Dog Day or Tiger Warning?
I know it’s our own question but we are half inclined to declare it neither. If it wasn’t for Richmond’s status as defending premiers we definitely would. To put it simply, neither team has done anything in 2020 to warrant any real declaration about the result of their meeting.
Coming into Round Nine, from their combined 16 games, the two teams boasted just one win over top eight opposition between them. That being the Doggies Round Seven win over the Bombers. If not for this win, the two teams placement in the top half of the ladder was owed mostly to wins over bottom six opposition.
It is for this reason, and for their failings against the better teams that we can’t write this performance off as a Dog Day for the Western Bulldogs. Whenever they are put under genuine pressure, as they were by Collingwood, St Kilda, Carlton and Richmond, they cannot produce the kinds of free wheeling performances they do against the weaker teams.
This weakness in the Bulldogs makes it hard to gauge just how good the Tigers were. In the end, because they are the defending Premiers, we will attach some weight to their dominant performance. You can only beat the opposition you face and they did that handsomely.
Consider it a Tiger Warning.
How the Game Was Won
Just like the old Mike Tyson saying, ‘everyone has a plan ’till the get punched in the mouth’, the Bulldogs had no answer once the Tigers metaphorically bopped them on the nose. This game was lost in the Bulldogs preference to try and handball their way out of trouble and their inability to do so at an AFL level when under pressure.
Damien Hardwick thought it ‘looked like a Richmond game’ and that was because it did. His men were at their ferocious best, corralling and tackling their opposition like their lives depended on it. Time and again the Bulldogs wilted under their shear will to force them into error and the game was officially out of reach by half time.
Dustin Martin had Bruce McAvaney excited, and with good reason, with the Two-Time Norm Smith Medallist producing a classic performance with 26 disposal and three goals. As excited as they would have been by Dusty, performance from a few favourites would have equally pleased the Tiger faithful. Skipper Trent Cotchin was solid in his return from injury, while Jack Riewoldt and Tom Lynch hinted that a return to form mightn’t be too far away.
For the Bulldogs, Jack Macrae was the standout. Remarkably, despite the shortened quarters, he was able to collect 37 touches in a beaten team. Caleb Daniel and Mitch Wallis were others who performed admirably in the loss.
What the Coaches Said
In hindsight, Luke Beveridge could see the result coming. “Look, we’ve been winning games but I don’t think we’ve been playing that well. We had a really good third quarter against the Bombers other than that that game was pretty even. So we’ve strung some wins together but tonight our first half was obviously a little bit of a disaster unfortunately.
Beveridge praised Richmond but believed the Bulldogs created some of their own issues. “To Richmond’s credit their intensity and their willingness to cover the ground put us under pressure. Which we invited, again. At the start of the game we probably overused the ball a little bit by hand and allowed them to get some momentum,” he said.
Despite the result, he was able to find some positives. “I was pleased that the boys were able to almost halve the second half, you know when the game had really gone south. We just have to move on its a subpar performance from us even though I don’t think we’ve been playing extremely well anyway. In this new series of games we have just got to make sure that we move on pretty quickly,” he said.
Damien Hardwick believed the Tigers had been building to this result. “I think there has been some areas of our games that we’ve been dominate in but probably haven’t cashed in on the scoreboard somewhat,” he said.
Hardwick was particularly pleased that they played to their strengths. “It looked like a Richmond game tonight but we finally got some scoreboard dividend, especially in our forward half turnover game. I think we kicked eight goals from forward half which is generally how we score. Weeks previous we’ve been a little bit slow on that.”
“It was great. We’ve still got some work to do in a couple of areas but it was pleasing for our young guys to stand up and enjoy the experience,” he said.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.1 3.5 4.7 7.7 (49)
RICHMOND 4.3 10.4 11.10 13.12 (90)
Western Bulldogs: Wallis 3, Bruce 2, Vandermeer 2
Richmond: Aarts 3, Martin 3, Castagna 2, Lynch 2, Chol, Pickett, Riewoldt
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Daniel, Wallis, Smith, Williams
Richmond: Martin, Grimes, Balta, Short, Bolton, Cotchin
Western Bulldogs: Suckling (hamstring)