R9 – Western Bulldogs v Richmond – The Mongrel Review


Round 9

Richmond v Western Bulldogs


Richmond’s Injuries

About three years ago, the once powerful West Coast Eagles had a terrible run of injuries in the opening rounds and were brought down to earth very quickly as they were forced to blood kids who weren’t ready for the bigtime. I’ll rephase that, the players may have been ready to join a settled, matured teams individually, but they were nowhere near ready en-masse to assume the roles they were assigned. The scars of that period still linger to this day out west.

Hopper, Tarranto, Ross, Lynch, Baker, Gibcus and possibly Clarke and Colina, would be automatic selections in a fully fit Tiger outfit. As it is, Prestia and Graham were returning from injuries for tonight’s game.

By game’s end, Maurice Rioli, Jack Graham and Sam Banks, can now be added to the Tigers list of injuries, while Dusty Martin looks like he may be carrying an injury or two as well, as his form tonight was way below his normal.

Injuries do cripple clubs, and presently the Tigers are struggling to field a competitive team.

For Adem Yze, his initiation into senior coaching has been dogged by bad luck as he is yet to put his best team on the field all year.


Bevo’s Rebuild on the Go

Wilson, King, Cornes, Robbo, Whateley, etc, have all been calling for Luke Beveridge’s head since the middle of last year, I think they all have ignored Bevo’s magnanimous achievements since becoming coach of the Doggies. A Premiership in 2016 and another Grand Final appearance in 2021 are his signatures, but the Dogs have been there or thereabouts every season since his appointment.

The judgments on Beveridge are harsh given he has kept an average to good playing list in the hunt for so long.

Further, unlike the Eagles or even the Tigers, the Bulldogs cannot afford the luxury of fully bottoming out and have had to try and remain relevant as they consistently rebuild and shape their list on the go.

I admire Beveridge’s tenure at the Kennel, as he has made his Doggies a very competitive and, at times, a dominant team.

Having said that, in 2024 the Doggies are showing early signs of being flat-track bullies. The Dogs defeat at the hands of the Hawks last weekend is the kind of result which have historically prevented the Dogs from being a true Top 4 contender, and it gives air to the Talking Heads to have Bevo removed as Coach.


The Game

Five minutes into the first quarter this game was as good as over. No disrespect to the Tigers, but the Dogs intentions were obvious from the start of the match, and it was to show no mercy. Yet, because of poor kicking, 3.6 in the first quarter, the Dogs kept the door ajar a little if the Tigers were good enough – obvious they weren’t.

Given some the easy misses, the Dogs should have been 7.2 or 6.3 at the first break.

An early goal to Mansell from a beautiful centre break by Prestia at the start of the second quarter gave the Tiger faithful something to cheer about, but that was as close the Tigers were going to get to the Dogs for the rest of the night.

At the next centre bounce, Ed Richards hit-up Sam Darcy who goaled and soon afterwards, the lanky forward who was clunking everything coming his way, slotted his second. This kid is going to be a star as he has good footballing brain, and he can only get better with more games and a few summers in the gym.

The move of Ed Richards into the middle to cover the absence of Libba paid dividends as he was nearly best on ground. His dominance in the middle added a new dimension to the Dogs midfield, and it seemed to complement the games of the Treloar, McCrae, Dale, and the Bont. Some of the Dogs forward presses from the centre were the best I’ve seen this year, and they were engineered by Richards, and the versatile James Harmes, who seemed to be playing as a mid-forward. Harmes would have really enjoyed his night as he kicked four goals for the match – he is now officially a Bulldog.

From the time Darcy slotted two quick goals in the second, the game was over and the only question remaining was the winning margin.

Darcy finished the game with four majors, in an impressive display of marking (7) and accurate goal kicking, while James Harmes (27 possessions), and Aaron Naughton (10 marks) also contributed four goals each.

The Dogs forward line was an irresistible force, but praise should be given to Nick Vlastun, Dean Rioli, Jayden Short, and Ben Miller, who battled hard against the constant flow of ball into the Dogs forward line.


Are the Dogs Flat Track Bullies?

In the next four weeks the Dogs play GWS, Swans, Collingwood, and Brisbane, so it is not an easy draw. However, it will test the Dogs’ credentials for the season. It is as good a test any up-and-coming team could come up against, and it will tell us a lot about the Dogs circa 2024.

Win two or three and not get blown away in any loss and I would say the Dogs have turned the corner. Lose all four and the year of the Dog is over, and sadly so will the career of Luke Beveridge.

I cannot overstate this for the Dogs – there is a lot on the line, and they MUST win at least two of those games to prove to themselves, and the football public at large, that they can mix it with the best and not just be a side that beats up on weaker opposition.


What to do with Dusty Martin?

An average game by Dusty standards is still an honourable game when compared to the average player, however, this is Dusty we are talking about. He is the embodiment of the Tiger dynasty and not so long ago he was clearly the most dangerous, if not the best player in the competition, so it is sad to talk about him as being average – he is a future Legend of the Game.

Dusty doesn’t speak much publicly, and he lives life with a poker face, so it hard to know how he feels about his game and the game in general at this moment, so this is a hard quandary to ponder, but I’ll give it a go.

Dusty deserves the legacy of 300 games, which is only a few games away now, and he must be given the chance to play game 300, however after that, I would immediately give him the rest of the season off and let him go away for a while.

I feel sorry for long term AFL players as they don’t get the chance to experience a Northern Hemisphere summer during their playing careers until after they retire. It might do Dusty good to spend some time somewhere he desires and just forget about footy for a while. Paris in summer might just be the best thing for him.

Upon return, let him decide if he wants to play on again, whether that be at Richmond or at the Gold Coast with Dimma.


Jamarra Ugle-Hagan

While I will find it hard to say anything negative about the Dogs’ performance, good performances can often hide faults within. Jamarra Ugle-Hagan seems to be lacking confidence and he is out of form. He is missing easy shots at goal, his body language, at times, seems off, as a few times tonight I saw him put his hands on his knees too many times after an error or if the ball had got past him.

I think Ugle-Hagan’s future is bright, but I get the feeling he is a player who wears his heart on his sleeve, and if he is having a dirty night, it is obvious to his opponent. On a night where all the other Dogs forwards had a banquet, it looked Ugle-Hagan wasn’t part of the feast. While the performances of Naughton, Darcy, West, and Harmes stood out, the performance of Ugle-Hagan maybe got lost in the wash-up. His only goal tonight came in junk time.

It may seem I am being harsh on Ugle-Hagan considering he was out last week for personal reasons, but he is a player I like to watch, and I firmly believe he has the potential to be one of the best players in the competition. Ugle-Hagan is a long-term asset for the Bulldogs and if he needs some time off, let him have it.


Sonsie, Dow, Lefau, Young, Banks, Brown, and others

A couple of weeks ago, I was shocked to see Tyler Sonsie had been dropped as I thought his game against the Swans was very promising and I looked forward to following his career. In a team that was thrashed tonight, the performance of Sonsie showed real character, as did the performance of Thomson Dow.

It is now time for the Tigers to get games into these kids and play them alongside the injured players when they return. Lefau, Banks, Young and Brown were far from disgraced tonight and against the weight of a fully hardened team they played the game right out and didn’t stop trying.

Now is the time to blood the kids.


Special Mentions

Noah Balta’s battle against Liam Jones was one of the few real one on one highlights of the night. Balta, who has been out for a while, performed well and showed leadership on a night when the Tigers needed leadership. Jones may have just got the better of him by the end of the match, but Balta held his own in an intriguing battle.

Nankervis v English was the other intriguing one on one battle. Nankervis won the tap battle, but English was more effective around the ground, taking 7 marks with 18 possessions. Nankervis got beaten on the night, but it was a good tussle.

Riley Garcia played the best game of his career tonight finishing with 19 quality possessions and a couple of goals. Another Doggy youngster who caught the eye was Harvey Gallagher who also had 19 possessions but let himself down slightly with three behinds, while first gamer, Joel Freijah, showed a lot with 17 possessions. Before I forget, O’Donnell is a beauty, and he is making a good name for himself in the new look Dogs outfit.

Finally, all clubs have underrated players who are in the side week in, week out, but they never have their names mentioned in the final dispatches. One such player is Taylor Duryea. When the game was in the balance (while the Dogs asserted their dominance) in the opening stanza, Duryea was the man leading the way. He finished the game with 18 possessions with an efficiency rate of 94 percent.


Final Point

I mentioned earlier the injuries at Tigerland, but it must be remembered the Dogs were without their heart and soul man, Libba, and arguably the best small forward in the AFL at the moment, Cody Weightman, so it does make this win more meritorious.


Coming Up

The Dogs travel up to Sydney to take on a Giants outfit that will be out for revenge after their shock defeat today. Having said that, there is a nasty history between these two clubs, and it should make for compulsory viewing.

Richmond travel into the Lion’s Den at the Gabbatoir, and I get a feeling they might be well and truly be mulled by a Brisbane team looking to get another win under the belt and put surplus in the percentage bank.

Kudos to HB Meyers

Every weekend HB covers between three of four games, and in a timely manner posts his reviews mere hours after the final siren.

Today I reviewed two matches, just to test myself, and it is now 1am in the morning as I finish my first draft. The resilience of HB to write at least 10,000 words every weekend, as well as his weekly articles, is astonishing.

Buy HB, and for that matter, Mrs Mongrel, a cup of coffee – they truly deserve it.


(Cheers Pete – it’s usually around the 12-13K mark, for the record – haha – HB)