Western Bulldogs 2.6 7.7 12.11 16.14.110
Sydney Swans 4.1 6.5 9.7 13.9.87
Western Bulldogs: Cloke 3, Stringer 3, Bontempelli 2, T. Boyd 2, Picken 2, Jong, Murphy, Hunter, Suckling
Sydney Swans: Reid 6, Franklin 4, Newman, Florent, Laidler
Alex Docherty's Best
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Jong, Stringer, Picken, Adams, Wood, Cloke
Sydney Swans: Reid, Franklin, Lloyd, Kennedy, Parker, Hayward
It was the Grand Final rematch that the media had hyped up all week, but the two teams delivered big time underneath the Friday night lights, as the Western Bulldogs won their highly-anticipated rematch against the Swans by 23 points, making it four in a row against the red and whites. It was a game that fluctuated back and forth right from the outset, with a crowd just under 43,000 witnessing a rematch worthy of the epic Grand Final that it was last year.
With the Bulldogs unfurling their premiership flag pre-game, the Swans came bursting out of the blocks with something to prove. They kicked the opening four goals of the contest and threatened to run away with it from the opening bounce. Their pressure around the ball made the Bulldogs looked very jittery and at times, a little bit too cute at times and as a result, turned the ball over numerous times in that opening quarter when they probably shouldn't have.
It took until midway through the opening quarter for the Dogs to get going. The Swans went down to 21 men when Kurt Tippett landed awfully on his left ankle and was taken to the bench, he didn't return for the rest of the game. Shortly afterwards, Travis Cloke took a mark in the middle of Etihad Stadium and then was abruptly laid out by Sydney's Zak Jones shortly afterwards, setting the tone for an intense evening ahead. Cloke then proceeded to slot his first goal of the night, after he butchered a very gettable shot earlier in the quarter, and moments after his first, found his second goal of the night after defender Aliir Aliir was pinged for holding the man deep in attacking 50.
After a sluggish opening term, the Dogs settled and started to look more like the team that won the flag last year as they began to take control of the contest in the second quarter. Bulldogs captain Robert Murphy got the team up and about a minute into the term with his first goal since returning from his ACL injury last year. The lead went back and forth when Matt Suckling delivered a trademark bomb from long range to give the Bulldogs the lead for the first time of the night, they then traded goals with the Swans for the most part of the term, before the Dogs added two goals late in the term to take an eight-point lead into half-time.
Tom Boyd, after a quiet first-half, wasted no time to make his presence felt as he took an early contender for mark of the year deep inside 50 and goaled inside the first minute of the third quarter, he would make two goals for the quarter later in the quarter as Aliir gave away another free kick for holding the man. The champs began to pull away with another five-goal quarter, with a lead as big as 28 points. A late goal to Lance Franklin, who up to that point went goalless all night, saw the Swans down 22 points at the final break.
But nobody could've predicted that the Franklin goal in the third quarter would start something special in the last quarter. With Marcus Adams and the pro-Bulldogs crowd getting the better of him for most of the night, Buddy kicked his second of the night only a minute into the last term and then proceeded to kick two nearly identical goals from outside the fifty metre arc to cut the margin from 22 to two points in a span of 10 minutes. Then it was left to Sam Reid, who had been torching the Bulldog defenders all night, to give the Swans the lead for the first time since late in the second term.
Just when you thought the Swans were going to run away with it, the reigning premiers showed that same fight, passion and belief that got them that historic 2016 flag in the first place. It started with Liam Picken's terrific run-down chase on Sydney captain Josh Kennedy inside the Bulldogs' attacking 50, and whilst he would miss that shot on goal, he would play a vital hand in giving the Bulldogs back the lead.
He ran it out of the defensive 50 and then sprinted up the ground to recieve the ball again and kick to Marcus Bontempelli, who was striding towards the goal-square, he would virtually steal it from underneath Harry Cunningham's nostrils to kick the goal. Picken would also kick two important goals shortly thereafter, one of those being on the receiving end of a controversial deliberate rushed behind free-kick from Sydney's Callum Mills, after last year's Rising Star winner punched the ball over the line as Picken was running towards him. Picken's second goal in the dying seconds, along with Jake Stringer's superb running goal minutes earlier would ensure the Dogs would celebrate the unfurling of their 2016 flag in style.
Leading The Way
So many Dogs starred on the night. Marcus Bontempelli came into the game in the second half after a quiet first-half, he would finish up with 30 disposals, seven tackles, six inside 50s five clearances and two goals, Tom Liberatore, who played his 100th game on Friday night, was busy with 19 disposals, a whopping 16 tackles and six clearances, Jake Stringer was back to his brilliant best, with three stunning goals from 15 disposals and six marks and Liam Picken proved again to be a massive headache for the Swans defenders with a stunning fourth quarter, he finished with 21 disposals, six marks and two goals.
But there were quite a few from the Bulldogs' team on Friday night that didn't play in the Grand Final but starred on this night. Marcus Adams, who came in for the injured Dale Morris this weekend, was huge in defence and showed positive signs that he's back in that early-2016 form that got a lot of Bulldogs supporters excited. He had 20 disposals, seven marks, five tackles and along with 2016 premiership captain Easton Wood, who had 16 disposals and five very important intercept marks, inspired the defensive unit all night. On the other end, it was Travis Cloke that got the Dogs up and running when they needed someone to step up from a shaky start. He would end the night with three goals from 18 disposals and seven marks.
Lin Jong broke his collarbone in the Elimination Final last year and was also seen touring Collingwood's facilities mid-2016, but on Friday night, he repaid the faith the Dogs had in him, with 23 disposals, eight marks, seven tackles and one goal, Tom Campbell was brought into the side this week and proved to work well in tandem with Tom Boyd, he finished with 14 disposals, 33 hitouts, six tackles and seven inside 50s and how can we not forget Robert Murphy, who continues to show that he still has it at AFL level, he had 20 disposals, six marks, four inside 50s and a goal.
It doesn't sound right to say that Sydney have begun their season 0-2, but it was only three years ago when the Swans last started the season with two-straight losses, and they ended up on top of the ladder and made the Grand Final, but given that the Swans are blooding games into their younger players, they might be finding it hard to break into the top four let alone a Grand Final, but if there's one thing I've learnt from this Sydney team in years gone by, Never ever count them out.
Sam Reid kicked six goals from 15 disposals and five marks - equalling his career-high set back in 2012 when he put six past the Brisbane Lions. This takes his 2017 tally to nine goals in two games and given that he didn't play a game last year with a number of injuries, this will please Swans fans immensely. Lance Franklin nearly dragged the Swans over the line in the last quarter with three last-quarter goals. He finished with four for the night with 22 disposals, 11 marks and 10 inside 50s.
Jake Lloyd led all players in disposals with 34 touches along with eight rebound 50s, five inside 50s and four marks, debutants Nic Newman and Will Hayward were also impressive. Newman slotted through his first goal in the AFL in the second quarter and finished with 16 disposals and six tackles, Hayward was solid with 16 disposals, six tackles and six inside 50s and second-gamer Oliver Florent continued to show signs that he will be a very good player in the future, highlighted by a stunning run-down tackle on Jason Johannisen in the second quarter, followed by an equally impressive set-shot goal from a tight angle.
But they would've loved to have gotten more from their veterans and this where I think this is the root problem for them being win-less in 2017. They lost the possession count on Friday night 412-352. Josh Kennedy and Luke Parker battled hard for 24 and 21 possessions respectively but were down on their lofty standards, Dan Hannebery has continued on his poor start to 2017 with 19 disposals with very little impact and Kieran Jack had 19 disposals at 47 percent efficiency - simply not good enough for a guy that used to captain this club. They need their more important players like Isaac Heeney, Jarrad McVeigh and Dane Rampe back in this team and Tom Mitchell's departure has hurt their midfield brigade more than orignally thought. It's a tough road ahead for the Swans, but I know they'll bounce back.
The Western Bulldogs are on the road for the first time this year, as they make their first of two trips to Perth this year to tackle the Fremantle Dockers, who have yet to register their first win of the season, being thumped by both Geelong and Port Adelaide over the first two rounds.
Let's not forget the last time the Dogs travelled up to Perth to take on Fremantle, the Dockers managed to pull one out for their retiring champion in Matthew Pavlich in a horrific performance put on by the red, white and blues. But I am confident that this will be a much different Bulldogs outfit next week, could we see our first blowout win in 2017?