Round 1 – Melbourne V Western Bulldogs

Liam Chambers

Dogs soar early but Dees win the quarter

The Dees/Dogs rivalry has taken on a more profound significance for fans in recent years, following our Grand Final win in 2021. To date, we’ve dominated in the new era and the Demon faithful would no doubt be hopeful for that dominance to continue.

Similar to last week, Melbourne was a goal down early on, after Aaron Naughton kicked a 45m set shot. The Bulldogs took the momentum and ran with it, pressuring the Dees’ defence which culminated in Jamarra Ugle-Hagan taking a flying mark in the pocket, which he duly converted.

It was early days, but Melbourne needed to wrest back some control and stem the blue and white tide. It was stemmed and turned with Big Max winning the hitout and Christian Petracca collecting the loose ball. As he headed goal ward, Tracca hand passed to Jack Viney, who promptly dropped the ball before recovering and launching a kick from 48m, splitting the middle to open his account.

The inspired Demons took on the Dogs with renewed vigour. Bailey Fritsch was short changed when he tackled Jason Johannisen after the Umpire called play on. A potential goal from a position directly in front was denied to the talented forward.

Up the other end, Rory Lobb took a contested mark in the pocket. His 40m set shot took the visitors’ lead to thirteen points.

Melbourne had their chances, including a Jack Billings shot touched on the line but a second goal evaded them.

Then Mr Excitement himself, Kysaiah Pickett kicked his first of the 2024 season via a round the corner kick that curved beautifully through the posts. The lead up was also impressive with Jack Billings knee sliding to mark Clayton Oliver’s kick down the wing. Billings’ perfectly weighted kick was marked by Jacob van Rooyen, who then placed the ball in the perfect position for Pickett to run at and collect.

The Dees were displaying some skilful footy, but the Dogs were still having the best of the play. Fortunately, they were unable to capitalise on their advantage and the margin remained manageable. Unfortunately a mistake in defence allowed first gamer Harvey Gallagher to snap a goal from the pocket. To be fair, it was an impressive debut goal.

A few minutes later, Kade Chandler found himself in the perfect position to collect the ball after it sailed over the heads of the pack in front of goal. A quick turn and tap gave the small forward his first of the afternoon and reduced the gap back to five points. Even better, with forty seconds to go, van Rooyen collected the falling ball before snapping a goal, giving Melbourne the lead for the first time in the match.

Melbourne persist with their winning ways

The Dees continued their good form at the start of the second term after Alex Neal-Bullen marked an Oliver hand pass in the pocket, then casually tapped it along the ground, watching it bounce across the goal line.

It was the ideal start for Melbourne when they won the tussle after the bounce, allowing Kade Chandler to collect the chaos ball inside 50 before snapping it high between the uprights. It was five in a row for the Demons when Christian Petracca smothered the ball mid ground. His kick to inside 50 was gathered by Ben Brown who ran around his opponent before drilling the ball into the back of the net.

The Bulldogs finally stemmed the bleeding when their captain, Marcus Bontempelli coolly collected the ground ball and snapped from 35m in front.

Ben Brown returned the margin to nineteen points when he was awarded a sitter directly in front, after being held on the goal line. Both Brown and team mate Tom MacDonald were surprise recalls for the game, but both were repaying the confidence shown to them; with T Mac particularly solid in defence.

Despite being on the back foot for most of the quarter, the Dogs managed to eventually pare back the margin to twelve points, courtesy of Cody Weightman’s 100th goal.

Dees display depth in delivery

Melbourne looked to be running away with the game early in the second term, just as the Bulldogs did in the first. Then by the start of the third, it was still anyone’s game for the taking.

Ninety seconds in though, the Dees regained the upper hand when Alex Neal-Bullen marked in the pocket, then ran on, snapping off the outside of his right boot.

Melbourne was having the best of the football, but the visitors clung on, not allowing the gap to grow too wide; they even succeeded in closing it to eleven points when Ugle-Hagen was awarded a free kick 35m out.

Bailey Fritsch may have been having an off day, but Kade Chandler was having a blinder and his second was clinically accurate.

Melbourne gets some goal kicking practice

The Dogs started determinedly but they couldn’t make the most of their chances.

Christian Petracca has a lot of score involvements, however on the day he save one of the best for himself. His running kick from just inside 50 was perfect. Great lead up too.

Lachlan Bramble kept the Bulldogs hopes alive with his 40m shot, dragging the margin back to seventeen points, but it turned out to be just a blip on the footy radar.

Jacob van Rooyen stretched it back out to twenty three points again when he marked Kysaiah Pickett’s kick to the pocket. His round the corner shot glided through. Pickett’s second was a thing of beauty. His running kick from a difficult angle sailed smoothly into the goal mouth, dropping just behind the line.

Rhylee West pulled one back for the Dogs with an impressive individual effort, displaying splendid jumping skills before snapping from 20m.

With less than four minutes remaining, van Rooyen put the result beyond any doubt with his set from the pocket; Clayton Oliver having unselfishly provided the mark for the young forward. Then it was a case of reward for great effort when Jack Billings slotted his 25m set shot.

Speaking of reward for effort, it was nice to see Christian Salem walk in a goal to ice the cake for Melbourne, with a minute left on the clock.

We travel to Hawthorn for Round 2. The Hawks have proved to be a difficult opponent for the Demons on many occasion, even when they’re otherwise in a slump. We will be treating them with the utmost respect.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!