June 19, 2006
Since the last time I thought about the progress of the Dogs' season (which was just after our round nine loss to Collingwood in which we lost Bob Murphy to the Dogs' knee curse), things have gone a lot better than I had imagined. We've racked up wins against Hawthorn, Fremantle and Brisbane, despite Grant being our only regular tall option up forward. The wins weren't always convincing, but we've shown enough to score the four points, which is all that matters in the end.
We're now sitting fourth on the ladder, a position we'll still be in at the end of the round if Collingwood can get over Sydney. We have eight wins so far, and only need four more for the rest of the season to secure a berth in the finals. And if the Dogs can keep up the classy, gutsy performances, we'll do more than just make the finals.
May 29, 2006
Most Bulldogs fans are understandably feeling a little down at the moment. In the minds of most fans, Robert Murphy’s knee injury represents the end of hope for the Western Bulldogs’ forward line. However, consider the tall timber we have playing at Werribee, or out due to short-term injury:
- Will Minson
- Travis Baird
- Cam Wight
- Tom Davidson
- Kieran McGuiness
Travis Baird is, by all accounts, quite a talented forward option with strong marking ability. He was a chance for selection against Port Adelaide before he injured his shoulder, and probably would’ve been selected ahead of Kieran McGuiness in Sydney.
I think Baird will be making his debut for the Dogs very shortly, almost as a direct replacement for Bob Murphy. He’ll get the opposition’s second best defender (assuming Grant’s playing forward), who will probably be able to keep Travis quiet. At best, he’ll be able to create a few spillages to the advantage of our multitude of talented, small, creative types — Johnno, Robbo, Cooney, and so on. The important thing is that Travis is keeping the defender from manning someone else.
Will’s return will not only be a huge boost for our ruck department, but also our forward line. He has history playing forward in the SANFL, and Eade has been working with him to improve that part of his game.
When Minson isn’t rucking, I imagine he’ll be ‘rested’ deep in the square, taking another tall opposition defender, doing his best to create opportunities for those small players.
With the opposition’s best two or three defenders on those players, the small, quick, leading forwards suddenly have a chance in hell of getting their hands on the ball and perhaps kicking a winning score.
Let’s take a look at what lies ahead for the Dogs:
- Hawthorn at Telstra Dome
- Fremantle at Telstra Dome
- Brisbane at the Gabba
- West Coast at Subiaco
- North Melbourne at the MCG
- Carlton at Telstra Dome
- Geelong at Telstra Dome
- Melbourne at the MCG
- Richmond at the MCG
- Adelaide at the MCG
- St. Kilda at the Telstra Dome
- Essendon at the Telstra Dome
Looking through that list, there are at least five games that are very winnable — Hawthorn, Fremantle, North Melbourne, Carlton and Essendon. After last year, we’ll play Brisbane at the Gabba with confidence. We’re a chance against Geelong (especially if their horrible form continues), as we are in the games against Richmond and St. Kilda. The only game on that list I’d put a black line through is West Coast at Subiaco.
Our last eight are all in Melbourne, so travelling won’t be an issue as we (hopefully) storm into the finals.
To make the finals comfortably, we need a total of twelve wins. We already have five, and I’ve pencilled in another five. We’ve only got two more games against any of the current top four sides. All we need to do is pull of an ‘upset’ in two of the remaining seven matches, and we’ll be in the finals. In such an even season, it’s possible that 11 wins will be good enough, too.
May 29, 2006
After finishing work on Friday, I somehow managed to drag myself all the way home, pull my spent body into bed and fall into a deep, deep sleep. I was so exhausted after a really tough week I barely remember any of this, but I do remember what I dreamt of that night.
It was a cold, cold night at the MCG. I'd met up with some friends and friends of friends — all of us Dogs supporters in full livery — and we staked out a claim about eight rows back on the top floor of the new Ponsford stand. There were a lot of Collingwood supporters milling about, but I had a sneaking suspicion that our Dogs would do well against the more favored Pies.
And for the first quarter, they did. The crowd were highly entertained by a high scoring, free flowing brand of footy. 'Eccy' Eagleton starred for the Dogs, racking up 15 touches in that first quarter. We went into quarter time one goal up and feeling good about the remainder of the match.
In the second quarter, my dream quickly took a turn of the worse. Bob Murphy had somehow found himself contesting a mark against Anthony Rocca inside Collingwood's 50 metre arc. Murphy backed into the bigger man and they both leaped for the ball. During the contest, one of Murphy's gangly legs got tangled up between Rocca's. Rocca, being the much stronger of the two, came back down to early solidly with a strong grip on the ball. Murphy's desperate lunge for the footy had sent him falling uncontrollably. His leg, still caught between Rocca's, contorted to a sickening angle that no human knee could stand. The Bulldog medical staff rushed onto the field with a stretcher, and after a few minutes of fussing about, it was clear that Murphy would take no further part in the Dogs' season.
Thankfully, it was all just a dream.
It's the only word I can think of to describe our 115 point thumping of Richmond on Friday night. Other than perhaps the not-quite up-to-scratch performances of Rohan Smith (whom is surely due for retirement at the end of this season) and Sam Power (who, according to media reports, is due for some massive and long-overdue improvement this season), every single player on the field played a stellar game.
Nathan Eagleton was seemingly involved in everything. He kicked four goals — five if you include his pass from forty metres in front of goal, to Brad Johnson who was on his own ten metres out; and was involved time and time again across the midfield and half-forward, sending precision passes right into the waiting arms of our small-but-skillful forward line in the manner you might expect Lindsay Gilbee to do. In fact, we were so impressed with his performance we've given him a new moniker — "The E", complete with the catch-cry "He's peakin'! He's peakin', man!"
Brad Johnson, Scott West and Daniel Cross were their usual, amazing selves. Crossy seems to have worked a lot on his kicking, too — he kicked two goals. I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I'm starting to think that if this kid keeps improving, he's going to end up better than Scott West.
Ryan Griffen looks fantastic. He seems to have really bulked up, an looks a lot more mature than his 19 years. Did a lot of great things, including a late goal, streaming through the midfield into the forward fifty to kick truly from about forty meters.
Adam Morgan at full forward looks like it might be worth persisting with, although I remain to be convinced he's the second coming of Simon Beasley.
If Matthew Boyd hasn't got a spot in the side next week, there's something wrong with the heads of the Bulldogs selectors.
Will Minson was OK in the ruck. He's good, but I think his cult hero status sometimes outshines his actual ability at the moment.
Adam Cooney, Daniel Giansiracusa, Mitch Hahn, Lindsay Gilbee, Brian Harris, Dale Morris, Ryan Hargrave … they were all fantastic. Robert Murphy and Matthew Robbins were a little quiet, but still very smart.
But perhaps was the most pleasing thing about the game was the pressure we put on Richmond at every opportunity. It seemed that none of their possession forward of the centre circle (and, quite often, behind the circle as well) was uncontested. Matthew Robbins was his normal, terrier-like self, but everyone seemed to have step up a couple of notches when it came to their intensity. Brian Harris continued his improvement in the hard-man stakes, at one stage being particularly rough with Judas Tiger Nathan G. Brown, pushing his head into the Telstra Dome turf, perhaps explaining the error in his judgement when he jumped ship to play for Richmond.
When I watched the replay on Fox Footy, I was struck by how pedestrian the Tigers' "running game" seemed when compared to that of the Dogs. They just weren't fast enough or skillful enough to play that style of game against us, and that's the reason we won — Richmond tried to play the game on our terms and were spanked. In my mind, this raises the question of what happens when we play with their own style of play who are able to impose it upon other sides. Essendon have always seemed to be very good at this against us, as have Sydney. I think Adelaide will be able to win an arm-wrestle against us too.
Next week we have Melbourne, who I think are too weak-willed to work their way back if we go out, guns blazing. I'm looking forward to Saturday afternoon.