AFL 9 months ago

JLT Report: Understrength Bulldogs Lose To Brisbane, No Cause For Concern Yet

  • JLT Report: Understrength Bulldogs Lose To Brisbane, No Cause For Concern Yet

    MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 02: Jackson Macrae of the Bulldogs looks upfield during the 2017 JLT Community Series AFL match between the Western Bulldogs and the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on March 2, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/Getty Images)

Western Bulldogs    0.2.2     0.2.4     1.5.7     1.6.13.58
Brisbane Lions          0.4.2     0.6.3     0.9.6      0.10.6.66

Supergoals

Western Bulldogs: Suckling
Brisbane Lions: Nil

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Goals

Western Bulldogs: Jong 2, Stringer 2, C. Smith, Dale
Brisbane Lions: Close 2, Robinson 2, Bell 2, Barrett, Keays, Zorko, Hipwood

Alex Docherty's Best

Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Macrae, Picken, Jong, Suckling, McLean
Brisbane: Zorko, D. Beams, Martin, Andrews, Bewick, Barrett, Mayes

After a week's rest, the Western Bulldogs were back on deck for the second of three pre-season matches, this time against a Brisbane team that finds themselves preparing for a new era under new coach Chris Fagan.

The Lions had found themselves around the bottom of the ladder for a few years now, but on Thursday night, the Lions looked like they were finally heading in the right direction. An eight-point win against a Bulldogs' team that only had nine of its 22 premiership players playing might not sound like a big deal for most people, but it was the way that the Lions conducted themselves for most of the night that had me impressed.

Brisbane led for all but a few minutes of the match and looked way more organised and composed with the ball in hand as opposed to the last few years, and whilst there were moments where they butchered the footy, they didn't let it bother them, whereas they would've put their head down last year under Justin Leppitsch.

Call me crazy if you must, but what I saw from the Lions on Thursday night, reminded me of the Bulldogs when coach Luke Beveridge took over for the 2015 season. The organisation was a shambles and the team had put in mediocre performances on a regular basis before Beveridge was appointed coach. His first few games saw the Dogs play like they were re-invigorated and the rest of course is history. 

I'm not saying Brisbane will win a flag within the next 24 months like what Beveridge has done with the Bulldogs, but Chris Fagan was a key figure in Hawthorn's four flags in the 2000s. I have no doubt after witnessing their performance, I have no doubts he is the man to take this team forward.

As for the Western Bulldogs, is this loss a cause for concern? It shouldn't be, given that it's only a pre-season match and that Luke Beveridge has opted to give the younger, inexperienced players a run over a number of players who do boast that experience. Marcus Bontempelli was a late out and they opted to rest their prized recruit Travis Cloke at the last minute.

They also did manage to fight back from a 35-point deficit against a Brisbane team that had a lot more first-choice players in their side than the Bulldogs, getting as close as four points, before the Lions held on to win the match.

2016 Draftees Patrick Lipinski, Lewis Young, Nathan Mullenger-McHugh and Tim English all got their first taste of AFL experience. Lipinski, Young and Mullenger-McHugh all played less than a half of footy, but showed some nice things, whilst English played for almost three quarters and showed plenty of promise as he aims for a round one debut. He'll likely get another chance in the Dogs' final practice game against the Gold Coast Suns on Thursday.

As far as who starred for the red, white and blues, it should come as no surprise to anyone that it was a number of premiership stars. None impressed me more than Josh Dunkley, who looks like he won't be suffering from second-year blues anytime soon. He finished with a team-high 23 disposals, six tackles and five inside 50s, but his finishing in front of goals continue to be a weakness, as he registered three behinds for the evening.

Premiership players Jack Macrae (17 disposals, seven marks, seven tackles), Toby McLean (21 disposals, five tackles, three marks) and Liam Picken (21 disposals, six inside 50s) all looked dangerous as did Matt Suckling, who kicked one of the wobbliest nine-pointers you will ever see in a pre-season match.

Despite a disappointing season-ending ACL injury to rookie-listed defender Roarke Smith, the Bulldogs shouldn't be too fazed with their win-loss record in the pre-season as they focus to go back-to-back premiers in the first time in the history of this football club.

The Opposition

There is a lot to like about this Brisbane team going forward and admittedly, I was initially a bit shocked with the appointment of Dayne Beams for club captain. His talent unquestionable, it's been his inability to stay fit and healthy that was the big question mark for me. But he showed everyone on Thursday night, that Brisbane were right to put their faith in him, as he put in a solid performance that saw him pick up 24 disposals, seven marks and three tackles.

Dayne Zorko - individually - had a terrific 2016 campaign, he had the ball on a string and was everywhere, recording 34 disposals, 12 tackles, eight marks, six inside 50s, five clearances and a goal, and had good support from former Giant Jake Barrett (17 disposals, six marks, five tackles, one goal), Rohan Bewick (23 disposals, seven marks) and Tom Cutler (23 disposals, eight marks).

Their keys looks promising. Eric Hipwood was a good find late last year down forward and looked dangerous again despite only the one goal and the other key forward Michael Close also looked good, kicking two goals and if he can keep his body right, it's possible he can do good things down forward this year. On the other end of the ground, Harris Andrews continues to emerge as a key defender, registering 19 disposals and nine marks, whilst new recruit Jack Frost looks he will be a handy acquisition down back.

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