Dees Lose Dogfight For Top Spot

July 29, 2021 by
Filed under: NSW Demons 

Round 19 – Melbourne V Western Bulldogs

Liam Chambers

It was a case of slip sliding away, as the rains came down in the opening quarter of what promised to be an epic battle between the two top sides in the competition.

Clayton Oliver had the Dees first real chance when he received a hand pass from Tom McDonald but his shot from 45m veered wide. When Ben Brown took a great mark, it looked like he would add to his goal tally but was unable to convert from his 30m set shot. Marcus Bontempelli was gifted a shot at goal from a stoppage and scored with his 30m kick directly in front.

Jack Viney had a good pickup but the ball was touched before it crossed the line. Finally, Christian Petracca got the first major for Melbourne with a mighty kick off his left leg, round the corner, through traffic and in atrociously wet conditions. Brilliant! As the rain eased, the Dogs were piling on the pressure but not getting the results until Josh Bruce squeeze one in from a set shot.

After that, the Bulldogs basically set up camp in their forward half until the end of the quarter, culminating in Tim English’s high and long kick from 50m. What initially looked like a fairly pedestrian shot, just kept going and seemingly defying the laws of gravity, finally crossing the finish line untouched.

At the start of term two, the Dogs’ back line were doing their job in keeping the Dees at bay. May & Lever were steady at the other end but the visitors were winning the one on ones. Aaron Naughton gave his side the best start when his steady set shot extended their lead. Up the other end Bailey Fritsch was able to get one back for Melbourne. Up until that point, the Bulldogs looked like running away with the game.

Petracca had an opportunity a few minutes later but put his set shot wide. Frustratingly, Fritsch almost had another goal but the review showed that the ball came off his knee. Almost immediately there was another review at the Dogs’ goal end when Josh Bruce’s shot was deemed touched by Steven May. It clearly wasn’t happening for the Dees on the night, as more chances went begging with both Fritsch and Brown missing the target.

Then to add to our woes, one time Demon, Mitch Hannan had an opportunity from 25m out and kicked it cleanly. Then of course he had a go at his former team mates and it was on. James Harmes, never one to shrink from a fight, ended up on the turf looking at the sky. All good fun. With 40 seconds to go, Bailey Smith (already on report for his offensive haircut) got hold of the ball and kicked it home to give the Dogs a 21 point lead at half time.

Melbourne needed a good start to the second half and they got it when Oliver was able to pick up the ball cleanly after the centre bounce and thump it to the pack in front of goal. There Tom McDonald marked it strongly and calmly converted, energising his team in the process. It was two goals in a minute when a surging Melbourne got the ball to inside 50 again and Fritsch took control to score his second.

Josh Bruce spoiled the party somewhat when the Dogs got the ball to ground level in front of goal. Aaron Naughton’s hand pass to the key forward was quickly snapped through. Caleb Daniel was given plenty of space and he took full advantage, kicking a goal from 45m and returning the margin to 21 points.

Fortunately, Ben Brown finally got his eye in when his set shot from 35m sailed through the uprights. Relief for the big guy and his legions of fans in the red and blue.

Melbourne then a had a few more chances but it was the Bulldogs who scored next when Cody Weightman was able to get behind the defence and soccer one through to keep the Dees at a three goal distance. Incidentally, I’m sure Max Gawn was too appreciative of Weightman’s amazing marking effort just a minute prior to the goal. Despite this and attempts at turning the screws on their opponents, the Dogs were unable to put the game beyond Melbourne’s reach.

Then the Dees had a particularly good run of play, starting when Fritsch who spotted Brown wide and was able to place the kick directly into the forward’s hands. Brown in turn targeted Ed Langdon who gathered and hand passed to Kysaiah Pickett. The small forward didn’t hesitate and hammered it home to score his first of the night.

Then when it looked like Melbourne would score again, the Bulldogs got the ball back and ran it down the field quickly where Bruce was able to mark it on the 50m line. He quickly passed it onto to Naughton who ran it straight in. Margin back to 20 points.

The Dees kept coming back though and had the last goal of the quarter when they won the centre bounce clearance. Alex Neal-Bullen then kicked towards the goal square where Max Gawn was able to collect and get the ball to Jack Viney from ground level. Viney didn’t hesitate and knocked it straight through the posts.

With the Bulldogs hanging onto their lead, it took Melbourne over ten minutes to get the first goal of the final term. With nothing much on offer, Viney was able to square the ball from the pocket after he spotted Pickett in front of goal. Pickett took the mark and converted from 25m out. Things really tightened up when Ben Brown had a difficult set shot from 40m. He didn’t disappoint and suddenly the Dees were only behind by 4 points.

Having trailed by 20 points for a good part of the match, could the Demons pull off a famous come from behind victory? Sadly, Bontempelli was able to take advantage after being given some space and he snapped a goal to pull his side back from the abyss. He was also involved in the next goal when his kick to Jamarra Ugle-Hagen was marked and converted.

Even though the game was already slipping away from Melbourne’s grasp, the Dogs saved their cruelest blow till last when the villain of the hour Mitch Hannan took a mark in the goal square. He couldn’t miss from that distance and he didn’t. Basically it was Goodnight Vienna.

The Dees played brilliantly at times but the Dogs were more consistent and responded well each time Melbourne got close. We also gave them a bit too much space on occasion but if we learn from the experience, then it won’t have been a wasted exercise.

No doubt about it now, we need to bring our best game to the Gold Coast Suns. Nothing can be taken for granted and a top four spot is not guaranteed. We really need to win against the Eagles and the Crows as well, setting ourselves up for the clash against the in form side Geelong.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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