A walloping. A shellacking. A complete and utter beatdown.
Those are words that will be bandied around over the next 24 hours to describe the way the Dogs dismantled St Kilda at Marvel Stadium.
Brilliant. Relentless. Powerful.
They’ll the words that accompany the performance of the Western Bulldogs.
Pathetic. Listless. Heartless.
I am sure you don’t need described to you the team that will have those words attached to them following this encounter.
On a day where we saw a classic in Adelaide and belter in Perth, the Dogs put the Saints to the sword in this one, beating them in every single aspect of the game and making St Kilda look like a rabble. Were the Dogs that good? Were the Saints that bad? Or was it a perfect storm of the two that made for a 111-point flogging?
Let’s find out, with The Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
It’s Round Ten – The Mongrel is starting to get a little tired, so I am changing things up just a little this round and looking at the things I loved from the game, and the things I hated, Of course, if I were going down the standard “good, bad and ugly” route, we’d have a pretty heavily populated “good” section anyway, and I am pretty sure the other two sections would be exclusively St Kilda. Let’s see how we go.
WHAT DID I LOVE?
They’re the slickest team in the game at the moment, with lightning hands and targets hit with monotonous regularity.
In stark contrast to their Inspector Clouseau-like opponents, the Western Bulldogs’ handball game was on-song in this one, as they moved the footy quickly and effectively away from stoppages in a manner that left the Saints chasing tail for the whole game.
No… that’s a lie. The Saints chased tail for about a quarter and a half, and for the rest of the time, they just jogged along, going through the motions.
So clinical were the Dogs in their ball movement that St Kilda simply threw their collective hands in the air and gave up. They opted to start corralling the Dogs and that didn’t work, either. The red, white and blue wave simply cut holes in their defensive set up and waltzed through time, and time again with the footy.
I had to ask my fellow Mongrels at one stage whether the Dogs were this good, or the Saints were this bad. The answer came back as both, but really, it was the precision of the Dogs that made St Kilda look like a local pub team as they half-arsed their way three steps behind every Bulldogs possession.
We’ve been impressed with teams this season and we’ve loved the way certain sides have gone about it, but this display by the Dogs was close to perfect footy at times.
Of course, you can only play perfect footy when the opposition allows you to, or you hammer them into submission. I’m leaning toward the second option in terms of this game. The Dogs were ruthless.
NEXT LEVEL BONT
This was a couple of kicks at goal away from being one hell of a game from Bont. Not that four goals is anything to sneeze at, but he was on track for a monster game if he had his kicking boots on.
You hear stories about blokes like Leigh Matthews, playing midfield and resting forward to kick six or seven goals. That was the kind of outing that was on offer for Bont in this one. He finished with four goals and three behinds, but six goals were a legitimate possibility for him.
Is he the Brownlow favourite? It’d be hard not to award him votes in this one. With 26 touches, a massive 761 metres gained and eight inside 50s, he is doing absolutely everything to put his name out there as the best player in the competition.
It makes you wonder why a coach wouldn’t, you know… play someone on him?
I had a bit of a smile earlier in the week.
As I tend to do here and there, I threw together my All-Underrated team for the first third of the season, and sitting right there at full back was Alex Keath. One of our writers, The Doc, does not believe that Keath is a great defender.
No… I am putting words into his mouth. He believes that Keath plays forwards into form. That’s what he said.
I’d like to give him the chance to retract that, because, even when you consider the lack of forward fifty entries Max King was afforded in this game, Keath gave him a bath whenever he did have an opportunity.
The thing I like best about Keath is the way he has adapted to the role as playing on the opposition’s best forward. He wasn’t that man in Adelaide, you see? He was brought in to replace the injured Tom Doedee, who was brought in to replace the departing Jake Lever. He is an interceptor by trade, and now he has assumed the role of key defender. It’s not an easy transition, at all.
Keath has been fantastic for the Dogs, and takes his role in the team very seriously, Often standing under the high ball, he puts his body on the line as the pack congregates around him. In this one, he held Max King to one touch in the first half, and by the time the budding star actually took a mark, we were half way through the last quarter.
There will be some who say that King was beaten by his teammates, who ran the white flag up way too early for my liking, and they’ll have a good case, but when you look at the fact that Keath had seven intercepts and eight spoils, when the ball did come inside 50, he owned it.
The Saints had 42 inside 50s for the game. That would mean that Keath, who played as deepest defender all evening, impacted over 35% of those entries.
That’s a good night’s work for the big man.
THE CHAMP IS HERE
May I direct your attention for a moment or two to one of my own little initiatives? This is called cross-promoting, I’m told… good thing to do apparently.
Every week here at The Mongrel Punt, the designated midfield championship belt holder defends his title against challengers from the team they compete against. In order for the title to change hands, the other team must beat the champ’s team, AND play better footy than him. Currently, the champ is Jack Macrae, and though I will not cast aspersions on the footballing ability of Jack Steele, Seb Ross or Brad Crouch, there was no bloody way he was going to drop the title in this one.
As the Dogs romped to a huge win, Macrae once again racked up his obligatory 30+ touches. And to ice that cake with the good stuff, he added a few more layers to his performance with 41 total disposals for the evening.
It was another commanding outing from Macrae, who has been a picture of consistency for the Dogs this season, and, as a matter of fact, the last several years. He is now averaging an incredible 35.1 touches per game, leading Tom Mitchell at Hawthorn, and is doing the other things that make him an almost impossible matchup. He had nine clearance, laid eight tackles and had a whopping 14 score involvements as he owned the footy through the middle.
Next week, the Dogs take on the Dees, with both Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver eyeing off that Mongrel Punt Midfielder Championship Belt, but to be the man, you’ve gotta beat the man, and right now, when it comes to elite mids in the game, Jack Macrae is the best there is.
So, he only had eight clearances in this one…
Time to drop him, right?
Libba was a beast again in this game, and there were several occasions where he was the player that just wanted the footy more than his opponent. An instance where he ran at the footy with Brad Hill, went to ground to get it first, handed it off to his running captain and picked up a goal assist as Bont slammed it through from 50 should be on every highlight reel in the country as you read this.
But it probably won’t be, because highlight reels are full of high marks and goals around the corner. This was just pure hard work and guts from Libba.
Another 31 touches in this game from the in-and-under Bulldogs star. He is as blue-collar as they come, and there are times I look back on where the Dogs are and where they’ve come from and I often find myself wondering how his presence could have changed that 2019 Elimination Final against the Giants. Libba was on the sidelines for that game, but with him cracking in, and standing up for his teammates when it counted… ah, what could have been.
Anyway, Libba did the bulk of his work when the going was toughest in this one. With 17 touches and four clearances in the first half, he was a big reason the Dogs were able to put this one to bed so effectively.
Sometimes you see those memes when a forward has a big day out and it lines up the score of the opposition alongside the individual score of the player.
You know, like this.
Aaron Naughton 5. 4. (34) defeated St Kilda 5. 3. (33)
I reckon that’s low-hanging fruit when it is a game where one team is evidently so far below the level of the other. However, what I did find amazing is that as Bailey Dale slotted his second goal running down from half back (who was manning up on him, I wonder?), he had kicked as many goals as the entire Saints team at that stage.
Dale has been a revelation off half back, and it seems as though the Dogs are really spoiled for choice when it comes to great users in that role. We all know about the decision-making and class of Caleb Daniel – the Dogs wanted to nullify him with Jarryn Geary, but an arm injury seemed to scuttle those plans. Then there’s Bailey Williams, who is capable of 25+ touches and a heap of metres on any given week.
Then we get to Dale. A couple of years back we were wondering whether he could be a very good third forward. Now, he looks more at home on the half back flank than anyone else. With dashing runs and penetrating kicks, the bloke is an absolute weapon!
He had 34 touches – a career-high, eight intercepts, 761 metres gained, and 11 bloody score involvements from half back. That is ridiculous, and really, it is as much of an indictment on the St Kilda forwards as it is a pat on the back for Dale.
Still, if they’re going to afford you that kind of time and space to work your magic, why the hell not. Dale was yet another who tore the Saints to shreds, but really, you get the feeling the Dogs could have made eight or nine changes before the game and as long as the intent remained the same, they would have carved up St Kilda.
WHAT DID I HATE?
HANDBALLS DROPPING A METRE SHORT
Have you got a spare two hours during the week?
I am on long service leave and am seriously considering going back, watching this game and counting how many handballs from St Kilda players fell about a metre short of their intended target.
Seriously, I want to know the ratio of successful to unsuccessful handballs in this game, because it seemed as though St Kilda were dropping three or four short in the same passage of play at times. The Dogs were onto it, too. They just ran at the next receiver and preyed on them as the pressure increased.
One handball to ground = pressure up. Two handballs to ground = turnover pending. Three handballs to ground = pathetic fundamental skills.
In contrast, the Dogs hit the target at a rate I am going to guess is around 19 out of 20 times. They just looked more polished and ready to ensure their teammate got the footy on the full. It was bloody frustrating to watch the Saints continually put their mates under pressure. Not as frustrating as it would be for St Kilda fans, but I am guessing they’re well and truly used to being frustrated by this club by now.
NO NEED TO STAGE
Only one negative for the Dogs.
Cody Weightman… you’re a good kid, you attack the ball hard and look as though you are the kind of small forward that could cause headaches for teams, but you don’t need to stage.
After winning an in the back free kick, Weightman gave Hunter Clark a little tap on the shoulder and then got a slight bump from Dougal Howard. The kid went down like he’d been shot.
I’m a neutral supporter, and I enjoyed the other s aspects of Weightman’s game, but if there is one thing that can change the perception of a player it is staging.
Mate, you’re good enough to win the footy and play well without resorting to garbage like that. You’d hate for that to be something you’re notorious for.
NO MIDFIELD ACCOUNTABILITY.
So, you had Paddy Ryder in the middle, and all the talk was about giving the mids first use, right?
It didn’t quite work out that way. Despite a 53-21 advantage in hit outs, the Dogs completely molested the Saints at stoppages, ripping the ball away as easily as they did the hearts from the St Kilda faithful’s chests.
They were +13 in overall clearances, but +10 in centre clearances as Macrae, Libba and Bailey Smith monstered the on-ballers in red, white and black to the point where they looked like a football version of The Three Stooges.
Only, there was no laughing.
Ryder had five clearances, but his tap work was consistently sharked by the Dogs, who would add a second effort whenever they failed to get their mitts on the footy at the first try. In contrast, the Saints were like Joe Ganino in the sack – one effort and they were finished.
I don’t know what the problem is here – Steele v Libba should have been a highlight. It wasn’t. Libba was far more aggressive despite having to work from Ryder’s taps. Ross should have been able to nullify someone. He couldn’t, or perhaps wouldn’t. And Crouch should have been able to give the Saints some drive from the middle – that has been his role for the last couple of years at Adelaide. He couldn’t.
Worse, once the Dogs did get their hands on it, where were the damn tackles? This Bulldogs team loves to get and go. Brett Ratten had to know that – a game where they were met hard and often is the way to stop them… but the Dogs had a 74-48 tackle advantage, FFS!
Maybe the players took Ratten’s words to heart when he asked why players should bother tackling. I’m sure it was rhetorical, but this team played such stupid football in this game, I am not entirely convinced that they wouldn’t take it literally.
This was a season killer. At 4-6, and playing this brand of football, St Kilda does not deserve to even think about finals. Hell, with North Melbourne upcoming, they should not even be dreaming about a win next week. This sort of effort was and accountability was not AFL-standard.
TWO-THIRDS OF THE ST KILDA TEAM
I want to excuse the following players from this section.
Paddy Ryder, Jack Steele, Dougal Howard, Jack Sinclair, Jarryn Geary, Jack Lonie, Ryan Byrnes, and Jack Higgins. Eight players who looked like they actually gave a rat’s ass about the way the game was travelling and genuinely tried to impact it with their play. They fought through contests, attempted to gut run to the next contest, and actually attempted to prevent their opponent from doing as they pleased.
I am sorry to say, but when two-thirds of your team aren’t doing that, your efforts are for naught.
There were blokes out there for the Saints that looked as though they could not give a shit about this game. They were flat-footed, refused to chase when there was a turnover… even if it was their error that created the turnover, and their body language told the story of a team that simply did not want to compete.
Shall we name a few names?
Oh yes… we shall.
Dan Butler. Did he play his “F-U” season last year? Did he prove to Richmond that they were wrong letting him go? The Tigers kept Jason Castagna and Daniel Rioli over this bloke, and last year it looked as though they’d made a mistake. However, Butler is trying his best to prove them right at the moment. Picked up a compensation goal late in the game, but was beaten to the footy countless times and looked as though he was content waiting in the front half while his opponent ran forward. Good plan, Dan.
Shaun McKernan. Looked like he dropped his bundle as soon as he delivered his contender for worst set shot of the season. If he were standing on the edge of a pier, he would not have hit the ocean with that kick. From that point on, he meandered through the game looking like a witches hat.
Hunter Clark. Oh boy… here we go. I know he is a Saints golden child, and I expect you won’t be pleased with this… can you tell me one time in this game, off the top of your head where he ran at a pace quicker than three-quarters of what he is capable? He looked as though he wanted the game to slow down and was hell-bent on leading by example. Yes, 21 touches are admirable in such a whacking, but he was nowhere near it and dropped his head too easily.
Seb Ross. I like Seb, and think he is one of the more underrated mids in the game. When he wants to be. His reluctance to turn around and chase when there was a turnover was indicative of just about the entire midfield group. Was happy to get on the bike when there was a chance of getting the footy, but not so happy when the ball went the other way, which is incredible considering he was used as a damn tagger last season. He knows how to play accountable footy. He just… didn’t.
Brad Crouch. Middle of the road game with nothing indicating he was ever going to make a difference at any stage.
I could go on here. I really could, but my guess is that Saints supporters are wallowing in the aftermath of a heavy drinking session and will not be reading, anyway. I feel for you all – this team was SHIT tonight.
A FEW QUESTIONS TO WRAP UP
DID THE SAINTS HAVE ANY WINNERS AT ALL?
Oh geez… maybe Jack Sinclair? He was one that never threw the towel in and his work off half back was full of character.
I liked Ryan Byrnes commitment. I think you learn a fair bit about your kids in a loss like this, and he was one of the few that stood up when the rest of the team stood down.
And despite Aaron Naughton getting off the chain in the second half, I liked the way Dougal Howard competed in the first half. He gave it his all.
That’s about it, though.
WHAT IS CODY WEIGHTMAN’S CEILING?
I am not quite sure yet, but I loved the way he attacked the contest. He has a bit of fire in the belly, and his work without the footy was excellent as well. I might wait to see how he goes in a tougher game before singing too many praises, but I definitely liked his work in this one.
WHAT DOES THE TRELOAR INJURY MEAN TO THE DOGS?
It may start to test their depth, particularly with the Dunkley injury as well.
I guess that’s why they were so rapt to pick up a midfielder the likes of Treloar – it gives you so many options. Bailey Smith has moved back into the middle from the wing, so assuming he misses a week, it is not as bad as it could be. He looked pretty happy after the game and sounded optimistic, but he was also the bloke who thought he had two cramps in his hamstrings a couple of years ago, and it ended up that he’d torn both.
You’d love to have him out there against the Dees to stretch their midfield accountability.
And that may do me. If you’re a Saints fan and got through it all, my respect is extended to you. You’d have t knock over North next week, right? If you don’t… look, I fear there may be a damn riot!
As for the Dogs, Friday night against the Dees could be the biggest game these two sides have competed in against each other in… well, a very long time. There are still three games to go this weekend and I am already looking forward to it.
Massive thanks to our members, as always.