West Coast v Western Bulldogs – The Mongrel Review

Sometimes you’ve gotta sleep on a game and come back to it cold to reflect on exactly why it played out the way it did.

If I was writing this as I was watching it, it would’ve read like the ravings of a madman. I didn’t feel like West Coast would win this game right up until they did, and I’m still not convinced they did.

Actually, the biggest question (for me) is why they won. They have nothing to play for, the Bulldogs had everything to play for, and no one would’ve grumbled over another honourable loss. Sure, Adam Simpson came out after the game and said he’d been hurt by talks about tanking, but if you’re rooted to the bottom of the table and lose to a team fighting for finals, no one bats an eye. Plus you get Harley Reid.


On form, the Dogs looked like they were due a big win if they wanted to make any noise in September, having oscillated between resounding victories over teams in their same ladder postcode (Essendon, Richmond) and games they lost that they probably shouldn’t have (GWS, Hawthorn). Point is, had West Coast started hot and faded, no one’s gonna call them out for tanking. Plus you might get Harley Reid.

See what I mean about the ravings of a madman? Even with the benefit of some hindsight, I’m a bit baffled. It’s not helped by the inherent delirium of living through 24 hour tram works right outside my window, but that’s no real excuse.


The Eagles vs. Themselves

There are games this season where it’s felt like all you have to do to get past West Coast is show up. Not the case on Sunday, though it felt like it would be for large portions of the game. Such is the negative aura around this Eagles squad that it felt like, inevitably, this game would slip through their grasp. Their five goal to one start in the first quarter looked like it would vanish by quarter time. They couldn’t make any headway in the second. More than maybe any team I’ve watched this season, the Eagles have this curious habit of turning into witches hats for two minute periods, eroding any kind of positive progress they’d made before that. In watching it, you could see a path to victory if they could eliminate that from their game and not shoot themselves in the foot a series of times.

The Eagles won this game in the third quarter. They led the game for over 80% of its total, but the Dogs made a charge in the third, with a Rhylee West goal – their fourth in succession – giving them the lead and all of the momentum. That’s when you think, aw yeah, good job West Coast, put in a good shift, Dogs to win it from here. And yet.


Cometh the Hour…

Cometh Jamie Cripps.

Third career bag of five, a full third of his goals for the season, and the first time you’d say he’d had the better weekend of the Cripps’ in a while. The team knew it, too – Oscar Allen might’ve finished with three and three, plus an out of bounds for good measure, but Cripps was the man to get them over the line. Three goals in the last quarter – one to give them the lead, one to push it past two kicks, and the last goal they scored – meant that every time the Dogs thought they had a sniff, he’d jam their nostrils closed. He got the service because players were looking for the hot hand, and he was the clear key target in the last quarter where they needed someone to get the job done. Eight tackles too. Big day.


Tim Kelly

No ifs ands or buts about the subheading cos you don’t need it for that performance. Fuck, Tim Kelly’s good.

Recorded as three centre clearances but they all felt more significant than that, like the match swung on whether or not he could will them over the line. It felt like five times that the Dogs would score, but then Kelly grabs the centre clearance and booms the ball 60 metres into the forward 50 to give them the territory advantage. Complete superstar performance.

For large parts of the game it was like watching a team with a countdown until they lost, but every time he got the ball it bought them more time. One of those ones that passes the eye test, the numbers test, and a secret third test that’s a bit more intangible.


Marcus Bontempelli

I mean, kinda the same points here as above. Bont didn’t have a bigger game but he had a massive second half as the wheels fell started to fall off for his boys. 12 tackles, 21 contested possessions, 5 centre clearances, 10 score involvements. All numbers that lead his team. Surely vaults himself into Brownlow favourite status, and cements himself in the best player in the AFL conversation. Shame about the rest of it.



It’s difficult to single out what went wrong for the Bulldogs. Complacency, maybe. No plan B. Letting West Coast have the lead for most of the game like you’ll inevitably get the win. Not sure.

Lobb kicked his highest total in Dogs colours, but Aaron Naughton was quiet enough that you’d forget he was there. Adam Treloar was around the ball a lot but didn’t feel like he did a lot with it. They couldn’t stop Kelly when he was the only Eagles player having a day, and they couldn’t stop the rest of the Eagles when they started streaming towards a win. It’s big questions for Beveridge time.

They weren’t helped by their lack of key backs, but you feel like that’s an institutional problem if you’ve thrown money at Rory Lobb instead. Not that he’s their ostensible saviour, but it’s hard to think about the performance Zaine Cordy put in Saturday night without wondering what he could’ve done for the Dogs on Sunday In concert with Liam Jones.

Just a couple quick things to end off on. Much of the coverage about this Eagles win (mine included) has a cloud of confusion over it that focuses on what it means for the competition, not what it means for the Eagles.

This is fucking massive for them.

Two wins in three, albeit with a historic loss in between, with players looking competent, good even, across the park. Maric stood out for mine, Hewett and Long had good games, Petrevski-Seaton/Jones/Hunt give this team genuine transition pace and that’s not something you can realistically manufacture. McGovern had a real impact in this game, and if the AFL charted on/off numbers his would be close to if not the most of anyone on the ground.

Case in point, even the headline for the match review on the AFL’s official site mentions the teams this guarantees for the finals as much as it paints the game as an upset. This is a win to be proud of (for Eagles fans), and it feels like that might get lost in the mists of the season.