Third time lucky for Dogs

July 29, 2022 by
Filed under: AFLM, NSW Demons 

Round 19 – Western Bulldogs V Melbourne

Liam Chambers

Josh Bruce seems to be a sort of talisman for the Dogs and they raise their game when he’s in the side. The warning signs were there last week with a convincing win over St Kilda. Melbourne, of all the top sides, have had the most difficult draw in the latter half of the competition. If we were expecting a relatively easy win against the Bulldogs though, then we were sadly disappointed. We played some great footy but, yet again, the fourth quarter was our undoing.

On paper, it was a no-brainer. Melbourne, sitting in second spot, were firm favourites to win, potentially quashing the Bulldogs finals aspirations in the process. However, having lost the two previous encounters, the Dogs would be up for a fight. The home side opened the scoring when Marcus Bontempelli marked in the right hand pocket and scored from the set shot. They also got the second when in form Jamarra Ugle-Hagan crumbed the loose ball and kicked from the edge of the square.

The Dees had opportunities but failed to put them away. That was until Bayley Fritsch stooped to collect ball and tap it home. It was a quick response from the Dogs with Aaron Naughton being awarded a free in front of goal. He kicked cleanly to stretch the lead to ten points. Alex Neal-Bullen kicked from a similar position at the other end less than a minute later. It was shaping up to be a tight contest.

Riley Garcia found enough space in the pack, just inside 50, to turn and snap another for the Bulldogs. Then it seesawed back to the Demons again as Jake Melksham went about ensuring his place in the side with a round the corner kick from 25m out. Melksham was also involved in the follow up when his weighted kick from the 50m line bounced nicely in front of Kysaiah Pickett, allowing the small forward to collect and run it into goal for his first of the evening. Another player looking to secure his top flight spot is Sam Weideman. His set shot goal from 30m won’t have damaged his prospects. Neither will his 50m kick after the siren, giving Melbourne a fifteen point advantage at quarter time.

The Dees’ lead increase to twenty one points in the first minute of the second term when Bayley Fritsch marked an impressive centring kick from Ed Langdon on the wing. Then the Bulldogs restored the quarter time margin with Rhylee West was able to catch the falling ball and kick a goal from the edge of the square.

Tim English drew the Dogs closer to Melbourne with his set shot directly in front. Then Cody Weightman was awarded a free kick 20m to the left of goal and it was a three point game. The match started to swing back to the Dees when Jack Viney was straight onto the ball after the centre bounce. It was tapped down inside 50 and Bayley Fritsch pounced, snapping his third.
Tom Sparrow stretched the lead further with his snap from 35m.

Melbourne was in the zone and over running the Bulldogs. When they’re in that sort of form, they’re impossible to stop and Luke Jackson had another chance from a set shot. This time he didn’t miss. Another stoppage and the Dees got the ball inside 50 where Fritsch was again waiting. He grabbed the ball, then turned and snapped for his fourth. It was a twenty seven point lead but the Dogs weren’t lying down.

Cody Weightman did a Fritsch at the other end and snapped one back. That was an important goal for the hosts and basically kept them in the game. Just before halftime, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan kicked his second from a 40m set shot. The quarter finished with both sides scoring equally and the Demons’ fifteen point advantage was back where it started.

Melbourne was having difficulty putting the game to bed. They had seen a twenty one point lead pulled back to three point, then a twenty seven point advantage reduced to fifteen. It was imperative now that the Dees consolidate and build on their dominance. They had the perfect start and a touch of good fortune when Jake Melksham took a mark in the pocket before being awarded a 50m penalty for a late contact. The lead was back to twenty one and Simon Goodwin couldn’t argue he wasn’t getting his Woolies worth from the forward.

Like the Power last week, the Dogs desperately needed the win if they were to secure a finals berth. They were fighting for every point and had a few near misses before Adam Treloar scooped the ball and got enough purchase to send it through the posts. Ominously, the match was swinging back in favour of the Bulldogs again. They eventually got their second of the half when ruckman Tim English kicked a 50m ball on the run. Aaron Naughton got the hosts to within a point when he took clean possession from a stoppage and launch the ball 30m for his second goal.

The Dees needed a quick response and they got it; winning the bounce and getting the ball straight inside 50 where James Harmes took possession, stumbling in the process but still managing to get a kick away and score. Sam Weideman knows he has to keep performing to retain his spot and when he marked 45m from goal, he needed to be accurate. He was and Melbourne was able to pull away again. Bayley Fritsch had another opportunity right on the siren but this time the result was a minor score.

The final quarter has been Melbourne’s Achilles heel many times this season, even when they’ve won the game. They couldn’t afford to allow the Dogs another bite of the cherry. Alas, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was ready for the taste test when he marked the ball 30m from goal. His accurate set shot racked up his hat trick and reduced the Dees’ advantage to single digits. The scenario was looking uncomfortably familiar and the Bulldogs were sniffing an upset.

There was a reprieve when the hero of Round 18, Kysaiah Pickett collected the ball just outside the 50m line and ran on, kicking and scoring from 40m.

Ugle-Hagan wasn’t finished though and his contested mark and conversion from 35m reeled Melbourne back in. Then disaster struck when a defensive error gave the ball to Marcus Bontempelli, who quickly hand passed to Jack McCrae. The midfielder didn’t hesitate to snapped an unexpected goal. It was now a two point game with seven minutes still left on the clock. The Demon fans were left holding their breath wondering if we could hang on for the win.

That question took on even more urgency when Riley Garcia marked in the pocket and played on before kicking from 25m and putting the Dogs in front by three points. Then, as the final seconds ticked down, Ugle-Hagan sprinkled some salt over Melbourne’s woulds with his running kick from just outside the 50m line.

There’s no sugar coating the situation the Dees’ now find themselves in. We need at least two wins from out final games to have any chance of a top four finish. All the remaining games are against top six sides. Our Round 20 match-up is against Freemantle who currently sit fourth on the ladder. To make matters even more difficult, we have to play them in Perth. One thing I’ve learned this season though is when you’ve written off Melbourne, they turn all expectations on their head.

Congratulations to Angus Brayshaw on signing his new six year contract. A Demon for life.

Go the Mighty Dees!!!


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