An ill Wind

August 29, 2020 by
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Round 13 – Western Bulldogs Vs Melbourne

Liam Chambers

In a short pre game interview, Simon Goodwin said he expected a challenging game. He wasn’t disappointed. Apparently the Dogs were told before the match that if they failed to make the top eight, then they would be moved to less salubrious accommodation in order to make way for the returning West Coast Eagles, who were top four contenders. If true, it worked as a motivational tool.

Misfortune struck Melbourne even before they ran onto the field, when Nathan Jones was removed from the line up after he experienced some muscle tightness during the warm up. With only five fixtures remaining, his 300th game may not eventuate this season.

The Dees got the best possible start however when a comedy of errors gave Sam Weiderman the chance to scramble the ball up and tap in the first goal. Kysaiah Pickett came tantalisingly close to a second when he pounced on a loose ball inside 50 only to see his shot hit the post. Both teams had their share of mistakes in the first term but the Bulldogs scored their first goal after they turned the ball over, then received it back, giving Toby Mclean a winning shot.

After some end to end play, Mitch Wallis got a second for the Dogs from a well executed set shot. The wind was playing havoc with the sherrin as Pickett discovered when his kick initially look like a certain goal only to veer wide assisted by the breeze. The second quarter started promisingly for Melbourne when a great passage of play involving Mitch Hannan, Jake Melksham and Weiderman saw Sam kick his second.

The Dogs exposed some structural weaknesses in Melbourne’s play after stoppages when Laitham Vandermeer had a free run at goal to score their third. At the other end, Clayton Oliver showed what a versatile player he is when his brilliant bend around kick found Jake Melksham thirty metres out from the front of goal. Melksham’s conversion sailed through the uprights but was deemed touched by the opposition player directly in front of him as he took his shot. Certainly an uncharacteristic lapse of concentration by the forward but also a missed opportunity to add to the score sheet. Jake made amends a few minutes later when scored a wind assisted 50 metre shot to put the Dees back in front.

The goal for goal scenario continued with Tom Liberatore restoring the Dog’s lead via a clever pick up and kick in front of goal. The last few minutes of the half belonged to Melbourne though, as Clayton Oliver delivered a snap kick from a chaotic scrum of players in front of goal. Then Bailey ‘the Fritsch Magnet” collected a mark just above ground level and scored a brilliant goal from the subsequent set shot.

As the old English Soccer Managers used to say in their post match interviews “Well, it was a game of two halves”. Melbourne’s second half certainly typified that adage. The Bulldogs came out swinging and when Marcus Bontempelli found himself on his own forty five metres out from goal, he didn’t hesitate to kick his only six pointer of the afternoon. After that, it was evident that the Dogs change of tactics was catching Melbourne by surprise.

First they went wide down the field culminating in an over the top kick from Bontempelli which was marked by Mitch Wallis, who duly kicked his second goal. Next they went down the middle eventually finding Bailey Smith, who kicked the Dogs’ third unanswered goal. Suddenly, a fairly even handed game was being dangerously skewed against the Dees. Further misfortune favoured the brave when a clever run by Christian Petracca got the ball to Tom Sparrow who put it through for a goal but not before it was touched.

The Dogs got four in a row when a Melbourne misstep gave away a fifty metre penalty allowing Bailey Williams to increase their lead. Things didn’t get any better with the double whammy of a shoulder injury to Tom Sparrow and a fifth goal for the Bulldogs, courtesy of Mitch Wallis. Nothing was going the Dees’ way with the Dogs repelling all forward pressure from Melbourne around the goal square. Jake Melksham had a chance but his set shot sailed wide.

Melbourne was making it all too easy for their opponents even though it also seemed all the luck was with the Dogs. When Tim English marked to the right of goal, his conversion was reviewed but not overturned. Trailing 65-38, Melbourne went in at three quarter time knowing they had a real fight on their hands.

With a deficit of twenty seven points to make up, Melbourne needed to do something spectacular to rein in the rampant Bulldogs. Their opponents didn’t make it easy for the Dees though and fought for every ball. Finally, Tom McDonald hung onto a mark thirty metres out from goal. He scored from the set shot to claw back the margin to twenty points. Melbourne needed to kick a few more like that but every dog has his day. Unfortunately the dog in question was Mitch Wallis who slotted his fourth to deflate the resurgent Dees.

Melbourne still had opportunities with some close shots but couldn’t hit the target. The Footy Gods’ cruelest moment though came when Bailey Fritsch’s shot thirty metres out from goal was denied. What looked like a certain six pointer was whipped away by an ill wind at the last possible moment, leaving poor Bailey to lament what could have been.

Melbourne could be forgiven for thinking nothing they could do now would matter. Even Charlie Spargo’s goal felt a little consolatory after he got himself into a nice scoring position. Ben Cavarra rubbed some more salt into the wounds when took advantage of the confusion in our defence to kick the Dogs’ twelfth. After that the Bulldogs were happy to run down the clock.

For sure Melbourne had their share of bad luck but we were out maneuvered by the Dogs in the second half. Watching the St Kilda game against Brisbane didn’t do a lot to cheer me up either. The Saints lost by two points but were very competitive against the second placed Lions We will need to bring our very best game if we want to come away with a win in Alice Springs.

I have no doubt that we have the talent and creativity to beat St Kilda but whether we have the belief and motivation remains to be seen. When we’re beating a team by fifty points, you can see and feel the confidence bubbling amongst the players. We need to play like we’re winning, no matter what it says on the scoreboard.

Do that against the Saints and we just might surprise ourselves.


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