Western Bulldogs 2.4 6.12 7.17 9.19.73
GWS Giants 3.3 6.3 8.6 11.9.75
Western Bulldogs: Stringer 3, Bontempelli 3, Daniel 2, Suckling
GWS Giants: Cameron 4, Greene 3, Patton 3, Lobb
Alex Docherty's Best
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Daniel, Macrae, Dahlhaus, Johannisen, Stringer
GWS Giants: Williams, Greene, Cameron, Patton, Kelly, Mumford, Shiel
For the third straight week, the Western Bulldogs have been horribly inefficient in front of goal, but this time around, they were made to pay the price for it, as the Greater Western Sydney Giants held off the reigning premiers in a two-point win in the latest installment of this fast-emerging rivalry between the two sides.
A crowd of 14,048 came out in very chilly conditions at Manuka Oval and were treated to what was a thrilling encore performance of the Preliminary Final played between the two sides last year, only this time it was the Giants who came out on top, but in amongst the manic pressure applied from both sides and some horrific umpiring decisions, it was the Bulldogs' players themselves who were their own worst enemy on the night.
The Bulldogs stuck with the Giants for most of the night, when it looked like the Giants would run away from it. GWS kicked the opening two goals of the game through Rory Lobb and Jon Patton, but goals to Caleb Daniel and Matt Suckling squared the ledger, setting the tone for a thrilling evening ahead. The Dogs should be given huge credit for serving it up to a fellow premiership contender, when they had no real right to, given their poor form heading into Friday night.
However, there is no doubt Luke Beveridge and his men will rue all the wasted opportunities in front of goal - the second quarter in particular was one that would've had most supporters frustrating. The Dogs dominated the Giants, with 22 inside 50s to GWS' seven a very telling statistic. But out of those 22 inside 50s, the Bulldogs could only register a return of 4.8 for the second quarter.
The third quarter wasn't much better, with the Dogs again getting more inside 50 entries, 17-11 but registered five behinds in the premiership quarter before it took a Toby Greene fist in the face of Caleb Daniel to get the Bulldogs' seventh goal of the evening. An All-Australian last year, Greene had been walking a very fine line with the officials in recent weeks, with his latest indescretion coming in last week's 'Battle of the Bridge' with cross-town rivals Sydney when he headbutted Isaac Heeney. It's almost certain he'll spend a little holiday and has been Footscray's public enemy number one this weekend.
It looked for a moment that act of thuggery would ignite the Bulldogs as they kicked the first goal of the last quarter through Marcus Bontempelli, giving the Dogs an 11-point lead early,before a rough tackle on Tom Liberatore from Giant ruckman Shane Mumford left Libba sitting on the bench for the remainder of the game.
GWS took advantage of this and looked to a former number one draft pick in Jonathan Patton who kicked two big goals, with his set-shot from the boundary line from the 50-metre arc sailing straight through the big sticks, proving to be a telling goal in this contest. Greene added another shortly afterwards from a similar angle but from a closer distance to make it a 10-point margin at the 18th minute.
Jake Stringer took it upon himself to trim the deficit with a vintage, pack-busting, snap on goal that brought the Dogs back to less than a kick. But not many others were able to find the big sticks. Josh Dunkley couldn't nail one from 50, Toby McLean's shot veered right, and former Giant Tom Boyd inexplicably shanked one off the side of his boot from 45 metres out, right when the club needed him to step up. The Dogs continued to push and press to take the lead back in the dying minutes, but the Giants held on to record their fifth win of the season, but arguably their most important one to date.
Some will say that Boyd was exhausted after rucking with Shane Mumford all evening long, and others will blame the kick on the slippery ball due to the dewy and moist conditions the ground was in, but the club doesn't pay this man a million dollars per year to shank a set shot, with a distance that he could've easily made.
The effort was there, and certainly won't be questioned, but Boyd's kick summed up how awful the Dogs were in front of goal Friday night, and if the Western Bulldogs have a goal-kicking coach, I certainly wouldn't be giving him this week's paycheck, after witnessing that dreck. The Dogs have now kicked a combined total of 38.56 in the past three weeks, and with games against Richmond, West Coast, Geelong and St. Kilda to come, this issue has to be addressed during the week otherwise the club's quest of back-to-back flags will be in serious jeopardy.
Leading The Way
Caleb Daniel played in his first senior game since that shock omission a couple of weeks ago and responded accordingly with a stellar performance, booting two goals to go along with his 24 disposals, eight marks and three clearances. Marcus Bontempelli threatened to be a match-winner all evening long, kicking three goals from 22 disposals, seven tackles and three clearances, whilst Jack Macrae (26 disposals and eight tackles) and Luke Dahlhaus (27 disposals, four tackles, four marks and three inside 50s) were also prolific in the midfield.
Jason Johannisen made headlines during week for resuming his contract talks with the club after initally holding back talks until the end of the season, but the Norm Smith medallist continued to play some ripping footy, collecting 21 disposals and seven rebound 50s off half-back, as did captain Robert Murphy, who collected 21 disposals, five rebound 50s and four inside 50s, but they will benefit when Matthew Boyd and Dale Morris both come back into the side.
Bailey Dale (18 disposals, four inside 50s, four marks) and Bailey Williams (11 disposals, three marks, three tackles and three inside 50s) showed promising signs in their first games of 2017, Toby McLean (22 disposals, five clearances, five inside 50s and five tackles) and Lin Jong (16 disposals, seven tackles and five inside 50s) battled hard whilst Jake Stringer tried his hardest to pull the Dogs over the line whenever he got the opportunity.
For the Giants, they got the win they were looking for since that fateful September evening at Spotless Stadium. Toby Greene, Jeremy Cameron and Jon Patton combined for 10 of the Giants' 11 goals. Whilst Dogs' fans and AFL fans in general have every right to slag off Greene and his attitude, you cannot deny how talented of a player he is right now. 17 disposals, seven marks, four tackles and three goals from the 2016 All-Australian on Friday night, whilst Cameron snagged four goals - three of them coming in the second quarter, whilst Patton came alive in the last quarter with two of his three goals coming at very crucial moments.
Zac Williams (25 disposals, six tackles, five marks and four rebound 50s) and Heath Shaw (24 disposals, 10 rebound 50s) provided plenty of drive from half-back, with Nick Haynes (19 disposals, eight marks and five rebound 50s) and Aidan Corr (15 disposals, nine marks and seven rebound 50s) very impressive as the key defenders.
In the midfield it was the likes of Dylan Shiel (29 disposals, six marks and six clearances), Callan Ward (27 disposals, five clearances and three inside 50s) and Josh Kelly (24 disposals, six clearances, five inside 50s and five tackles) getting the job done, whilst Shane Mumford dominated in the ruck with 52 hitouts and seven tackles, but could be in trouble by the match review panel after his tackle on Tom Liberatore in the last quarter caused a concussion on the 2014 Charlie Sutton medallist.
Very interesting to point out that the Bulldogs have lost all their round three and round six match-ups since Luke Beveridge has taken the helm, but the Bulldogs will need to put Friday night behind them as they attempt to get back on the winners list next Saturday night as they host the Richmond Tigers in what can only described as another blockbuster game that the Dogs must win, as they sit seventh on the AFL ladder after six games.
Who would've thought that the Tigers would be 5-1 leading up to next weekend? Despite having a draw that some punters have labelled 'soft', Richmond have shown massive improvement in comparison to the last time these two sides have met. The reigning premiers will not want to let this one slip, and with Tory Dickson and Mitch Wallis successfully returning through the VFL this weekend, the Dogs can only go up from here.