Gold Coast v Western Bulldogs – A Little Less Nonsense and a Bit More Footy


 Onto the second leg of Sir Doug Nicholls Round, and where better to play the Gold Coast-Western Bulldogs clash than Darwin. Contrary to popular belief, Darwin has claims to fame that extend beyond its furnace-like temperatures and paltry number of Rebel Sports outlets (one, for anyone who’s interested). It also has a considerable Indigenous population who give the games up there a pretty cool grassroots feel with their consistent outbursts of shouting and cheering. Let’s see what bearing said shouting and cheering had on the two teams’ performances.






Defensive blunders: Gold Coast are committing regular defensive errors and misjudgments. Missed tackles and failures to mind the space outside the contest are features of their first quarter, allowing the Dogs an easy passage to goal. Their defensive sturdiness is a bit like me when playing chess. You think you’re piling pressure on the opponent, then you turn around and realise your queen’s just been nabbed, while the rest of your pieces judge you in disgust.

Capitalism: Credit to the Suns, though, for they make their meagre inside 50 count, well…. count. Four goals from around 11 inside 50s is good value for money. They’re certainly cashing in on their opportunities, and the ‘bang for buck’ meter is reading off the charts.



Conversion: Early on, the commentators make the point that the Dogs have the worst goalkicking accuracy of any team in the comp, so naturally, the Dogs begin to convert most of their set shots. They’d have a good shot at converting Scott Morrison to atheism, the way they’re kicking.

Wing attack: Someone at the Dogs has obviously got a netball background, because they’re noticeably opting to move the ball down the wings, where their superior running can be put to good use. Centre player Marcus Bontempelli is integral in getting it down to his forward third, where goal shooter Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and behind shooter Aaron Naughton strut their stuff.






Humphrey B. There: New draftee Bailey Humphrey, whose gender changes when you spoonerise his name, is continuing his impressive run of form, seeming to inexplicably be wherever the ball is, regardless of whatever position he’s been assigned to. He’s playing so well that he might even get a mention at the bottom of the last page of a Victorian newspaper for his game.

Code switching: The Suns temporarily inhabit the bodies of Man City’s perennial championship-winning team in the second term. Firstly, Levi Casboult lets forth a ripsnorter of a strike from 30m out that hammers into the post. Then, a defender (I want to say Charlie Ballard but apparently they do have other defenders too so it might not be him) half-volleys a ball back into the centre. To top it all off, Ben Ainsworth delivers a spectacular cross to the goal square, which Jack Lukosius sidefoots through for a goal. The three incidents are arguably more skilful than just about any moment the A-League has ever produced.



Much handball for nothing: The Dogs have always been a handball-happy unit with the forty-three midfielders they have running around. And so it continues throughout the second term, as they rack up the stats with constant three-metre handballs to each other in midfield that see them trailing by 22 points at half-time. It’s an absolutely exemplary display of how to look like you’re doing work whilst actually doing bugger all.

The Bont’s wont: The Bont is proving to be a class above everyone else on the field in the term, releasing some nice handballs, picking up the pill effortlessly despite the Darwinian moisture that permeates all surfaces and orifices, and generally staking his claim for the Brownlow. I bet he was one of those kids who could’ve gone pro in multiple sports. He’s probably an incredible cook too.






Fumble: The conditions are hampering the Suns as they unconvincingly fumble and skid their way towards victory. There are some pretty poor dropped marks in the defensive 50 in particular, and they’re lucky that the Dogs aren’t feeling particularly punishful (shoutout to Luke Hodge for inventing that word on-air circa 2021).

Ballard blanket: Charlie Ballard is doing a hell of a job on Aaron Naughton despite Naughton scoring a goal after blatantly shoving Ballard early in the term. Ballard leads his opponent to every ball that drops short and more than holds his own in the 1 on 1 contests. For me at least, there’s some justice in Ballard’s dominance, as I think Naughton should be locked in a small room until he changes his haircut to one that is appropriate for modern society.



Half-back bonanza: It’s a feast for the Dogs’ half-backs; Bailey, Bailey, and whoever else is down there. Many an attack is launched by the Dogs’ half-back line after they force a turnover and set their running game in motion. Much like my efforts to woo women, the chemistry isn’t always sufficient for a positive outcome, but the endeavour is clear.

Out-dogged: The Dogs’ star-studded midfield has to this point been outshone by the Suns’ engine room of Rowell, Anderson and the clubroom janitor (I promise that’s the last joke about not knowing the Suns players’ names). The noticeable discrepancy in contested possessions is something they’re going to want to patch up.






Matthew Magnifique: Matt Rowell’s absolutely insatiable desire for the contest has carried the Suns’ engine room for the whole evening. When he caps off his work with a goal that puts his team 22 points up, it’s almost party time. Someone get the man some plants to munch on. He deserves it.

Panic dump: I’m not referring to when you’re driving home after a sumptuous meal of roti and tikka masala and things start moving inside faster than you’d like, although that is an unforgettable experience. No, I’m referring to the Suns’ increasing tendency to rush their kicks whilst under little pressure as the Dogs draw nearer. It’s very fortuitous that the ball falls in the lap of a Gold Coast player on roughly half of these kicks, but it’s not really the way to win a game of football.



They just kept running: The sight of a Dogs player taking possession and simply burning off his opponent is a pretty regular one throughout the tense last quarter as they once again showcase their impressive aerobic capacity. I think if F. Gump had come to Australia in the course of his travels and chosen a footy team, he’d probably have chosen the Dogs based on their running. You could argue Collingwood’s style of play would suit him too, but I just can’t see him supporting them. Jenny, on the other hand, somehow has Collingwood written all over her.

Umpires, not again: (Trigger warning for Sydney fans who were alive in 2016):

Some of the decision-making in the last quarter is absolutely deplorable. A 50m penalty is paid against Ben Ainsworth for overstepping the mark when in every other instance, he’d be given the benefit of the doubt and told to move back 2 metres. Goal Dogs. Not long afterwards, an off-the-ball free kick is paid to Cody Weightman for a hilarious piece of acting, as he jerks his head upwards following some contact to his shoulder from Ben Long and falls theatrically to the ground. Goal Dogs. Another incident occurs whereby Bailey Humphrey (luckily) kicks a difficult goal after a clear free to Lukosius isn’t paid at full forward. I’m not sure what the umpires’ connection to Footscray is on this occasion. Maybe there’s a particularly nice Banh Mi place frequented by the umps there. Maybe Nathan Williamson’s Great Aunt Martha lives there. Whatever it is, it feels like they’re unduly influencing the game, and it really is poetic justice that the Suns eventually put the game out of the Dogs’ reach.


And so upon the dying down of the fans’ raucous shouting and the settling of the dust, moisture and whatever other substances Darwin air has to offer, the Suns have clinched themselves a win to stave off accusations of being horrifically lacklustre for one more week. The 13.6.84-11.11.77 scoreline is an impressive result without talisman Touk Miller, and they’ll be hoping to compound this result with some fried Crow next week. As for the Dogs, this was a costly slip-up and it might be time for the trump card to be played. Yes, that’s right. It’s time someone fired up Bevo in a press conference.


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