Collingwood 1.5 7.9 9.11 12.14.86
Western Bulldogs: Hunter 3, Johannisen 2, Picken 2, Bontempelli 2, Stringer, M. Boyd, Crameri, McLean, Liberatore, Cloke
Collingwood: Fasolo 3, Pendlebury 2, Sidebottom 2, Mayne, White, Treloar, Goldsack, Hoskin-Elliott
Alex Docherty's Best
Western Bulldogs: Johannisen, Hunter, Liberatore, Macrae, Dahlhaus, Bontempelli, M. Boyd
Collingwood: Pendlebury, Sidebottom, Adams, Treloar, Fasolo, Howe, Hoskin-Elliott
The Western Bulldogs have got their premiership defence off to a great start, by knocking off a brave Collingwood by 14 points on Friday night at the MCG, making five wins in a row against the Black and White army.
But the Dogs were made to earn the premiership points on the night as Collingwood had control for most of the contest, beating the Dogs in disposals, clearances, inside 50s, contested possessions and hitouts - all of those categories were won by a fair amount. The only thing that hurt the Pies was their effeciency with the ball. Particularly in the first half when the Pies struggled to put the ball through the big sticks, and the Dogs more often than not made them pay with swift ball movement and precise kicking.
The Bulldogs kicked the first four goals of the match, and by the time Jake Stringer had the Dogs' fourth on the board, Collingwood had three behinds to their name, before Steele Sidebottom kicked Collingwood's first goal for 2017, but it was Travis Cloke's goal late in the quarter that got Doggie fans up and about as he faced the loud boos coming out of the Collingwood cheersquad from beyond the 50-metre arc. The goal silenced the boos and the look from the leader of the Collingwood cheersquad 'Joffa' Corfe told the entire story. But the Pies were able to withstand the pressure that the Bulldogs were giving them and got themselves back to within a kick at the main break with a six goal burst thanks to the brilliance of Steele Sidebottom and Alex Fasolo, both of whom kicked the Pies back into the contest.
After threatening all throughout the second quarter to regain the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game, Adam Treloar rammed one home in the opening minutes of the third term to give the Pies a two-point advantage and looked on top. But the Bulldogs, being the reigning premiers that they are, flexed their muscle and showed why they are the team to beat with five unanswered goals to open up a game-high 31-point buffer deep into the quarter before a Tyson Goldsack bomb from 50 gave the Pies a sniff heading into the final break.
Down 25 points heading into the final term, the Pies got the dream start with their captain Scott Pendlebury goaling in the fourth minute of the term to give them a massive chance, but the Bulldogs were able to keep Collingwood at bay and answered every challenge thrown at them to record their first win for 2017. The only downside being the leg injury to Dale Morris sustained in the final minute, with scans revealing over the weekend that it was a broken leg and will miss up to two months of footy.
Leading The Way
Western Bulldogs captain Robert Murphy marked his return to AFL footy since early-2016 in fine fashion with 22 disposals, six marks and five inside 50s and whilst he might not have been the best on ground, but the stats suggest that he is far from finished. He rotated between half-back and half-forward with last year's Norm Smith medallist Jason Johannisen who continued his stellar form from last year's premiership win with a team-high 30 disposals, two goals, seven marks and five rebound 50s.
Marcus Bontempelli continued to what Marcus Bontempelli does best and that is turn up at crucial points at the game. He kicked two goals from 22 disposals - a goal midway through the second quarter where the Pies threatened to snatch the lead and a goal to regain the lead early in the third quarter and continued to make every possession count. Tom Liberatore worked incredibly hard in the midfield and recorded 14 tackles to go with his 16 disposals and a goal, whilst Lachie Hunter (21 disposals and three goals), Jack Macrae (25 dipsoals, seven marks and seven tackles) and Luke Dahlhaus (24 disposals, seven tackles and five clearances) were also prolific in the midfield.
Down back, Matthew Boyd, sporting a new protective helmet after copping a busted ear in the last pre-season outing, showed no signs of slowing down with 26 disposals in a solid display from the 2016 All-Australian, whilst Fletcher Roberts and Zaine Cordy were admirable against young gun Darcy Moore and American Mason Cox, keeping the duo to one goal from 18 disposals. On the other end, Liam Picken kicked a couple of vital second-half goals and whilst Travis Cloke might've only had the one goal on the night, he got his hands on the footy with 14 disposals from six marks and featured in contest after contest, he did his job.
You've got to give coach Nathan Buckley and the Pies credit where credit is due for never giving up all night, even when many had begun to write them off at quarter time. The endeavour was there, and if they 10 or 11 goals by half time instead of seven, then it could've been an entirely different result. I mentioned earlier the Pies had beaten the Dogs in nearly every stat comprehensively - Disposals were 431-392, contested possessions were 161-135, clearances were 43-25 and inside 50s were 62-44. The only thing missing was the polish and Nathan Buckley identified that in the post-game press-conference.
The midfield was magnificent, with four of their star midfielders combining for an incredible total of 136 of the team's 431. Scott Pendlebury (35 disposals, two goals, 10 clearances, six tackles and six inside 50s) was perhaps Collingwood's best and most influential player, but Steele Sidebottom (35 disposals, two goals, six clearances and four inside 50s) wouldn't have been too far behind, whilst ex-Giants Adam Treloar (33 disposals, 10 inside 50s, eight marks, six inside 50s and a goal) and Taylor Adams (33 disposals, 12 tackles, seven clearances and six marks were ultra-impressive as well in the middle.
Alex Fasolo was huge in the second quarter and was a key factor in Collingwood's fightback, kicking three second-quarter goals and ended the game with 22 disposals and eight marks for the night in a good showing, whilst new recruit Will Hoskin-Elliott looked impressive in his first game in Collingwood colours with 22 disposals, eight marks and a goal. Down back, Jeremy Howe was solid with 26 disposals and 11 marks - surprisingly no screamers on this occasion, whilst the oft-injured Ben Reid got through the game unscathed and kept the former Pie Cloke to the single goal.
The Pies will be sweating on the availability on Travis Varcoe next weekend after he was reported for a head-high hit on Luke Dahlhaus midway through the first quarter, and whilst Dahlhaus played out the game, it looks more than likely that Varcoe could see himself out of next week's crunch game against Richmond.
Etihad Stadium is the place to be on Friday night as the Western Bulldogs host the Sydney Swans in a rematch of last year's enthralling Grand Final. Not only will the Swans want to exact revenge on the reigning champs, but they will want to get their first win of 2017 next Friday as they were shocked by Port Adelaide on Saturday.
Next Friday night will also be the unveiling of the Western Bulldogs premiership flag. That will happen pre-game, so Bulldog fans are encouraged to get to the game earlier than usual. It'll be a night you cannot afford to miss.