Dogs and Dees clash in fiery first half There was plenty of niggle between the Bulldogs and Demons in the opening half at Etihad Stadium
1. Bugg sets the tone on Instagram
All week long the attention had been on Western Bulldogs backman Jason Johannisen after he copped plenty of attention from Sydney in round 12 and had a quiet game. Melbourne’s serial pest Tom Bugg made his intentions clear before the game when he took a photo with teammate Jack Watts and posted it on Instagram, posing a question for Johannisen: ‘YOU READY?’. The Dogs must have caught wind of what happened because stand-in captain Easton Wood went straight to Bugg before the first bounce and made sure the Demon knew he wouldn’t get off lightly for his provocative post. The game really fired up in the second quarter. Mitch Hannan kicked a goal and Bugg won a free immediately afterwards when Wood appeared to clip Bugg above his left eye. Bugg slotted his set shot but that incident set off a chain of scuffles which seemed to break out all over the ground every couple of minutes.
2. Melbourne makes a statement
Young teams sometimes struggle to string good games together but the Demons followed up their magnificent Queen’s Birthday victory against Collingwood with a thumping of the reigning premiers by 57 points on Sunday. Their effort to continually lay smothers in the first quarter was evidence they were on their game and they kept up the intensity for the whole match. Jack Watts was excellent with three goals as his side’s most dangerous forward, while Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver were also influential. At 7-5 and with a trip to West Coast next Saturday before hosting Sydney at the MCG, it looms as a defining fortnight for Simon Goodwin’s side. Those games will be difficult but star ruckman Max Gawn’s return to face the Eagles will be a boon.
3. Kicking goals is too tough for the Dogs
A fourth loss in five games has left the 2016 premiers’ season in a worrisome predicament. The Bulldogs showed last year they don’t need to finish in the top four to contend, when they won the flag from seventh, but it’s the way they’re playing that would be of greatest concern for coach Luke Beveridge. Kicking goals is such a struggle for this outfit, and the Dogs finished with 18 shots on goal from 50 inside 50s, and just eight majors. Often, Marcus Bontempelli was deployed as a forward and he looked the most dangerous man in attack, leaving Beveridge with a conundrum about where to play his superstar. Former Collingwood forward Travis Cloke missed the game with soreness but he’s no longer good enough to be the answer.
4. Jason Johannisen’s not doing his contract any favours
The Norm Smith medallist is out of contract at the end of the season and West Coast is among the teams trying to poach the running backman. A couple of quiet games might make some clubs a little wary about offering big bucks to recruit Johannisen. He copped plenty of attention against the Demons, with Jake Melksham assigned the task of quelling the Bulldog’s influence, and he collected only 15 disposals and 230m gained. The line-breaking runs he has made his name on weren’t seen against the Demons, raising questions about how wise it is to offer a lot of money for an outside player who has struggled to deal with physical attention.
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5. Tom Liberatore did what Tom Liberatore does
There are no secrets about what the son of Bulldogs great Tony provides. A tough midfielder who will fight as hard as anyone to win the footy. He returned to the senior side for the first time since round eight and finished with 29 disposals, 13 contested possessions and a goal. Unsurprisingly, he was often scrapping it out with Jack Viney and Clayton Oliver at the coalface. The Bulldogs faithful were happy to see the left-footer back in the team, as shown by their cheers of support when Liberatore took his first mark of the game in the opening term. He followed that up with a pinpoint kick in Liam Picken’s direction into the forward line, although the accidental spoil from teammate Tory Dickson was indicative of the Dogs’ performance. Liberatore has played better games but it was a start for him to build on.
WATCH: Highlights: Western Bulldogs v Melbourne