I wish someone would tell me what the rumours about the Western Bulldogs are, because all I see is cold hard facts. They’re slow, they’re uninspired, and they were lucky to only lose by 51 points to the West Coast Eagles at Etihad Stadium.
The Eagles established their dominance in the second quarter and went into a holding pattern after that, repelling any Bulldogs thrust with a quick answer.
The Mongrel takes a look at the good, bad and ugly of the Eagles’ win.
If there’s one thing the West Coast bigs do better than their counterparts, it’s tackle. This was no exception, especially from Lycett. He led the game with five at half time, and though he only finished with six for the game, the tone he set attacking the man carrying the ball was unquestionable.
His stats for the game are modest – 15 touches with five marks and a couple of goals, but he was consistently good for the entire game.
Though Nic Naitanui had 33 of the Eagles hit outs, Lycett chipped in with 21 of his own. The entire Bulldogs team managed to have 16 between them. It was a tag team effort, but it was a dominant tag team effort.
Shannon Hurn’s use of the ball
I stopped counting how many effective kicks he had when he reached 17. At that point, he was travelling at 100% efficiency, and was really the architect off half back for the Eagles.
He finished with 29 touches, running at 90%. 90%?!?! Boooo! He really dropped off once I stopped taking notice.
Jack Darling as the number one target
Much-maligned at points in his career, Darling is a good, old-fashioned mark-kick man. He is nowhere near as versatile as Josh Kennedy, and will never be, but in the air up forward, he was a hard man to stop today.
He snagged his four goals straight to go along with 11 marks, and could’ve had at least one more of each, as Jamie Cripps dropped in front of him to pinch one on the last quarter.
Full disclosure – been working on an article on him entitled ‘The Ghost of Jack Darling.” May have to put it on hold the way he’s going.
There weren’t many winners for the Bullies, but MacRae went over 30 touches at 90% efficiency for the game. He also floated forward to snag three goals. His combination with Toby McLean may go some way to helping the Bulldogs’ depleted midfield.
The problem isn’t just the recent absence of Tom Liberatore, but the failure of the Bulldogs to replace outgoing stalwart, Matthew Boyd. Guys like Mitch Wallis and Clay Smith just haven’t been able to stay on the park.
Willie Rioli and Liam Ryan set the game alight in the first half.
Many will be talking about Ryan, and rightly so. His aerial feats will be a topic of discussion whether you love them, or think he should keep his feet on the ground more. However, it was more their willingness to use their bodies to turn contests that impressed me.
Rioli’s body work at half forward in the third quarter, completely moving Bailey Dale out of the contest and setting up a Jack Darling mark and a handball over the top to Daniel Venables was a clear indication that he is a Rioli in more than just name.
Not to be outdone, Ryan decided to run into Jason Johannisen at one point and took the wind out of his sails. I think it’s fantastic to see young players coming into the system who know how to throw their weight around.
The Dogs’ lack of urgency
The game was on the line in the second quarter. Early, I know, but that’s where the game was definitely won. The Eagles brought the pressure, and the Dogs folded.
They rallied to make pseudo-comebacks in the third and fourth quarters, but you could tell the Eagles were in cruise control by this stage.
How many times did the Eagles run into an open goal? That is what a lack of urgency does – exposes you.
The Bulldog big men
Where are Tom Boyd and Josh Schache?
The Western Bulldogs are in dire need in many areas, but a tall that can, and will clunk a mark is an area that needs drastic improvement.
With Jeremy McGovern patrolling the defensive 50, the Bulldogs were forced to hit up smaller targets whenever they could, as there was no way they were going to be able to bomb long with any amount of success.
This is going to be harsh and I know it, but I expect more from a guy who is reputedly one of the stars of the game.
Marcus Bontempelli was a name on the lips of every football lover 18 short months ago. His skill, with the ball, and ability to get it in a contest were enough to make supporters, and opposition fans shake their heads. He’s not doing that at the moment. He’s not doing too much of anything.
It’s funny – when the Bulldogs are up and running, and Bont gets the ball, his laconic stride over the turf looks effortless. He seems to glide and change direction with little to no effort. BUT, when the Dogs are struggling, does his laconic running style and loping gait look the same? Or does it look a little lazy? A little disinterested? A little as though he’s checked out?
Bont has the ability to be the best player in the competition, but it has to be what he wants. Guys like Dustin Martin and Nat Fyfe willed themselves into contests over the first two weeks of the season. Bont has willed himself out of them. He is averaging 20.5 disposals the first two games; down on a lacklustre 2017 and way down on his 2016 "superstar" numbers.
The Bulldogs need more from him. So much more.
Shuey was quieter today, but didn’t need to impose himself. The first contest of the game saw Naitanui tap the ball straight down Shuey’s throat. Would warm the hearts of Eagle supporters.
Billy Gowers finished with 1.3 for the Bulldogs, but looks a likely sort. Eight marks playing pretty deep was a good return. If he had the scope to move up to the wings a bit more, could be a few 10+ mark games in store for him.
Josh Dunkley’s goal had no right going through. Whether it was touched off the boot or not should not have mattered. Naitanui should’ve been in position to kill it on the line. He wasn’t.
Turnovers areTHE killer in elite footy. The amount of space available after a turnover at half forward is amazing. As defenders and mids run off to make space, losing the ball is a cardinal sin. A Darling intercept mark set the ball rolling for LeCras to hand off to Liam Ryan for a nice goal.
Never been a more obvious “protected zone” 50 metre penalty than the one against Mark LeCras. He should’ve known better – gave the Bullies an out when they were struggling to exit the defensive 50.
Liam Ryan is going to cause so coaches some headaches. Will require a bit of work to curtail, due to him leaping at the footy so often. Will take an opponent that can stay with him on the ground, but also make sure they have touch on him while the ball is in flight.
Classic slingshot from the Eagles saw Waterman hit Darling after the majority of the game took place in the Dogs’ forward 50 for 2-3 minutes. Finally showing some fight, Darling’s conversion would’ve ripped the guts out of the Dogs.
The story of the Western Bulldogs’ night was the goal review and touched-behind just before half time. It just wasn’t working for them.
What an awkward landing on Jack Darling’s head and neck by Nic Nat. Great mark, and I was glad to see Darling up and about after it.
Dogs had two really good passages of play for the quarter. First one saw Jackson Trengove mark against Naitanui, turn, leave Nic Nat behind him and hit the youngster English. He then handed to Matt Suckling, but the finish was poor. Minutes later, they went coast to coast with Lachie Hunter hitting Luke Dahlhaus in the goal square for a goal.
Dogs did not get reward for effort in the third. I think they would’ve dominated the inside 50 stats for the third quarter.
Three touches for the Bont for the third quarter.
Liam Ryan’s tap to Masten, then the run to receive the handball back deserved the goal he finished with. Excellent small forward play.
Mitch Honeychurch seems to give a damn about his team. Nice to see.
Goal of the day, for mine, goes to Scott Lycett, who used a deft tap to change the direction of the ball in the goal square, and kicked it out of the air for a ripping goal.
Finally, all at The Mongrel Punt wish Adam Simpson nothing but the absolute best as he deals with a family situation that prevented him from coaching today.
And that’s that for the Dogs and Eagles. Great win on the road to West Coast.If you like what you’re getting from the Mongrel, or even if you want to have a crack at us, get us on Facebook, or say g’day on Twitter.