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DEES GIVE DOGS A BONE by George On The Outer


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First place versus second on the ladder promised to be a precursor to what can be expected in the coming finals race.  However, it was the Demons who faltered and gave the Bulldogs a bone to feed their hunger just weeks out from the end of the season.

The win also sent the Dogs to the top of the ladder, a position they are unlikely to cede in the coming weeks, given their fixture. While Melbourne may now struggle to keep a spot in the top four with its draw and will likely depend on the results of other games, a familiar situation for the fans.

The game itself was an enthralling battle starting in torrential rain, and it was the Dogs who quickly found their feet to open up a 10 point break at the first change.  In what has become a familiar scenario to the fans, the Demons couldn’t kick straight with very gettable chances to Ben Brown and Kysiah Pickett going missing. 

The same continued in the subsequent quarters with the final result being decided ultimately by their ongoing problem with inaccuracy in front of goal.  Once again more behinds kicked than goals, but it is the set shot kicking that continues to let the side down, and we now have a series of losses defined by a kick or two either way.  And in this game the coach afterward summed it up with the phrase “we had our chances”.  Never was a truer word spoken.  Except it was all too familiar to the fans.

Make no mistake, the Bulldogs changed their game-style in this contest.  Normally, they depend on waves of half-backs sweeping past their mids to deliver to the big forwards.  They adjusted this, partially because of the Melbourne defensive structures, but in this match they relied more on their midfield powerhouse to do the work. 

In a good example of statistical meaninglessness, Christian Petracca had 31 touches, Clayton Oliver 38, Jack Viney 19.  But the opposition with Bontempelli 31 touches, Macrea 38, and Liberatore 27.   Gawn had an incredible 52 hit-outs, but the Dogs won the clearances, particularly around the ground.  It was a head to head battle, but these stats don’t show the outcome.  That being the Melbourne mids could only produce 2 goals between them (after a single last week) while the Dogs mids doubled that with four. For Melbourne this was the same as last week when the Hawks mids scored 4 to 1 and is becoming a familiar story to the fans.

Bringing Harmes into the middle as a tagger for Liberatore was an unmitigated disaster. Not only did he fail to quell Libba, he was relieved of duties on him in the second half with Viney forced to pick up the slack. Unfortunately, that took out another one of our skilled players, leaving Bontempelli to do his damage without the close checking that Viney had provided in the first half.  Bontempelli kicking critical goals toward the end of a game. The Melbourne fans are familiar with that.

Just as equally disappointing was the performance of the Melbourne half forwards.  It is all well and good running around, corralling opposition players but this opposition are the best.  If you don’t tackle they will deliver and with Caleb Daniel getting 34 touches, Bayley Dale 24 including 20 kicks and Duryea 17 it was a recipe for disaster.  The blowtorch must now be applied to these players, and their value to the side, particularly when they bring limited football skills and live off their athletic abilities.

The match continued in a slog of a battle, with the weather finally easing so that both sides could show their true wares. Nine goals in the 3rd quarter after Melbourne scored the first 2 only to see the Dogs reply similarly, presaged a ripper of a final quarter and it was to be.  The 14 point differential at the ¾ time break was pulled back by the Demons with Brown and Fritsch kicking truly at last to reduce the margin to 4 points with seven minutes to play. 

All the momentum was with Melbourne and this was blown away with fundamental skill execution by those same players mentioned before.  The Bulldogs responded quickly given these opportunities, and blew the final margin out to 20 points.

There are plenty of actions the coach has to take in the few remaining games.  One of which surely has to be resting players, particularly the younger ones who have hit the wall in terms of output.  Luke Jackson has had 3 kicks in the past 2 weeks, and 66% game time. Trent Rivers only had 65% game time. James Jordon 64%.  They just need a week away, and we have the players available to fill their spots.
 
Old, tried and true, maybe not as skilled, but able to provide more than these kids can at this point of the season. 

Even Max Gawn needs a proper back-up.  A mere 2 marks for the whole match, none of which was contested. Yet contested marks for him is an essential part of our plan to move the ball from defence at kick-outs.  Majak Daw is the perfect replacement for Jackson and with Gold Coast having no true ruck available to them, this is the week to do it. Nathan Jones is the man to provide more mid-field grunt, while Tom Sparrow surely has had enough time observing the game from the bench.
 
This game is what finals football is all about.  The very best sides will match it with each other with their talented players, but while the side is populated with limited skill players, the whole match will come down to just a couple of episodes where those players concede the ball to the opposition.  We have lost or drawn enough games this year to know how close the margin is between success or failure.  If the coach has devised a game plan built for finals, he must concede that these players cannot be part of it.

Or the result will be the same as this game, the one that the fans are becoming familiar with.
 
MELBOURNE 1.4.10 2.7.19 7.9.51 9.11.65

WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.2.20 6.4.40 10.5.65 13.7.85

GOALS

Melbourne Brown Fritsch Pickett 2 McDonald Petracca Viney

Western Bulldogs Bontempelli Bruce Hannan Naughton 2 Daniel English Smith Ugle-Hagan Weightman

BEST

Melbourne Oliver Petracca Neal-Bullen Lever Gawn Hunt

Western Bulldogs Bontempelli Daniel Macrae Smith Hunter Liberatore Schache

INJURIES

Melbourne Nil

Western Bulldogs A. Keath (hamstring) E. Richards (concussion)

REPORTS

Melbourne Nil

Western Bulldogs Nil

SUBSTITUTES

Melbourne T. Sparrow (unused)

Western Bulldogs A. Scott (replaced A. Keath)

UMPIRES: Chris Donlon Nathan Williamson
Craig Fleer

Official Crowd 0 at The MCG

ReportRd192021.png

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