The Footy Almanac 2007 Round 18 – Western Bulldogs v St Kilda: Skipper forces a draw

The first printed edition of The Footy Almanac came out in 2007, before we had a website. In the absence of a real 2020 season, we will be publishing the 2007 pieces for the first time ever on www.footyalmanac.com.au. Follow the season!

 

 

Western Bulldogs versus St Kilda

7.40pm, Friday, August 3

Telstra Dome, Melbourne

by JOHN WELDON

 

THE DOGS PLAYED HARD TO GET ALL NIGHT, abandoning their usual, and recently ineffectual, free-running game for an ugly, but effective, possession – conscious approach. Seemingly more intent on not losing than winning, they built their attacks slowly and methodically, routing the ball through a resurgent Robert Murphy, who excelled in the new (old) role of playmaker rather than finisher.

 

The Saints, for their part, were content to let the Dogs do whatever they wanted, allowing them to chip the ball round in the back half and then corralling them once they broke into the midfield, confident that they could force a turn over, which they did often enough. From there they’d deliver the ball to the game’s other stand-out player, and their only functioning forward on the night, Nick Riewoldt, who laid on a master class in leading and marking. He was a pleasure to watch.

 

Still, neither team could break the other’s game down – turning the match into a slow and very unfashionable, yet mesmerising, game of keepings off. At times it resembled a cycling sprint race, with both opponents watching each other warily, daring the other to be the first to make a – hopefully false – move. Not until late in the third quarter, when the Dogs’ ability to hit targets started to wane with their stamina, were the Saints able to establish any appreciable lead, but when they did, as in sprint racing, it looked very quickly like it was all over for the Dogs.

 

Sensing that their opponents were weakening, the Saints burst into the final quarter pushing their lead up to a seemingly unassailable 23 points. Did they then start to relax prematurely? Did they exchange patience for complacency, falling before the finish, while the Stephen Bradbury Dogs (to use another sporting allusion), came from nowhere to steal their crown? Milne’s lazy attempt at a mark and the Saints’ lack of chase would suggest so. Robert Murphy gathered the crumb and was able to run 60 metres to set up a goal for Adam Cooney, without being hassled by a single Saint.

 

Big Nick, as expected, did his best to arrest the slide, pulling down another mark and dobbing one from near the boundary, but the Dogs replied immediately with one of their own when Daniel Giansiracusa made the most of some typically hard work by Scott West at the centre bounce. From there, the game lifted a notch, with both teams finally deciding that attack was the best form of defence. But it wasn’t until Matthew Boyd bobbed up on the end of another nifty West hand pass and shot truly from 50 metres that it really got moving.

 

The Dogs were rampant. Could the Saints hang on? With only minutes left on the clock and turnovers playing such a crucial part in the game for both sides, possession was paramount and good disposal was essential. Desperation set in: from a terrific clashing pack on the Saints half-forward line, the ball was pumped down to Justin Koschitzke who marked inside fifty. It seemed the Saints would be safe after all.

 

But Kosi had to wait ages to take his kick, thanks to a blood rule stoppage. The delay gave the tension a chance to fester. His shot fell short and straight into the arms of the most unlikely man of the moment: Wayde Skipper. Painfully shy and insecure when he first arrived at the Whitten Oval as a gangly teenager half a dozen years ago, Skipper is still to make his name at the club, but this mark and his actions in the next few minutes might be remembered as the first steps towards his own immortality – or at least towards a regular first team place.

 

After saving one goal, Skipper ran the length of the ground and leapt into the middle of a huge pack to mark an Akermanis kick. He then drove the ball home to put the Dogs in front, by a point, with less than a minute to go.

 

Now it really was pants-wetting time. In sheer desperation, Saint Jason Gram, like a basketballer attempting a three-pointer the length of the court, let fly from somewhere around half back. The ball landed in the arms of Big Nick (who else?). Riewoldt calmly set himself for a shot at goal. Cometh the hour cometh the man, the whole stadium thought, and they were right, but they had the wrong man in mind. As his kick sailed goal-ward, Wayde Skipper appeared again, from nowhere, touching the ball as it passed over the line. A tie was snatched from the jaws of defeat. The crowd was stunned. The commentators were stunned. The players were stunned.

 

No one knew how to feel, except perhaps, unlikely hero Wayde Skipper. Familiar with anti-climax, he knew that sometimes you just have to be happy with what you get.

 

 

Western Bulldogs  4.5 6.9 7.11 12.13 (85)

St Kilda  3.3 8.4 10.10 12.13 (85)

 

GOALS

Bulldogs: Giansiracusa 4, Skipper 2, Akermanis, Boyd, Cooney, Everitt, Grant, Johnson.

St Kilda: Riewoldt 3, Gram, Koschitzke 2, Blake, X. Clarke, Fiora, Milne, Montagna.

 

BEST

Bulldogs: West, Murphy, Power, Cooney, Giansiracusa, Harris.

St Kilda: Riewoldt, Gram, Dal Santo, Fiora, X. Clarke.

 

MILESTONE

Baker (St Kilda) 150 games.

 

UMPIRES

Donlon, Vozzo, Rosebury.

 

OUR VOTES

Skipper (WB) 3, Riewoldt (St K) 2, Murphy (WB) 1.

 

BROWNLOW

Riewoldt (St K) 3, Murphy (WB) 2, Boyd (WB) 1.

 

CROWD

33,600

 

 

For more Round by Round reports of the 2007 season click HERE

 

Printed copies of The Footy Almanac 2007 can be purchased here.

 

2007 Footy Almanac

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