Alternate Worlds – The Western Bulldogs v North Melbourne from two views.

 

JB Eddy is a Kangaroos man. The Doc is a Bulldog through and through. They went to the footy, studied the game and came back to The Mongrel HQ with their own perspective on the game.

 

WHO WAS THE MATCH WINNER?

 

JB – It’s a task to narrow it down to be honest. Josh Bruce is the easy one to point the finger at, but his result was helped a lot by the quality of delivery. With hat in mind, I’d give it to Treloar. With Bont held for most of the match, Treloar stepped up and lace-outed Bruce and Naughton with ease.

 

DOC – Ha… You could genuinely raffle this one, because the Dogs had winners all around the ground.

The first one is Josh Bruce… Seriously, 10 goals?!? Where the hell has he been hiding this one? It’s pretty common knowledge now that Big, Bad, Bustling Brucey has worked himself into shape over the off-season and it’s pretty easy to see that he’s reaping the rewards early. He leads hard and long, his marking hands are as strong as they’ve ever been, and he can run out games, as the fourth term suggested in this one. His track record against the Roos is pretty good, which is great for us, because it reminds me of being on the other end courtesy of some caveman bloke from Western Australia who’s tortured us for years.

Then you have a plethora of midfielders… Adam Treloar burst out of the seams with two goals in the second term when North were making a push to stay in touch – I thought all in all he was excellent. His running mate in Josh Dunkley was excellent, winning footy at the coalface again, and one thing that won’t be talked about is his defensive pressure, I reckon I counted three times he dived to smother a footy, such was his urgency to make the footy his. Jack Macrae was doing Jack Macrae things with his 33 disposals and Tom Liberatore quietly putting together 12 clearances is bloody good footy.

And they did this while the Bont was kept quiet as he was being worked by Jed Anderson and Jy Simpkin. Makes it bloody scary when we’ve got other chaps that can pick up the slack right?

 

 

WHERE DID WE WIN/LOSE THE GAME?

 

JB – The flippant answer is that North lost it three years back when they started the downward spiral, but in truth it was evident from the start that the team is in all-sorts. A somewhat competitive first quarter wasn’t sustained, and there was very little movement all day, with just about no-one running to be an option.

The Bulldogs took advantage of the stand rule to have a sweeper come around for a handball to blitz past the man on the mark, gain some metres and kick, usually into the F50 that had North defence scrambling.

 

DOC – I remember distinctly saying at quarter time that North’s efforts around the coalface were admirable, but the whenever the Dogs get it out and run it on the spread, the Roos struggled to run and match them on the outside – and noted down that it could get ugly as the game progressed. North won the disposal count +3 by quarter time, and evened up the contested possession count in the second quarter, despite the Dogs recording +26 disposals in that second term alone.

The input in contested possessions dropped dramatically after half time and it began to result on the scoreboard – +17 in contested possessions in the third term and +23 in the final term in a last quarter that saw the Dogs kick 10.7 off recording nearly 50 more touches and 24 inside 50s from that term alone – the ball literally camped inside the Dogs forward 50 for about 85 percent of the time.

There was plenty of ‘boys against men’ in this one and despite the pessimist in me saying that we were going to throw this one away (history does indicate this) the Dogs were always going to be chalk and cheese ahead of North in terms of the result. But you still have to go out there and get the job done.

 

 

WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?

 

JB – Honestly, it’s hard to say too much, because while the loss was probably inevitable, the capitulation was a complete mental breakdown. Players were hesitant to take the game on, and those that did gave away goals. I don’t think Noble has “reached” the players yet, so when he’s asking for more from them, they don’t have the history with him that is needed for them to want to dig deep and show that they want to be there.

If anything, I’d have put Phillips in the forward pocket and told everyone to get the hell out of there, in the hope he got one out and snagged a goal on debut. At least that’s be something.

 

DOC – Not much you can really say after a 21-goal win that I’d do differently.

One thing I found myself getting a little frustrated about during the first half is the excessive handballing. It’s still a bit of an issue because the good sides will carve the Dogs up on the turnover and North threatened to do it on a few occasions, but their lack of experience caught them erring and ahh-ing with the footy, which played into the hands of the defenders.

I think another thing I was caught saying – and probably being a bit nitpicky here – was the phrase ‘Too Many Cooks’ At times there were a number of Bulldogs players caught just trying to be too cute with the footy around the 60-70 metre zone, you know, the one before landing that effective kick inside 50. It looked at times in the second quarter, like there was a bit of a competition going on and seeing who could use the footy the best. But that was pretty much put to bed after half time, and they just went about their business.

Just quickly referring to Treloar’s game, there aren’t many midfielders at the Dogs that are prepared to have the ping from that 40-50 metres running inside 50. Another common frustration as a Dogs supporter the last few years has been dishing it off to make it someone else’s problem. Treloar has that mentality of ‘Stuff this, I’ll do it myself.’ And I love it. I can’t tell you how much I love it, because it’s the one thing that was lacking that can make this side a very lethal unit in front of goals.

 

MOST UNDERRATED PERFORMANCE

 

JB – Me. I turned up and stayed for the whole game, which is more than most players.

If it has to be a player, I’d say Stefan Martin. His game won’t have many highlights, but he managed to tag team with English to take Goldstein out of influencing the game, despite getting more taps.

For North, I’d say Ben McKay. Even though Bruce kicked about half his goals on him, he didn’t do much wrong from what I could see. Bruce was just getting quality delivery and had moving crumbers at the ready.

 

DOC – Hmm… tough one to say.

I feel like the work of Alex Keath needs some applause, mostly because his tall partner in crime Ryan Gardner went down with what looked like an apparent collarbone injury in the opening minute of the game, which means he’ll be spending some time on that dreaded place called ‘the shelf’ – leaving Keath as the sole tall down in defence, meaning he was probably going to match up with Nick Larkey for most of the day, as well as position himself in their defensive press. I thought, despite caught off-position a few times, he did very well in the air.

Easton Wood was another who found a gear after half time after a bit of a rusty start – but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt, given this is his first game of the season after a bit of an injury-interrupted pre-season.

Aaron Naughton’s game is one that I think will go unheralded, mainly because Bruce kicked 10. The stats won’t read too much on his game – 2.2 from 14 disposals and seven marks, but he led up the ground quite well, he provided a contest in moments where he had no real right to, coming from at least 10 metres back, his second and third efforts after going up for an aerial contest was gold standard – he even won his own footy at ground level as well and looked willing to take on tacklers was signs of a man who’s rediscovered a groove in his game.

And I’m bloody here for it!!

 

 

THE MOMENT THAT MATTERED MOST?

 

JB – The gate numbers. 28,483. Just under the 50% capacity, which is pretty good for a long weekend, covid-reduced crowd. The roar for Larkey’s goal was on par with anything the Bulldogs fans put up all day, and when it was overturned it seemed to be yet another indication that nothing was going North’s way.

On the field, it has to be Bruce kicking his tenth. The game was done and dusted long before, but that’s the moment that people will remember.

 

DOC – I think the moment that shifted momentum in the Dogs’ favour well and truly happened in the second term, where North won the contested ball at half back and managed to move it swiftly through the middle of Marvel Stadium without fumbling or causing error – which had been a bit of a consistent problematic all throughout the first half.

So the ball finds itself in the hands of Nick Larkey who lines up about 25 metres out, not much angle to speak from and puts it through for what was initially a six-pointer, and it would’ve put the Roos in within a single-digit margin for the Dogs. As we were getting prepared for the next centre clearance, I saw first-hand that the umpire was running back down towards the North goal, thinking that there was 6-6-6 infringement but the guys running ARC called it a behind, with the replay showing that it had nicked the post – you couldn’t tell from the replays at the ground.

In the following passage of play, the Dogs worked it up the other end of the ground and it resulted in a seven-point play – a rare minor score to Bruce and then followed up with a turnover goal to Patrick Lipinski. That sort of stuff has plenty of potential to break the back of sides that had worked hard to get the momentum in their favour. And in the case of North in this game, it’s what well and truly happened – it started a run of the Dogs kicking 20 of the next 22 goals of the match.

Consider the back broken.

 

WHICH PLAYERS LET US DOWN THE MOST?

 

JB – Lachie Young. Dropped basic marks, missed players and had at least four goal assists to his former teammates. He should have been benched just to save himself. That sort of game kills the confidence of a player, especially one new at the club. It’ll take until the bye for him to recover.

 

DOC – Probably more so nitpicking at the Bulldogs players here, I wish I was a North supporter here, because there are a few I’d be taking aim at, predominantly Shaun Atley, Aaron Hall, Lachie Young and Josh Walker – but I’ll leave that to Mr Eddy.

I wasn’t too impressed with Stef Martin’s game, gave away a handful of free kicks in the ruck contest, but the upside is that he did allow Tim English to be more of a presence around the ground so I won’t judge that too harshly.

Laitham Vandermeer’s set shot for goal is appalling – 0.2 from pretty easy entries, please fix.

Not too concerned on the fact Lachie McNeil and Anthony Scott record low-possession games, both of them kicked a goal and bring a bit of pressure.

Suppose the big one was the Bont, who ended up with 18 disposals for the match and came alive in the last quarter when the game was well and truly done. But for the first three quarters, had been well contained by North’s young on-ball duo of Anderson and Simpkin – looked quite fumbly as the game went on and you can see that’s the pressure. Brings a bit of onus to the rest of the midfielders to stand up for your captain – and as you can see, they passed that test with flying colours.

Never mind who they were up against – they needed to test themselves against someone who can take the Bont out of the contest – it’s happened in the past and it’s resulted in a Dogs’ loss, so it’s great to know that the midfield depth is absolutely rocking.

 

PLAYER FROM THE OPPOSITION I ADMIRED MOST IN THIS GAME?

 

JB – Tim English. His ruck work was pretty smart, if a bit sloppy at times, and he managed to get forward often enough to be dangerous.

 

DOC – Some of the older heads never stopped giving it a crack, Jack Ziebell in defence, whilst sketchy on the boot at times, was always getting hands to the footy, looking for avenues out and just trying to keep out in general – he finished with 37 disposals, 11 marks, nine rebound 50s and 582 metres gained and I thought Todd Goldstein in ruck had the 23 hitouts – eight to advantage, five marks and six intercept possessions.

As far as their younger players go, Jaidyn Stephenson kicked two goals from 19 disposals – thought he was lively around the ground at times, but did go at 63 percent efficiency which is a slight downer, but it’s more effort than I can say for most of the side. I thought Luke Davies-Uniacke – whilst dreadful with his use of the footy, you could see around the stoppages that he was giving it his all – had the 17 touches, five tackles and seven inside 50s.

Charlie Lazzaro I thought showed plenty of pace through the middle, despite the seven touches and whilst and I reckon Simpkin played alright too – seven intercepts, seven score involvements from 22 disposals and nine marks, good effort from him.

 

WRAP  UP

 

JB – What can be said? The only positive is that the young kids got through injury free. The last time a Good Friday had this level of punishment dished out, it was from Roman soldiers to a Jewish bloke who wanted people to love each other. No, not Goldstein, the other one.

Overall, North promised little and showed even less. North will be the team that decides the Coleman medal, and playing Adelaide next week could see Tex Walker kick himself into contention to be the first centurion since Buddy Franklin.

The Bulldogs showed the sort of ruthlessness that good teams need to have. They did the premiership credentials no harm at all.

 

DOC – The Dogs are three from three for the first time since the 2009 season – bugger me right? I won’t be taking the lid off, contrary to popular belief, but the Bulldogs have built some really good form already to start the 2021 season. Are they business? Well early indications point that they’re not mucking around here. Jason Johannisen played his first game of the season and they just dropped Mitch Wallis – their vice captain – to the reserves, which says a lot about no one person will be spared – they’re looking pretty serious about contending early on.

They’ve got the Brisbane Lions next week in Ballarat – yuck that place. The Lions are off their first win of the season in a game that they desperately needed to win, and given that it was an after-the-siren special, I just get the feeling that it’ll be a real confidence and momentum booster. The fact that it’s not at the Gabba, I’d say the Dogs are a good chance to go 4-0 here.

As for North, I will say this. People often forget that it was the Kangaroos that pushed and lobbied hard for football to be played on Good Friday. Yes, right now, things aren’t so peachy and rosy down at Arden Street (unless you’re the AFLW team in which case you’ve got a finals series to conquer) but given that there was about approximately 30,000 at the ground for this clash, I think North fans and Dogs fans get excited for this game every year.

If the competition looks to take away Good Friday from North, then they should also consider taking away the season opener from Carlton or the Queens Birthday from Melbourne, possibly even Anzac Day from Essendon because in short, they aren’t cut for the marquee games. Which is a notion that I find complete bullshit.

I hope North and the Bulldogs continue to play games against each other on Good Friday, when North get the team right, these two have the potential to put on some thrilling games of football – they’ve managed to do so the past five years, so don’t be so quick to pull the trigger on North Melbourne.

 

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