk of percentage behind the eighth-placed Port Adelaide. Despite having condemned Brisbane to a 0-8 start to the year, the youngest team in the AFL had been taken through their paces all throughout the night by the Lions.


It was a strong start from the Western Bulldogs, who kicked four of the first five goals of the match and it looked like their fourth win of the season was just going to be a matter of by how much. Marcus Bontempelli announced his return from a sore hip with two goals in the opening 15 minutes of play, showcasing the class that was missing from the team in last week’s win.


After Billy Gowers’ goal gave the Dogs a 19-point advantage in the first-half of the opening term, the Brisbane Lions managed to bring the game back on their terms. Goals to Charlie Cameron, Daniel McStay and Dayne Zorko trimmed a 20-point deficit to just two points at the first break after looking like it was going to be a long evening in the office after just 15 minutes.


The Dogs were down one man before the quarter time siren, with young gun defender Aaron Naughton badly rolling an ankle; he wasn’t seen on the field for the rest of the night. It’s suspected that there was ligament damage at first, but there may be a chance he could play on Friday night.


The Lions levelled the scores after six minutes in the second term. Eric Hipwood hooked a shot from a tight angle and a long-range shot on goal from Tom Cutler, straight in front went off-target. The Dogs made them pay for this with goals from Tom Boyd and Patrick Lipinski to put the Dogs 13 points ahead. The Lions kept themselves in it with fortuitous goals from Dayne Zorko and young Oscar McInerney, but were cancelled out by both Bailey Dale and Billy Gowers – the latter pulling off a cracking play that saw him casually collect the half-volley and snap his second of the evening.


Mitch Wallis made it a three-kick margin with another easy goal from the goal square, the Dogs headed into the main break 18 points ahead. They not only controlled the play, but were able to make Brisbane pay for their turnovers. In the second quarter alone, the Dogs had 56 more disposals and six of their nine goals in the first half came from turnovers. Another development was the game of Jack Macrae, who had amassed an extraordinary 26 disposals in a half of footy.


Brisbane started off the third term strongly, with Alex Witherden missing a long range kick from a tight angle, then Eric Hipwood continued his horrid night in front of the big sticks. Hugh McCluggage got the Lions up and running with a mark inside 50 before being met by a bigger Lewis Young in what was an unneccesary bump, resulting in a 50 metre penalty and a goal.


The home team continued to answer the challenges that the Lions had kept throwing at them. This time it was the class of Bontempelli that found Toby McLean just inside 50, and converted for another six points. McStay had an easy chance to reply, marking and kicking from 30 metres out, straight in front, only for him to butcher it horribly. Second-year Dog Patrick Lipinski contiuned his clinic in front of the big sticks so far in 2018, kicking another goal to take his tally to eight-straight goals of the year.


Eric Hipwood, after multiple botched attempts from much easier positions inside 50, finally got his first goal on the evening with a banana in the pocket to keep the Lions in with a chance, before Marcus Bontempelli once again emerged up forward, giving Matt Eagles – who once won a reality tv competition to get a spot on an AFL list – a lesson in one-on-one footy. The Bont outmarked his opposition and goaled from close range to make it three for the night as the Dogs extended the margin to four goals by the final change.


With their first win up for grabs here, the Lions weren’t going to lie down and roll over so easily. A couple of years ago, they would’ve, but Chris Fagan has breathed new life into this Brisbane outfit and despite being stuck at the bottom of the AFL ladder, they’ve shown real competitive signs all throughout 2018 that they will get better as time rolls by.


Two goals in as many minutes from McInerney and Cameron got the Lions the dream start they were searching for, as 24 points was quickly reduced to just 12 points after two minutes of play. Bailey Dale and Matt Suckling had opportunities to cancel out the pair of goals, but were off the mark. Josh Dunkley however made no mistake as he used his body well against Eagles and ran into an easy goal to give the Doggies a 20-point advantage.


The Lions continued to press. Dayne Zorko kicked a goal that looked like it was touched by Zaine Cordy and while the replay showed that it looked like there was a case for a score review, the goal stood, much to the disapproval of Bulldogs supporters. We had ourselves a 14-point ball game. Charlie Cameron’s third goal gave the Lions a real chance as they reduced the margin to single digits.


But what had been hurting the Lions so often on this night, proved to be a decisive blow midway through the term. A mark was paid to Lewis Taylor forward of centre for the Bulldogs, however a sloppy overhead handball enabled Bailey Dale to intercept and kick it long to an unguarded Marcus Bontempelli who paced towards the goal-square for a career-best fourth major and a goal that would’ve left supporters frustrated and devastated, as well as the coaches and players, who fought valiantly to get into a winning position, yet were consistently cruelled by turnovers coming out of defence.


The result was just about beyond doubt when Matt Suckling lauched a ripper of a kick from outside the 50-metre arc and cleared the goal-line with ease to put the home team 19 points ahead with about five minutes to play. The Lions tried to continue to make a contest of things, as McStay kicked his second of the match, but Toby McLean put any late comeback attempts to rest with another goal from close range, sealing the Doggies’ fourth win of the year.


The night belonged to two men in red, white and blue: Jack Macrae had himself a career night in the midfield, whilst Marcus Bontempelli returned to the team with a classy performance up forward.


Over the past couple of weeks, Macrae has been starting to receive league-wide recognition for his efforts on the ball, with Saturday night, the best performance of them all. He recorded a career-high 47 disposals, matching the club record 47 disposals set by Ryan Griffen in 2012. He also recorded 10 clearances, eight tackles and eight inside 50s in a performance that will most likely be awarded the three Brownlow votes. Bontempelli kicked a career-best four goals from 24 disposals, six marks, five clearances and five inside 50s in a fantastic return.


Matthew Suckling also had a fine game, recording 30 disposals, seven marks, four rebound 50s and kicking the important fourth-quarter goal. He has been questioned at times since coming to the Bulldogs, but his use of the ball was first-class. Lachie Hunter continues his great form with 33 disposals and five inside 50s. Likewise Toby McLean (26 disposals, five marks, five tackles, four clearances and two goals), who showed that he works as well as anybody in the contested spaces.


Caleb Daniel (27 disposals, six inside 50s, three marks and a goal) had a great fourth quarter and overall, his composure and clean use of the ball by both hand and foot was terrific whenever the game threatened to be snatched by Brisbane. Bailey Dale (24 disposals, six marks, five inside 50s and 1.3) was very busy despite his inaccurate evening in front of goal, whilst inexperienced campaigners such as Ed Richards (16 disposals, four tackles and two rebound 50s), Billy Gowers (15 disposals, six marks and 2.1) and Patty Lipinski (15 disposals, six tackles and two goals) all continue to thrive with each game.


I must admit, I do have a bit of sympathy for the Brisbane Lions. For a team that is one loss away from equalling their worst-ever start to an AFL season, they are playing a lot better than what their win-loss ratio suggests. Other than their performance against Richmond in round four, they have been very competitive and in some situations, should’ve earned a win.


It was very hard to split Dayne Zorko and Charlie Cameron as the best Lion on the ground. Zorko backed up a fantastic performance against the Pies last week with 24 disposals, nine clearances, eight inside 50s, seven tackles and four goals and shook the Mitch Honeychurch tag successfully. Ex-Adelaide forward Cameron was Brisbane’s most dangerous forward all night long. He kicked three goals from 18 disposals, eight marks, eight tackles and four inside 50s.


Stefan Martin was very good as their ruckman. Although at various stages, he was up against a much smaller Josh Dunkley, it was what he did around the ground that was impressive, recording 20 disposals, five marks and four clearances to go along with his 49 hitouts. It must be pointed out that whilst the Lions were dominant in hitouts, the midfielders lost the clearances 43-35. Mitch Robinson (17 disposals, 12 tackles and four clearances) tried his heart out as he so often does, whilst Alex Witherden’s drive from defence was worth pointing out, recording 18 kicks at 78 percent efficiency, along with eight marks and eight rebound 50s.


But several of their players failed to step up when required. Daniel Rich (15 disposals) was awfully quiet, Luke Hodge (13 disposals) was quiet, Allen Christensen (14 disposals) fumbled the ball more often that not, Lewis Taylor (10 disposals) had an outright stinker and that handpass was the icing on what was a dirty night for him and Eric Hipwood – for someone who was touted as the next Lance Franklin a year or so ago from the media – he couldn’t have hit the side of a barn on Saturday night. Even captain Dayne Beams (17 disposals and five tackles) had a quiet game by his standards.


It shouldn’t just be left to guys such as the quick Zac Bailey (17 disposals and four marks), big Oscar McInerney, who kicked a pair of goals from 13 disposals and four marks or Jarrod Berry (20 disposals) – who I maintain will be a star for Brisbane down the track. They need those mentioned above to have way better games than they did on Saturday night, otherwise with Hawthorn, Sydney and North Melbourne to come in the next three weeks, they’ll be every chance to be 0-11.


As for the Western Bulldogs, well they face a tough next three weeks of their own. It starts with the first of two trips to South Australia on Friday night as they have a date with last year’s Grand Finalists in the Adelaide Crows, followed by matches with both Collingwood and Melbourne – sides that are gathering some form before going into their mid-season bye.


Some say these are season-defining games for the Sons of the West and given that we’ve rebounded well from a bad start to the year, being 4-4 with a tough month ahead is something I would’ve taken after walking out of Etihad Stadium in the Bulldogs’ round two loss to the Eagles. The Crows are a little vulnerable themselves at the moment, yet are in firm contention for the top four.


And with some old names possible chances to come back into the side this week, what was considered an automatic loss a month ago, may just get a little interesting.


WESTERN BULLDOGS    4.3    9.5    12.8    16.11.107
BRISBANE LIONS        4.1    6.5     8.8      14.9.93



Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli 4, Gowers 2, Lipinski 2, McLean 2, Daniel, Boyd, Dale, Wallis, Dunkley, Suckling
Brisbane Lions: Zorko 4, Cameron 3, McInerney 2, McStay 2, Rayner, McCluggage, Hipwood


Alex Docherty’s Best

Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Bontempelli, Suckling, McLean, Hunter, Daniel, Dale
Brisbane Lions: Zorko, Cameron, Martin, Robinson, Witherden, McStay


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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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