Western Bulldogs 6.2 9.5 12.8 14.9.93
Essendon 1.2 5.7 5.9 7.11.53
Western Bulldogs: Dickson 3, Daniel 2, Jong, T. Boyd, Wood, Picken, Cordy, McLean, Roughead, Hunter, C. Smith
Essendon: Daniher 2, Leuenberger, J. Merrett, Cooney, Fantasia, Z. Merrett
Alex Docherty's Best
Western Bulldogs: Picken, Johannisen, Daniel, M. Boyd, Hunter, Bontempelli, Hrovat
Essendon: Z. Merrett, Stokes, Zaharakis, Daniher, Kelly, Brown
The Western Bulldogs have cruised to a 40-point win over the lowly Essendon to record their third win in a row on Sunday evening. It was a game that didn't really reach any exciting heights, the Bombers kicked the opening goal through Joe Daniher before the Dogs rallied with six unanswered goals to open up a 30-point buffer at the opening break, and despite some resistance from Essendon throughout the evening, they were rarely troubled.
Following Geelong's win over the Brisbane Lions earlier on in the day, the Bulldogs' task of finishing top four almost looks shot, with the Dogs having to rely on Hawthorn, Greater Western Sydney and West Coast all losing their respective matches next week, as well as ensuring that they themselves get over the lowly Fremantle next week as expected. Hawthorn will play Collingwood at the MCG next Sunday, the Giants visit Etihad Stadium to take on North Melbourne and West Coast roll into the Adelaide Oval next Friday night to take on the Crows.
However, this win has come at yet, another significant cost, with Bulldogs' acting captain Easton Wood, who is the latest player to fall to the Doggies' injury woes, and given the injuries to Robert Murphy, Mitch Wallis, Jack Macrae and Tom Liberatore, this would've been the absolute last thing that the Western Bulldogs need come September. Wood landed awkwardly on his left foot late in the third quarter and was forced off the ground with what appeared to be either an ankle or an achilles injury, with coach Luke Beveridge admitting during the post-game press conference that the injury does not bode well for the rest of Wood's 2016 campaign.
Leading The Way
There were a number of Dogs who starred with big statistic games. I thought Jason Johannisen has played one of his best games since returning from that major hamstring injury, finishing the game with 31 disposals, 12 marks and eight rebound 50s, while Liam Picken led the Bulldogs for disposals with 33 touches in one of his best performances of the year to go along with eight tackles, seven marks, five inside 50s and a goal.
Matthew Boyd again was outstanding in defence and he needed to be the cool head in defence, given the absences of Dale Morris, Robert Murphy, Matthew Suckling and for the last part of last night, Easton Wood. He recorded 30 disposals, nine marks and three rebound 50s and would have to be in consideration for All-Australian selections. Another couple of players who should be considered for the team also had solid games. Lachie Hunter, who again found himself plenty of the ball, finished the game with 30 disposals, seven marks and a goal, whilst Marcus Bontempelli was busy with 27 disposals, six tackles, six inside 50s and five marks
Caleb Daniel did his chances of winning the NAB rising star award no harm whatsoever, recording 23 disposals, five marks and two goals, Nathan Hrovat found himself plenty of the ball, finishing the game with 28 disposals and five clearances in one of his best games of the year so far and Lin Jong was another who I thought was lively, ending the day with 20 disposals, seven marks, seven tackles and a goal.
I was very impressed with how second-gamer Roarke Smith composed himself in the back-half and despite only finishing with 12 disposals, I reckon that he could be one for the future, Toby McLean also had a good return to footy after missing a couple of months with a foot injury and I truly believe that Tom Boyd is slowly improving by the week. He may have only had the one goal on the night, but it's his ability to move around the ground and to get into the right spots that impress me the most. He might not be taking those grabs now, but he could very well be in a couple of years time.
Essendon fans would've wanted their side to have a red-hot go against a finals-bound side and that's exactly what they got for the most part. The first quarter was very poor, but the intensity and the endeavour was their after quarter time and avoided a massive blowout, which will please a lot of Essendon supporters, given that they will get the likes of Michael Hurley, Jobe Watson, Cale Hooker, Dyson Heppell and others back next year.
They lost to the Dogs in every major statistic, but they weren't by heavy margins. They had only 20 fewer disposals (386-406), seven fewer clearances (28-35), 11 fewer inside 50s (40-51), 11 fewer contested possessions (129-140) and 13 less tackles (63-76).
I really liked Zach Merrett's game and has easily been one of the biggest positives to come out of the Bombers this season. He finished up with a game-high 35 disposals, eight tackles, seven clearances, five inside 50s, five marks and a goal in a stunning effort. David Zaharakis is another that's emerged as a serious player this season and had a solid game, with 31 disposals, 10 tackles and eight marks.
The Bombers celebrated the careers of both Mathew Stokes and former Bulldog Adam Cooney, who were playing their 200th and 250th games respectively, and whilst Stokes is retiring on 200, there are still question marks raised on whether or not Cooney will go on next week or not after he announced his retirement earlier on in the week. Both men had solid games, the former Geelong premiership player Stokes had 31 disposals, nine marks and five inside 50s, whilst Cooney had 22 disposals, six marks, four clearances and a nice snap goal in the second quarter.
It was really good scenes to see the Bulldogs' supporters get up on their feet after Cooney's goal, acknowledging the contribution he put in to the Western Bulldogs over 11 seasons.
Another veteran who played well was James Kelly, who could be on Essendon's list full-time next year after the former Cat had 30 disposals and 11 marks. Joe Daniher loomed as a constant threat down forward for Bombers, taking six marks, with five of those being contested, including two possible mark of the year candidates, and if he can brush up on his goal kicking (He kicked 2.3), he can very well be one of the best forwards in the competition.
It's the final round of the home and away season next week, and the Dogs go up to Perth to take on Fremantle on a late Sunday afternoon in Victorian time, in what should be another win for the red, white and blues, given how dismal the Dockers have been since the start of the year, when ironically, it was the Dogs who handed them their first of many thumpings this year.
Even with Fremantle's low position on the ladder, this is a game that the Dogs will want to win, given that there is at least a home elimination final at stake here, but if results fall in the Dogs' favour, then we could just see the Dogs occupy that fourth position by next week.