Western Bulldogs 3.1 6.7 6.12 7.15.57
GWS Giants 4.5 7.5 13.8 16.9.105
Western Bulldogs: Dickson 2, Dahlhaus, Redpath, Dale, Murphy, Cloke
GWS Giants: Patton 4, De Boer 2, Kelly 2, Greene 2, Whitfield 2, Coniglio, Ward, Hopper, Lobb
Alex Docherty's Best
Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Hunter, McLean, Suckling, Murphy, Macrae
GWS Giants: Kelly, Shiel, Williams, Patton, Coniglio, Whitfield, Haynes
After a month of triumphs and victories, the Western Bulldogs have been brought back down to earth after a dominant second half by the Greater Western Sydney Giants, recording their biggest-ever victory over the Bulldogs, thumping the reigning premiers to the tune of 48 points on Friday night, sending the Dogs back in the congestion for the final spots in the top eight, with West Coast, Essendon, St. Kilda and Melbourne well and truly back in the hunt.
In front of a healthy crowd of just over 30,000 in attendance under the roof of Etihad Stadium - mostly Bulldogs supporters, the home side's performance left plenty to be desired after they continued their horrific form going towards goal, recording only seven goals from over 60 inside 50 entries, reaffirming doubt over this sides legitimacy as a finals contender in 2017.
It didn't start all too well for the Bulldogs as GWS' Jon Patton kicked three of the first four goals of the game, before former Docker Matt De Boer added the Giants' fourth goal of the quarter, however the Dogs hung in with the final two goals of the term, to only trail by nine points at quarter time, after GWS had nearly 40 more disposals in the opening quarter.
However, it would be the second quarter that would prove to be the Dogs' demise. It does have a similar feel to when they travelled to Adelaide over a month ago and got belted by the Crows. They had all the control in the second quarter then, and the Dogs showed their dominance in the second quarter, recording 22 inside 50s for the term alone. Unfortunately, what has been plaguing them all season, continued on Friday night, registering a miserly 3.6 from all those inside 50s.
However, on the flipside of things, GWS had only four inside 50 entries in the second term for a return of three goals, outlining how damaging this side can be. But with all the times the Bulldogs continued to butcher their inside 50 entries, they had their good moments throughout the second term, none better than Bob Murphy's goal to bring the margin back to a point, running around young Harry Himmelberg and slotting the goal from a tight angle, bringing Etihad Stadium to their feet.
After getting the lead for the first and only time in the night through a Jake Stringer behind, the Giants fired two quick goals before Travis Cloke snapped home a beauty in the 25th minute to keep the margin to within a goal before half time. But that would prove to be as close as the Dogs got - their next goal coming in the 24th minute in the final quarter, as the Giants opened up the game in the second half with a dominant display, whilst the Bulldogs were nothing more than a let-down after such a promising start.
The Bulldogs would add only 1.8 to their half time score from 31 inside 50 entries, whilst the Giants would decisively ice this contest with a six-goal third term, and then taking the margin to as great as 50 points, sending the rest of the competition on notice and inching that one step closer towards a top-two spot.
However, the big talking point to come out of this game is the report on much-maligned GWS forward Toby Greene, who was reported early in the third quarter for connecting his boot to the face of Luke Dahlhaus as he leaped up to recieve a handball and stuck his leg out. Greene was already receiving huge boos from the Western Bulldogs crowd for his hit on Caleb Daniel earlier in the year, and this has certainly done no favours, however I must credit him for handling the boos as not long after the indiscretion, he took a good mark over the inexperienced Lewis Young and then went back and slotted the goal.
It's been the big talking point all weekend - Was it done intentionally? or was it just a unfortunate accident? Like what GWS coach Leon Cameron said in the post-game press conference. Coincidentally, Luke Beveridge refused to comment on the matter when he was asked post game, which points to me both coaches have differing opinions. In Toby's defence, if he had done that to someone much taller than Dahlhaus, say a Jordan Roughead-type of player, the boot would've hit the chest and play would've most likely have continued.
Bulldogs fans will tell you that it was and Greene is the biggest grub in the game. Others will tell you that there is nothing in it, despite the boot leaving Dahlhaus with blood coming from his mouth. I am very much looking forward to what the Match Review Panel has to say about this. It may not have been intentional, but given that the MRP handed suspensions to both Patrick Dangerfield and Brodie Grundy for unfortunate tackles, it wouldn't be too surprising to see him handed down another suspension.
Leading The Way
On a night where very few players stood up for the Bulldogs, it was Marcus Bontempelli who once again led from the front, He had 20 disposals, but had eight clearances, eight inside 50s and seven tackles, setting up a lot of attacks inside 50 with precision passing. Unfortunately, it was left to a few team mates that couldn't get it done in front of the big sticks. Lachie Hunter led all Bulldogs' in disposals, recording 26 touches, along with seven marks and five inside 50s.
Toby McLean continues his fantastic form in the midfield with 23 disposals, and seven inside 50s, much-maligned Bulldog Matthew Suckling had one of his better games of the season with 21 disposals, six marks, four rebound 50s and four inside 50s, whilst captain Robert Murphy (18 disposals, four marks, four inside 50s and a goal) and Jack Macrae (21 disposals, five marks, four inside 50s) tried their best.
But there were a number of Bulldogs I was very disappointed with. I refuse to point the finger at fifth-gamer Lewis Young (six clangers from 11 disposals) because he had a stinker and every kid has one. I won't point the finger at premiership player Josh Dunkley (9 disposals and eight tackles) because he's a second-year player and he's just coming back from a long-term injury. But some of the more senior players couldn't find the footy, and as a team that wants to play finals, that's just not good enough.
Mitch Wallis had nine disposals - easily his worst game since returning from a broken leg. Tom Liberatore has had a lean season in terms of winning his own ball, on Friday night he continued his outrageously poor form with only 10 disposals - it was only three years ago that this man won the club's best and fairest. Liam Picken only had 13 disposals when it was only three weeks ago he kicked a career-best six goals.
Whereas the Bulldogs had very few winners, the Giants had winners on every line, and heading towards September, GWS are hitting their best form at the right time of the year.
In the midfield, Dylan Shiel had a game-high 30 disposals, with five tackles and five inside 50s, whilst battling his bad shoulders. In-demand midfielder Josh Kelly had 25 disposals, six tackles and two goals, continuing his stellar season, whilst Stephen Coniglio also had a fine game, recording 25 disposals, eight clearances, six tackles and a goal.
Jon Patton kicked four goals off 15 disposals and eight marks and proved to be a handful for Lewis Young in the first term, before kicking a goal in the last quarter that wasn't too dissimilar to his goal back when these two sides met in round six. Lachie Whitfield (22 disposals and six marks) and Toby Greene (16 disposlas, and six marks) also kicked multiple goals.
Whilst on the other end, Zac Williams was outstanding in defence, recording 27 disposals, 10 rebound 50s and six marks and fellow runners Nathan Wilson (17 disposals, seven rebound 50s and six marks) and Heath Shaw (18 disposals, seven marks and five rebound 50s) were prolific, whilst Nick Haynes was marking everything in sight, taking 11 marks to go along with recording 21 disposals and five rebound 50s.
The Bulldogs sit just outside the eight once again, but they still remain a chance of playing finals. They must win their final two games in order to play off in September once again.
The reigning premiers' massive fortnight starts next Saturday in Ballarat's Mars Stadium, once known as Eureka Stadium, as the Bulldogs gear up for their first official AFL game for premiership points as they host Port Adelaide in what will be a historic day for the city of Ballarat and for the AFL in general. Port Adelaide have had a funny year, despite sitting just outside the top four, they have struggled to beat the really competitive teams this season, and it showed a week ago when the Adelaide Crows handed them an absolute shellacking.
It was an interesting fact that was brought up on Friday night, that the Western Bulldogs were missing five of their six premiership defenders. Was this loss a massive setback? Of course it was? But is the dream of going back-to-back still alive? You better believe it.