Talk about raining on a parade. With their season all but over, you could forgive the Dogs for laying down when the heat was on. They didn’t, and it was the Kangaroos that capitulated when things got hot.
Here’s the Mongrel’s good, bad and ugly.
Readers of this site will know that I have been a bit critical of Bont at times this season. For context, I have stated that he has had big quarters, or big moments in games once the heat was off. That wasn’t the case today. When the Dogs needed their start to stand up, he did.
Bontempelli had 14 touches in the red-hot third quarter, and was pivotal in dragging his team back into the contest. His disposals hurt North, and his desperation at the contest simply cannot be questioned.
Jumping backwards for a second… his work in the second, combining with Mitch Wallis out of the centre, getting it back and hitting Lynch at 50, and then running to receive a handball to let loose from 50 for a booming goal was one of the best individual sequences of play of the year. The best thing about it – he did it when it mattered. His team needed him to, and he made his team better by doing it.
He opened the last quarter the same way he left off in the third, gathering two touches in the Dogs’ first foray forward and his smother on Tarrant several minutes later to keep the ball trapped in the Bullies’ 50 was an inspirational piece of play.
Yes, I’ve been critical of him at times this season, and yes, I am happy to cop a whack if Dogs supporters want to give me one after today. I love watching great players play to their potential, and that’s what Bont did today. Let’s hope we see it right from the start of 2019. With him playing like that, the Western Bulldogs are a different proposition to what we’ve seen for the majority of this season.
The third quarter
I love good footy, and what we got today in the third quarter was footy at its best. We had a bit of a contrast, as we had the first quarter to compare it to, which we’ll cover below, but it all came together in the third quarter for the Bullies, as they challenged the Roos, with a scintillating quarter of football.
The stars came out to play, with Bontempelli, Ed Richards, Lachie Hunter, Caleb Daniel and Jack Macrae all stepping their game up. The Dogs were irrepressible, and piled on eight goals to two for the quarter as North wilted under their pressure.
The Roos started fighting back, with Majak Daw and Ben Cunnington trying desperately to stem the flow, but the Dogs smelled blood, and they were going after it.
Three players with 40+ touches
How often has a side had three players amass 40 or more touches in a game?
Never. Until today, that is.
The Dogs’ midfield ran roughshod over North, with Lachie Hunter (44 disposals), Jack Macrae (40) and Caleb Daniel (40) making history at Etihad Stadium. Whilst North had their regular contributors, the amount of ball available to the Dogs mids was astounding. It really emphasized just how much North are missing Ben Jacobs. If you take Macrae or Hunter out of the equation, we may have seen a very different outcome.
Of the three, Hunter was a standout for me. Injured early in the game, he returned to wreak havoc through the middle. Whilst the commentators wrapped up the efforts of Daniel, and the effectiveness of his kicks, I found it was Hunter that was hurting the most.
That is not to take away the efforts of Daniel and Macrae at all. For Daniel this was easily the best outing of his career, whereas Macrae is seemingly returning to the kind of form that had him as a lock for the All-Australian team before his hamstring injury.
The moment for Dale Morris
It was a classic Dale Morris moment in the fourth quarter, as he found himself in a foot race with the younger, faster Mason Wood. Help arrived for Wood, but since when has that ever mattered to Morris?
He scrapped and battled the two Kangaroos on the wing and refused to give in. The ball became trapped under him and Wood, and he forced a stoppage. It was not a win in the traditional sense, but it was a win nonetheless.
For the Dogs, watching their resolute defender taking on the young guns and holding his own despite the odds… you have to think they walked a bit taller after witnessing that.
I mentioned it was classic Dale Morris. Workmanlike, unspectacular... and effective.
So I did a bit of research – surprising, I know.
The first quarter saw a combined 45 turnovers between the two teams. They were on track for a combined 180 turnovers for the game. Others games this week had averaged 137 turnovers combined prior to the start of this game.
The kicking to position was atrocious, and the handballing wasn’t much better. There were missed targets everywhere. And it wasn’t just hacks out of trouble that were turning it over. Cunnington missed targets. Daniel missed targets. Hunter couldn’t find a man (unlike my mate, Joe Ganino) and there were plenty of intercept marks to be had all over the ground.
In perfect conditions under the roof, both teams found it almost impossible to kick to a teammate. Balls went wide, over heads and dropped short, with kicks hitting targets seemingly the exception rather than the rule.
North were able to capitalise a little better than the Dogs. Once things settled in the second and third quarters, it became a much more enjoyable game to watch. The first quarter resembled a disorganised game of kick-to-kick. The teams ended up with 147 combined turnovers for the game, but considering the amount they had in the first quarter, they really kicked it up a notch. Thanks Elzar.
Marley Williams shot by a sniper
Oh wow… this is perhaps the worst thing I’ve seen all year. Check the footage below, then we can continue.
Marley Williams – hang your head in shame. You took your eyes off the ball and lost a contest. That happens, and there isn’t one player alive who hasn’t had a moment of weakness in a game where they’ve chanced a look to see what’s coming. That’s what Marley did today, and if you’re a teammate or a coach, you live with that – it’s natural. Not ideal, but understandable.
But what came next was a disgrace. There was some very minor contact between Dickson and Williams – I liken it to brushing past someone on a crowded street. That would be the extent of it. In real time, without cameras, Marley may have gotten away with it. People may have thought he copped a whack to the chest, or the ribs, and the result was him clutching at his torso on the ground.
Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world anymore.
Marley Williams lay on the ground clutching his ribs following an incident that was probably as damaging as being punched by your little brother. The ball spilled and lay stationary next to him, allowing Toby McLean to gather, handball to Dickson, who ran inside 50 and goaled.
At this stage of the game, North were leading by a very handy 28 points. They were in control and looking like winners. This was the turning point; the crossroads of the game. Marley Williams should’ve committed, kept his eyes on the ball and made it his. If he couldn’t make it his, he should’ve halved the contest. If he couldn’t halve the contest, he should’ve tried to chase and salvage something – maybe he could have pressured Dickson as he gathered and ran toward goal?
But he did none of that. Something in his mind told him to stay down and pretend. Pretend that Tory Dickson hit him. Pretend he was injured, and pretend that he was unable to recover to keep playing. Maybe he was hoping for a whistle and had to follow through? I’m sure he hopes people didn’t notice. They did, and what they saw was a man in a side supposedly desperate to play finals, faking an injury.
It was so disappointing, and even with punches, people getting picked off away from the ball, and mistakes that have cost teams the game, this is the one incident that sticks in my craw. This incident was weak. It was staging, and it cost North a goal, but in a game that was decided by just seven points, Marley’s decision not to compete cost North Melbourne so much more than just six points. It cost them momentum, and when that happened, it gave the Dogs belief.
I feel sorry for Marley Williams today. Anyone who watches that will see what happened. He dogged it.
Majak Daw is looking more and more natural across half back, but it has got to the point where I expect him to take intercept marks now, and it makes when he drops them a little more noticeable. He put a couple down today, and was only bailed out in the last quarter by a strong mark by Scott Thompson after dropping his easiest attempt for the day. Still, by my count, he had five intercept marks. Not a bad day at the office.
The Dogs have a player in Aaron Naughton. Yeah, he was beaten a couple of times by Ben Brown one-on-one at ground level, but he reads the ball beautifully in the air. He was quicker to get to the right position all day.
You could tell Bont meant business early in the game by his attack on the ball against Luke McDonald. He came off second best in their body to body clash, but he didn’t take a backwards step.
I reckon Jarrod Waite collects a fine for bumping Trengove high on the boundary. Still, what a dumb act. It was high and ineffective.
Mason Wood might be remembered for that missed shot in the last, but he was exceptionally good on the lead from half forward to wing.
Jed Anderson has really made some great strides this season for North. If they all played with his desperation….
After watching highlights of last week, I have no idea why Brad Scott didn’t have someone at least in the vicinity of Jason Johannisen. Why would you allow a man who detests opposition attention get a free run at it?
Only one goal and four behinds from Fergus Greene this afternoon, but as rammed home by commentators over and over again, he knows how to find it.
After a few weeks of looking like a world-beater, Paul Ahern crashed back to Earth this week. He looked slow and tired.
I have no idea why umpires continually say “he ducked” when justifying not paying free kicks for too high, and then go on to ball it up. If a player ducks into a tackle, ping him for holding the ball – that’s a great way to deter others from ducking. Immediate punishment.
I was a little worried about Shaun Higgins’ condition after missing just one week for knee surgery, but watching him drag off Jack Macrae in the second quarter put those fears to rest. He went long to the square and Ben Brown got a free kick. Will Walker took the advantage and kicked the goal, but all I was thinking was “What if Brown now misses the Coleman by one goal?”
What was with the quick trigger on 50 metre penalties whenever there was a slight push in the back in a marking contest? A couple of them looked to be pushes before the marks were complete.
I couldn’t quite see who was responsible (enlighten me if you know), but Bont’s goal in the second quarter was thanks to a superb block at the stoppage on Jed Anderson.
North really looked to have hold of the Dogs in the second. Dickson’s errant handball in the middle set the Roos running and Brown got it lace out from Mason Wood for his second goal.
Good to see Josh Schache continue working after being beaten in the first half. His mark and goal early in the third was due to working hard back and losing Majak Daw in traffic.
Ed Richards is fast becoming a cult hero. Loved the way he took the game on in the third quarter, and his hands were very clean even in traffic.
I think it was Macrae who caught Robbie Tarrant dead to rights at half back. Tarrant looked really slow – I noted that he turned like a container ship as he tried to get away – and Macrae’s squaring ball to JJ set him up to go bang from 50.
Forward handball can often bring things undone when a team is under pressure, but the Dogs made it work in the third and took the game on. Lipinski may have finished with the goal, but the ball passed through plenty of pairs of hands en route to him.
Great pinning tackle by Morris on Waite in the third quarter at the top of the square. Again, classic Morris.
The only time I saw Morris beaten convincingly was by Jack Ziebell in the third quarter, when the North Captain was able to get over the back and kick the ball into the path of Brown for a goal.
Lin Jong’s goal seemed to surprise everyone in the third. It must have swung late as even some of the players seemed resigned to it missing.
Jy Simpkin did nowhere near enough today. There are a few players in the league who go missing often in first quarters. He’s one of them. Shaun Atley is another who rarely fails to under-deliver.
Caleb Daniel justified the commentators' praise of his kicking with a gorgeous hit from the back pocket to find Bont at half back. Any deviation in that kick and the Roos go back into attack.
The Dogs’ patience in the last quarter, to slowly build down the far wing showed a maturity that’s been missing at times this year. Greene may have missed the final link in the chain, but their control of the ball, and temp, was excellent.
I thought Goldstein was very good all day, but seeing Dickson outmark him in the last quarter kind of undoes a lot of that work. Tremendous work by Dickson, but Goldy should’ve imposed himself on that contest.
Great call against Ben Brown for hands in the back. Gutsy call by the umpire, but it was definitely there.
Gutsy effort from Josh Dunkley, who is so underrated, to stand his ground and take the hit for his team in the middle in the marking contest.
Great desperation from Johannisen against both Higgins and Ziebell in consecutive efforts late in the game.
Mason Wood’s kicking has been an issue all year, and with minutes to go, he had the chance to give the Roos a real chance. He misses and is travelling at 50% accuracy for the season.