R1 – Melbourne v Western Bulldogs – Mongrel Review


Going into this game, it became apparent that it’d be a high-stakes game for both teams. I expected it to be an entertaining contest, but it ended up fizzing out after a promising first half. Nothing really to write home about in the end.

While the Dogs got off to a hot start, it was the Dees that clawed back the margin, going into quarter-time a point in front. Marcus Bontempelli had plenty to say in the first stanza, winning the first four clearances of the game and giving his forwards silver service. He got some help from Adam Treloar and premiership teammate Jason Johannisen who provided plenty of run and dash. Aaron Naughton was the beneficiary of the way the ball was coming inside 50. His first goal of the game came about when he dragged Steven May with him up the ground, beating him in a 1-on-1 just on the 50m arc. From then on, May adjusted, handing Naughton over, and headed back to a much more familiar spot in the last line of defence.

Tim English got off to a hot start, as well, making Max Gawn accountable. This didn’t last long as, as he was involved in a heavy collision with Liam Jones, going back with the flight. This kept him down on his haunches for quite some time. Thankfully he played out the rest of the game, but it seemed to slow him down and Gawn took full advantage.

You can see the extra game in hand has benefitted the Dees the most, with Bulldogs players out on their feet and with hands on their hands before half-time. The warm weather certainly wouldn’t have helped too much either.

After the main break, both teams were feeling each other out, trying to control the game. It was the Dees that took the most of their opportunity though, kicking the first goal of the third quarter. Once the play opened up a bit more, it was the Demons that won the pivotal contest, coming out the front of stoppages with ease and giving their forwards good looks.

Christian Petracca started becoming more prominent, Clayton Oliver was industrious in the way he won the ball and gave his teammates first use, while May was solid down back. If it wasn’t for Liam Jones down back, and Tom Liberatore working his way into the game, the scoreboard would have looked even more ugly. Although, every time the Dogs kicked a goal, the Dees responded, holding onto a three-goal buffer for the majority of the third quarter.

It wasn’t until the last quarter that the floodgates opened up a bit, with the Demons taking full control of the game. The Dogs looked nowhere near it, and the task seemed all too hard as

Melbourne ran away with it.

While it’s early days, it looks like the Dogs have not worked on a lot over the off-season and it’s still apparent that they can’t defend ball movement like the best teams can do consistently.

 

SON OF WEST

I like the game of Rhylee West today.

Rhylee’s game was almost the only positive to come out of this for the Dogs. He worked his backside off to get into space, working right up the ground, and used his elite skills to deliver the ball inside 50.

In the past, West has been somewhat of a fringe player trying to break into this star-studded Bulldogs outfit. He has fought hard to break into this side, while arguably playing out of position. His no-fuss attitude has been admirable, and while he’s had his chances he’s made the most of

I think you can now safely say that he’s an established player and games like this will only solidify his spot in the side. While he only finished with 12 disposals and one goal, don’t underestimate his impact every time he had the ball. He also had five score involvements and six marks to go with his performance. Not bad for a high half-forward.

 

THE TALL TIMBERS

One of the main things I was looking forward to in this game was how the tall pillars for each side would go against each other.

It’s fair to say Melbourne’s big men won the battle.

When May conceded the first goal of the game in the opening minutes to Naughton, he looked like he took it personally. From then on, Naughton was blanketed and May looked like a man possessed, running, tackling, and taking trademark intercept marks. Naughton didn’t get anywhere near it again until the last quarter.

May had some help from Jake Lever, who just does what he does, spoiling and coming third man up. Tom McDonald, who looked right at home back in defence, played more of a lockdown role. Judd McVee was busy mopping up forward entries, rebounding and providing a handful of one-percenters that’ll make his peers happy.

For the Bulldogs, only Jamarra Ugle-Hagan took the most of his chances. He was able to outstretch his opponent and mark high balls, finishing with 14 disposals and six marks. If it wasn’t for wayward goal-kicking, he could’ve ended up with a bag. It’s no wonder why he’s the most sought-after signature in the player movement landscape.

Special mention to Liam Jones, who I thought was instrumental in repelling lots of balls coming his team’s way. If it wasn’t for him, the Bulldogs would’ve lost by way more.

 

BULK BILLINGS

Plenty to love for Jack Billings’ game, and rightly so.

Splitting his time between half-forward and wing, he adds some much-needed class to the Dees outfit. He amassed 23 disposals, 15 marks and five tackles, showing off his huge work rate.

The Demons boast a generational midfield that has never had trouble winning inside ball. If they can get the ball into the hands of players like Billings more often, it’ll go a long way into fixing their ball use going inside 50 and their forward line connection.

Billings started as the sub in the week prior against the Swans. If fully fit, I can guarantee you he won’t be starting as a sub any time soon if he keeps producing that kind of performance.

With Lachie Hunter still a few weeks away, if Billings can bide more of his time on that wing, it’ll be a huge asset to the Dees’ fortunes this season.

 

COACHING BLUNDERS

Now, speaking of Billings being a sub last week, whatever way you put it, was a coaching blunder. Luke Beveridge had a couple in this game.

His decision to have Caleb Daniel as sub raised the eyebrows a bit.

To have a player of Daniel’s ilk as a sub tells me that you’ve got a list with an embarrassment of riches or he’s outside of the best 22. If it’s the latter, then it’s hard to believe as I thought that there were a good handful of players that lined up that I’d have Daniels ahead of.

What was even more of a coaching blunder was the activation of the tactical sub early into the last quarter. Rylee Sanders was the unfortunate player coming out for Daniel. I was in shock once the camera panned to him, donning the training top in the back of the dugout.

There were a handful of players I would have subbed out ahead of him, especially considering Sanders looked like he was working into the game. The Bulldogs’ midfield wasn’t having any influence at that stage, so it was strange to see him subbed out.

 

OLIVER’S TWIST

I was looking forward to seeing the battle of both midfields, but in the end, Melbourne’s midfield trio had the game on their terms.

Jack Viney was instrumental, picking up where he left off last week, kicking Melbourne’s first goal. Petracca worked his way into it late, getting involved in scores and winning clearances. However, no one was more productive and pivotal than Oliver.

Oliver didn’t struggle to get the ball in the first game of the season against the Swans, but he wasn’t his influential self and didn’t hurt the opposition. He certainly wasn’t as lacklustre in this encounter.

He had the ball on a string, with a truckload of possessions. It was good to see him back at his absolute best, winning crucial disposals and just working hard all over the ground. He showed a lot of maturity in this game. Hopefully, he puts his troubles behind him to produce another great season, because the Demons will need it if they are to go far this year.

 

THE TIDBITS…

Caleb Windsor probably deserves his own section. I loved the way he went about it. You can see why the Dees were rapt to draft him. He’ll be an inside mid in due time when he puts on a bit of size, but the wing position suits him. He provides a lot of run, defensively and offensively. He also ended up with four clearances, which is pretty good for a wing.

In general, I thought Melbourne’s wingmen were more influential in this game. Harvey Gallagher had a reasonably good debut, being on the end of a goal, setting up a couple and winning crucial contests. Bailey Williams was almost anonymous on the other wing. Lachlan McNeil ran through there at times but he was similar to Williams. Ed Landgon wasn’t as influential as he normally is, but worked hard. He was supported well by Billings and Windsor.

James Harmes would’ve hoped for a good showing against his former side. I expected him to be impressive after a good preseason, but he didn’t set the world on fire. He didn’t get much help from his teammates though.

I thought Johannisen had some nice moments today. He belongs on the back flank. He just never stopped running. Lachie Bramble also did well in his club debut, patrolling half-back. He finished up with a goal to go with his 22 disposals.

Those are probably the only positives from the Dogs. Not the start Bevo would’ve been after, especially with so much external pressure. It’ll be interesting to see how his Bulldogs go from here.

For the Dees, a good performance to follow up a disappointing opening round. If they can build on this and get some numbers back, they’ll be there at the pointy end come season’s end.

 

 



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