Melbourne 4.2 8.6 14.7 17.11.113
Western Bulldogs: Roughead, Bontempelli, Dickson, T. Boyd, Dahlhaus, Daniel, Picken, Liberatore
Melbourne: Watts 3, Bugg 2, Garlett 2, Hannan 2, T. McDonald 2, Melksham, Petracca, Tyson, Salem, Harmes, Neal-Bullen
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The Melbourne Football Club have enhanced their credentials as a premiership contender by thumping the Western Bulldogs by 57 points in a fiery contest at Etihad Stadium. The Demons broke a 10-year hoodoo against the Bulldogs at Docklands, with their last win against the reigning premiers under the roof back in 2007.
It was a game that proved to be spiteful before the first bounce as Melbourne antagonist Tomas Bugg took to Instagram and posted a photo of himself and Jack Watts with the caption 'You Ready @JasonJohannisen?' clearly intending to target last year's Norm Smith Medallist Jason Johannisen in the similar fashion that Sydney did the previous week.
However, Johannisen's fellow defenders quickly flew in to fly the flag before the opening bounce as they got stuck into the former Giant. The Dogs also started strong, as they looked to control the ball, but were frustratingly unable to capitalise on their opportunities. The Dogs had 15 inside 50s in the opening term, yet could only register a solitary behind, and that came with the first score of the game through the returning Mitch Honeychurch.
The momentum turned as Dom Tyson got the opening goal of the game for the Dees seven minutes into the term. A knee injury to the much-improved Lin Jong as Nathan Jones smothered his kick didn't do the home team much favours, and by the 20th minute mark, the floodgates opened up for Melbourne, as three goals in under five minutes, gave Melbourne a 25-point lead at quarter time.It took the Bulldogs nearly 50 minutes for them to register the opening goal of the game, with Caleb Daniel quickly responding to a James Harmes goal that was kicked moments earlier, but not even a spark of brilliance from the AFL's smallest player couldn't get the Dogs going in what was a horrific afternoon at the office.
Former Footscray VFL premiership star Mitch Hannan added his first goal of the afternoon before Easton Wood remonstrated against the pest that was Tomas Bugg - giving away a free kick in front of goal and in the span of a minute, 28 points became 40 points and the game was unquestionably out of control. The Dogs stemmed the bleeding momentarily with a pair of goals of their own, but with Jake Stringer certain to come under scrutiny with a few jumper punches with Neville Jetta, the Dogs had a lot of work to do. An ice-cool shot on goal from a difficult spot from Jack Watts extended the margin back out to 33 points at half-time.
The Dogs tried to find ways to get themselves back into the contest, but Melbourne found every answer, with the pressure the Demons displaying proving to be too good for a team that resembled anything but a team that won the premiership eight months ago. A six goal quarter from the Demons lifted the margin to an unassailable 50-point three-quarter time lead. Even with co-captain Nathan Jones straining a quad, Jack Watts straining a hamstring, Neville Jetta rolling an ankle and Jayden Hunt injuring his shoulder, the Demons could do no wrong, and in turn, the Doggies could do no right. The reigning champs again looked the less hungrier of the two teams on the ground.
A three goal-to-two goal last quarter from Melbourne bumped the lead up to 57 points by the final siren, gifting the Demons fifth spot on the ladder, with just percentage seperating them from the fourth-placed Port Adelaide, whilst the Bulldogs - who have now been dominated in the past two weeks since coming back from the bye - remain in ninth place with a woeful percentage of 96.5%. Their hopes of going back-to-back looking more and more bleak by the week.
Leading The Way
It was another dirty day for the Dogs, and there were still a few that tried hard all game long, but disposal efficiency from a number of players was second-rate and it needs to be addressed for this club to go forward again. Jake Stringer was held goal-less and his 13 disposals went at 38%, Bailey Dale had 20 disposals at 55%, Tory Dickson had 11 disposals at 54%, Tom Boyd had another dirty day (11 disposals and one mark), he went at 45% and eight players were going between 60-70%, which for a team striving for greatness, isn't good enough.
Making his return to the side after a few weeks in the VFL, Tom Liberatore showed shades of the Libba of old, recording a team-high 29 disposals and nine tackles whilst recording four clearances, four inside 50s and a goal in a spirited effort, whilst Marcus Bontempelli also enjoyed a return to form, recording 24 disposals, seven tackles and a goal, whilst Mitch Wallis, (23 disposals, nine tackles, six inside 50s and four clearances) and Luke Dahlhaus (26 disposals) also tried hard.
In the ruck, Jordan Roughead found himself very busy, accumulating 19 disposals to go with 24 hitouts, nine tackles and a goal, Zaine Cordy played his best game in defence, picking up 22 disposals along with seven marks and five tackles, whilst Mitch Honeychurch was okay in his first game of the 2017 season, with 20 disposals and four tackles, but could've turned his day from okay to great, if he had not have missed three easy shots on goal, registering three behinds for the afternoon.
Despite the dismal performance from the Dogs, nothing should be taken away from Melbourne and how they conducted themselves today, and are firming for their first Finals appearance since 2006. And with All-Australian ruckman Max Gawn coming back into the side next week, they should be able to address the massive hitout differential they had against the Bulldogs with no issues, with Demons losing the hitouts 61-19.
That stat mattered for nought however, as the Demons had dominant performers all over the ground. Former Bomber Michael Hibberd was a standout in defence, recording 27 disposals and 11 marks, as was Oscar McDonald, who recorded 23 disposals, 12 marks and eight rebound 50s, whilst his older brother Tom McDonald was played virtually everywhere and had a solid return of 19 disposals, 11 hitouts, seven marks, five clearances and two goals.
In the midfield, it was former Hawk Jordan Lewis that led all players in disposals, recording 31 disposals, seven marks and three clearances, and was well supported by Clayton Oliver as he continues his strong 2017 campaign, recording 29 disposals, eight tackles, five clearances and four inside 50s and Cam Pedersen (24 disposals, six marks and four inside 50s), who continues to shine as an undersized ruckman.
Small forward Jeff Garlett was dominant down forward in the absence of Jesse Hogan, and really should've kicked more than 2.4, but his relentless pressure was on display and caused many headaches for the Bulldog defenders, laying nine tackles - the most of any Melbourne player on the afternoon, whilst Jack Watts enjoyed a day out with three important goals from 16 disposals and six marks, before he came off with a hamstring strain.
Next Saturday night, the Bulldogs are back at Etihad Stadium for another home game as they look to atone their first loss at Etihad in 2017, as they take on the 16th-placed North Melbourne in their second encounter of the season. This is undoubtedly the game that the Bulldogs must win for them to get their season back on track, now that they are 6-6.
Despite being 4-8, North Melbourne aren't going to be a pushover by any means, especially if the last game was anything to go by. And if there was ever a chance for North Melbourne to get themselves back into the finals picture - as unlikely as that sounds - they'll be raring to go against a Dogs side that is horribly out of form. The champs have got to respond next week.