Western Bulldogs v Richmond – The Doc’s Autopsy

“Hard times breed better men…”

I’ve had that line from a song of a well-known wrestler stuck in my head following this game. It was just a bizarre game that had sizeable momentum shifts in the opening half.

After the Dogs powered away to a five-goal advantage early in the second quarter after a six-goal opening term, the Tigers rallied with a run of seven consecutive goals and eight in total in the second term to open a 14-point advantage at the main break.

The Dogs then stifled the Tigers with a lot of the possession and territory; but as is often a theme with this team, there was very little reward to show for the effort in the third term. With Alex Keath subbed out early and Hayden Crozier taken out of the game with a back complaint, the Dogs entered the last quarter with their backs against the wall – physically and mentally.

I say mentally because the Dogs haven’t beaten Richmond at the MCG for eight years and recent record indicates the Tigers have won four of the past five encounters. But the Dogs showed more heart and determination in the last quarter than their first two weeks combined.

After the effort against the Saints in round two, the question was asked about their heart and their want for the ball. They answered the call last Thursday night against Brisbane and they responded in-game to the challenges thrown at them by the Tigers this week to even the ledger at 2-2 after four rounds.



The last two weeks have seen the Dogs respond with massive wins, and whilst overall it’s a collective effort, the effort starts from your leaders and the man that has led from the front both weeks has been Marcus Bontempelli.

His importance in this game was summed up in the last centre bounce of the game after Shai Bolton put one through with about 30 seconds to go… He was the man that started it all through the centre bounce and whilst in this play it was touched off the boot, the way he ran it out of the congestion was made to look so easy.

As a Dogs fan, how do you not love him? I mean his set shot kicking could always be worked on, but when it comes to getting hands dirty, he’s the one that leads from the front.

The Dogs stomped the Tigers in the clearances in this game 41-26, but it’s the centre clearance work that was the clear standout, with the Dogs doubling the eight centre clearances that Richmond managed throughout the entirety of the game.

The Bont leads the charge with six centre clearances; between him, Tom Liberatore (four) and Adam Treloar (three) – the trio combined for 13 of their 16 centre clearances. He also led the Dogs for contested possessions (17) and tackles, the latter of the two has been something else of a drastic improvement the past couple of games.

He finished with 12 tackles for the game and was second behind Liberatore for pressure acts with 35. With nine score involvements from 25 disposals and a great contested mark in the second term (leading to that disappointing behind), it was a great captain’s effort from the Bont in this one.



The Tigers are at a slightly concerning record at 1-1-2 and for at least the second term, they looked the better of the two sides.

One statistic that I found good for them and a positive they can carry towards the rest of the season is that they’re a bloody dangerous team when they get it off the turnover and that’s something the Dogs have struggled to defend over the years. In this game, the Tigers had nine scores off the back of defensive 50 movement.

In the second term where they registered eight of their 12 goals, the Tigers generated 3.2 from defensive half transitions. It’s hard to point it to just one player who kickstarted this but a lot of the players helped generate this run of form. From the 12th minute to the 27th minute, Richmond piled on seven unanswered goals.

Noah Cumberland was one that stood out. Every time the ball was going inside 50 and through him, it looked like something special was about to happen. From just the second term, he kicked one goal from seven touches, but also had four marks, two tackles inside 50 and a goal assist. He was dangerous in this game, which made it even more baffling he was named the substitute last week against the Pies.

Shai Bolton was dangerous with two goals, Dustin Martin… well, I’ll get to him later, Tim Taranto and Jacob Hopper were thriving on the contested ball and Marlion Pickett had a huge hand in the link-up work to go inside 50.

But guys like Hugo Ralphsmith and Rhyan Mansell are guys that probably won’t get a lot of recognition outside the four walls of Punt Road, but both of them were huge in their respective ends of the ground.

Mansell as a pressure forward had two tackles inside 50 and four marks and was a constant nuisance in a game where pressure mattered more than most things in a game of football; next thing he needs is to be hitting the scoreboard. Ralphsmith, who has been often used in the defensive end in this one, went forward for a goal, but also picked up six touches, five pressure acts and a contested grab.

The longer this season goes on, the longer I’m convinced that Dimma needs to start handing game time to these younger players and it looks like he already is with Tyler Sonsie and Judson Clarke getting games too, which is good, because both have bundles of talent.



Okay, so chief Mongrel made a remark during the week that Tim English was a ‘beta-ruck’. I got that message loud and clear, because I’ve branded the term ‘beta’ to describe an ex-Dog and now Brisbane midfielder that will remain nameless. It’s not an unfair criticism, considering how much he has struggled over the years to combat the one key job a ruckman is supposed to do: contest in the air.

But after four games, this man is a clear leader in the club’s best and fairest. And I dare say that he’s mounting a serious claim to be one of the better rucks in the game right now, which is an odd thing to say about someone who has been known for being a bit of a lily liver ruckman in the contest.

And while sure, in the ruck contests against Toby Nankervis, he took another L in this respect, the numbers indicate that he’s not getting rolled over anymore. Nank attended three more ruck contests in this game 70 overall to English’s 23; the hitout counter read Nankervis had 35 to English’s 23, but the hitouts to advantage count read evenly 8-7 in favour of the Richmond big man.

But even with that said, English’s work around the ground continues to go from strength to strength and it’s this sort of talent that brings him to the top echelon of rucks in the competition. And there’s no discrediting what Nankervis can do either, he’s a hard-nosed, blue collared ruckman who isn’t afraid to crash and bash when he can.

But English is the Aston Martin of ruckmen: elegant to watch run down the ground, reliable down the stretch and just simply cool to watch – 20 disposals and six marks is a good return from your ruckman, but let’s break that down even further. He had 11 contested possessions, nine tackles, two contested marks and 17 kicks at 70 percent efficiency. He also kicked two important goals in the first half – the second a brilliant kick off the deck in a crumbing effort that would’ve done small forwards proud.

The metres gained weren’t as significant as those around him, but the fact that a ruckman can kick and hit targets in pretty shit conditions is a testament to the man’s talent and after just a month of footy this year, he’s well on track to setting new career high numbers in disposals (20.3 per game), marks (seven per game), contested marks (two per game), contested ball (10.5) intercept possessions (5.8) and intercept marks (2.3).

It’s been a terrific start to the year, but I just hope for him and the Dogs contingent, that he can continue to produce good football throughout the year.



Dustin Martin has been a subplot of intrigue the past 12 months. If we’re being frank, he owes the game and no one anything, but as long as he still is in a Richmond guernsey, there will be some dickhead in the media who thinks it’s worth criticising over.

Turning 32 in June this year, I think it’s safe to say that it’s no longer his midfield. Much like Jack Riewoldt who was managed and Trent Cotchin who played a half of football as the sub, there looks as if there’s a contingency plan for these guys who were the cornerstones of the Richmond dynasty a few years previous.

That Richmond midfield is owned now by the young lions like Jacob Hopper and Tim Taranto. Dion Prestia is there too, but time is catching up with him and his hamstrings. Dusty only attended three centre bounces in this game, which meant he was stationed a lot as a high half-forward type in this game.

And I thought he was dangerous all throughout the game. There were spots throughout the game where his strength shined through. That mark in the one-on-one against Liam Jones late in the game was just dead-set ridiculous. But that was Dusty in his prime, as a midfielder, he was a Brownlow Medallist who excelled out of nearly every stoppage and thrown forward, he was a menace, too quick for the taller players and too strong for the mid-sized defenders.

He had 23 disposals in this game, 15 of which were contested possessions, which was second for the Tigers behind Daniel Rioli for contested ball. He also took three contested marks and had 10 score involvements – equal first alongside Tim Taranto and Noah Cumberland at the Tigers in this stat on the evening; this included one goal and one goal assist.

This game proved that Dusty doesn’t need to be the star he once was. But as long as he’s winning important contests in the forward half and helping string together scoring chains, I don’t think Dimma or the Richmond faithful have got anything negative to say about his impact on games.



It would’ve been easy to highlight Bailey Dale’s game here, but I feel like a lot of the Doggies games I’ve reviewed over the past couple of years have been focused on his game, so I’d like to talk about someone else. Jason Johannisen was very close here, but he’ll get good praise in the next segment.

But I’d like to take this moment and space to heap praise on Ed Richards. Last season, Ed was named the Western Bulldogs’ most improved player, after an impressive season that saw him average career-best numbers in a lot of key areas: disposals, intercept possessions and marks are the top of the list.

So far to start the 2023 year, he’s gone up another couple of levels, averaging numbers that could potentially catapult him into All-Australian considerations. I found it completely amusing when Champion Data released their top 10 rated defenders and was called out by some numpty Collingwood supporter. Clearly, that guy never watched Ed play the past 12 months.

There are plenty of nuances that are backed up by the stats that have made him one of the more reliable mainstays in the Bulldogs’ back six. Pressure acts and pressure acts from the defensive half have shot up from last year to career highs of 16.3 and 9.5 respectively.

His intercepting from ground level has been a significant improvement and it’s noticeable with each game he’s played this year. He averages 9.3 intercept possessions per game after four rounds, and with seven in this game – lowering his average in the process. He also averages a career-high 7.5 ground balls per game, and whilst he only had four in this game, he’s found a knack for being at the right spots and generating the run and carry that a lot of the elite defenders do.

He was cool and steady in this one and showed a two-way style that holds him in good stead as one of the game’s better defenders. He had 19 disposals – 18 kicks at 72 percent efficiency. He also had 28 pressure acts, with half of those coming out of the defensive half and eight marks, with three of them being intercept marks.

I’ve made a habit of making the ‘boys become men’ reference to a few players over the past week and a bit. Jamarra last Thursday night against the Lions and Will Day’s efforts the past two weeks were the two examples on the A3 Footy Podcast, but Ed Richards is loudly piecing together an All-Australian calibre season on the back of his offensive and defensive impact in the Bulldogs’ defensive 50.



So… Bailey Dale’s game hey? He was one of a few players that set the tone with the drive from the defensive half, but he carried that on when the Dogs got the game working back on their terms: 30 disposals, 18 kicks at 85 percent, 11 contested possessions, 11 intercept possessions, three intercept marks and 626 metres gained.

Tom Liberatore’s start to the game was phenomenal, came through with a couple of really big goals and whilst his disposal output slowly dipped, I thought his defensive pressure was consistent throughout the match.

Whilst in terms of contested footy in general play, Hopper and Taranto were very good, just nine clearances between them is a bit of a concern, considering what they were brought here for.

Really loved the game of Daniel Rioli. Not much more he could’ve done in the wet conditions. Intercepted brilliantly, tried to run and create as much as he could. Not enough of the senior players went along for the ride.

I want to give Jason Johannisen some more props for his game this week. After shutting out Charlie Cameron last week, he started taking the game on and made some pretty big runs across the defensive half this week: 21 disposals, six marks, three score involvements, three intercept possessions and over 400 metres gained.

Mitch Hannan was going to get a serve for the horrible, missed shot in the third term, but saved it with an incredible goal in the last quarter to get the Dogs up and about. Kicked 1.2 as the sub in this one. I think he needs to stay in this team.

Big fan of Judson Clarke and this game was no exception: 20 disposals, four marks, five tackles, one goal assist and one goal playing predominantly in the forward half. There are a few exciting players coming through at the Tigers and he’s certainly one.

Wasn’t Caleb Daniel’s greatest game, but he had some very telling moments with the ball in the closing stages. It was everything you’ve come to expect from him after years of observing him play; he was poised and collected with his decision making and was not silly with his ball use.

Liam Baker showed plenty of tough moments in this game. A couple of times he opted to run back at the flight of the ball and put his body in the way – very typical of him. Between him and Daniel Rioli (11 intercepts) they combined for 21 intercept possessions.

A solid workman-like performance from Adam Treloar in this game. He finished with 10 clearances – second behind the Bont at the Dogs – but also finished with 11 contested possessions, six score involvements and four inside 50s.

Don’t mind how Tylar Young goes about his football. A mature-aged recruit he held his own against the Dogs’ key forwards and wasn’t afraid to push up the ground and link up with his teammates as well.

Aaron Naughton worked hard to contest in the air all evening. Got three goals out of it, but it didn’t help that the kicks inside 50 were more of a disadvantage to him than an advantage and that allowed the likes of Young, along with Dylan Grimes and Nick Vlastuin to have the games they did.

Is Tom Lynch in trouble for that hit on Alex Keath that left him concussed and subbed out? Probably, the AFL have been red-hot in handing out suspensions to players that carelessly hit the head and the slow-motion replay doesn’t do much to help him out. He’ll get himself a week at least – three weeks at most if it goes to the tribunal.

Toby McLean had 47 disposals in the VFL earlier in the day… get him back in and keep Robbie McComb out for good!

And on that note, that will do me for this game. A big character-defining win for the Bulldogs as they even the ledger to 2-2 ahead of a big game next weekend against Port Adelaide in South Australia as part of the new Gather Round the AFL have introduced. The Dogs recent history against the Power at Adelaide Oval has been alright and given the Power are equally as hot and cold as the Dogs are, which should make it an entertaining affair.

As for the Tigers, it’s getting to be a bit of a worry, as they have just won one match from the first four outings. Their match next week against the Swans is crucial for both sides, seeing as the Swans went down to Port Adelaide in incredible scenes in the closing seconds. It’s a game that both teams need to win to ensure they can get themselves into September down the track.


You know who’s a great bloke? The Doc. You can buy him a coffee for the work he does by clicking the link below. I’m sure he’d greatly appreciate it.



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