What They're Saying - The Bulldogs Media Thread - Part 3

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Hard Ball Get

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Dec 21, 2005
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PATRICK Lipinski's season took a twist before it had even really started. And now it's starting to pay off.

After playing 17 games last year, the Western Bulldogs youngster set himself for a breakout 2019 campaign.

"My aim was to play 22 games. I had a really good pre-season and was looking forward to hopefully cracking in for round one," Lipinski told AFL.com.au this week.

Lipinski's hard work is finally starting to pay off. Picture: AFL Photos


Then the JLT Community Series pre-season competition started. Lipinski, by his own admission, didn't play well against Gold Coast on the Dogs' trip to Mackay, and in the following days had a chat with coach Luke Beveridge.

"I was playing on the wing and he thought I should go back to the VFL, get more involved and get my confidence up playing in the midfield," he said.

The new role was as an inside ball-getter, someone who could use his size and athleticism more around the stoppages rather than outside of them.

"It was a little bit difficult because I'm more of an outside, running player, so I had to improve on that contested part of my game, which I've been working on since I got to the club the past few years," he said.

"I just tried to use my strengths with my run and really outwork my opponents in the VFL."

Lipinski came up against champion Hawk Jarryd Roughead in a VFL clash. PIcture: AFL Photoi


The 20-year-old just didn't think he'd be down there so long. Lipinski didn't get a recall to the Dogs' senior side until round 10 of the season, having been made to earn his place.

"It was a bit disappointing and frustrating, but it was also a good opportunity to also improve on things that you wouldn't be able to improve on at AFL level because you don't have all the pressure to perform so consistently when you're in a new role," he said.

Every week Lipinski would work through edits of his game, pouring over vision of his games and where he could improve.

He worked closely with Jordan Russell, his development coach and also the Footscray VFL midfield coach, and Dogs' midfield assistant and Geelong great Joel Corey, every week doing extra stoppage work and contested drills after main sessions finished.

"I felt ready the whole time. I was playing decent footy in the VFL and a few times I was a bit disappointed I wasn't put in [to the AFL team], but in the long run it helped me really improve," he said.

"I looked at it in a positive way. I didn't want to dwell on it because then I wouldn't play well in the VFL and then I'd be another week behind.

"I remained optimistic and positive to keep playing well and knew I'd eventually get a chance."


He hasn't let it slip. Lipinski came back into the team against North Melbourne, and has averaged nearly 24 disposals in his six games this season.

His best performance came against Carlton, when he gathered 29 touches and kicked two goals, before he followed it with 32 and a goal against Collingwood and two goals and 17 touches against Port Adelaide.


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Lipinski's added some more grunt to his game, applying his taller frame, penetrating run and strong instincts to a new spot.

"I'm happy I can see I've had clear improvement from last year, which I thought I had, but as I was playing in the VFL it's hard to know whether you've gone backwards," he said.

"But it did feel like I'd improved a lot over the pre-season so seeing the results come out now have been pretty good. It's definitely been the best patch of my career at AFL level."

His inclusion has come as the Bulldogs have enjoyed their strongest stretch of form this year, winning three of their past four games. If they beat Melbourne on Sunday, a finals spot remains in the frame.


The club, and playing list, has changed dramatically since its 2016 premiership triumph – when Lipinski, a die-hard Dogs fan growing up, was in the stands to see his side beat Sydney in the Grand Final two months before he was drafted there.

He is part of an underbelly of young Dogs starting to blossom together, and two of whom – Aaron Naughton and Tim English – are housemates of Lipinski's. He said it has been enjoyable to see Naughton's star rise so quickly, admitting Naughton hadn't minded the attention, either.

"He's always been pretty confident, even when he first got drafted you could tell he was confident in his own ability, which is also a very good thing because he backs himself," he said.

"He's been, kind of, humble, I guess. Kind of," he said, laughing. "He's often pretty happy with his work as he should be when he's been dominating games. It will be good to watch him over the next few years."
 

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dogwatch

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SkyNews piece on our relationship with VU with a panel discussion with Gordon and VU vice chancellor afterwards. Probably won't be too many eye opening insights to many supporters, but worth a watch.

Thanks Guido, that was worthwhile.

Amusing to see the VC wearing a Bulldogs tie but PG was not. (His was a plain blue one, looked like it could have been nicked from Tony Abbott's wardrobe).
 

WallyStringhaus

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https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/27125793/these-kids-ticking-bombs-threat-youth-basketball

It's a long read but well worth it. Huge issue moving forward for the NBA and you could draw some parallels with AFL.

Premise of the article is about the amount of time young athletes are putting into training and games before they have even reached the pro's. Therefore, making themselves more susceptible to injuries when they do reach the big time.

I haven't looked into it too deeply but we saw our own Bailey Smith troubled by an Achilles at the tender age of 17 and the Club were forced to step in and lessen his excessive training loads.

Two of the top 4 picks from last years draft are yet to debut this year due to injuries. As the article suggests are we placing too much on still developing bodies too soon?
 

inyourfacedunk

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https://www.espn.com/nba/story/_/id/27125793/these-kids-ticking-bombs-threat-youth-basketball

I haven't looked into it too deeply but we saw our own Bailey Smith troubled by an Achilles at the tender age of 17 and the Club were forced to step in and lessen his excessive training loads.
Weird I know, but I remember when I first saw him play, I thought to myself that the kid has calves like Daniel Cross. An 18 year old having legs that looked as powerful as a player with one of the highest work rates going around.
 

Hard Ball Get

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WHICH player would you rather have based on these stats?

Player A: 32.6 disposals, 15.9 contested possessions, 6.3 clearances and 6.8 tackles.
Player B: 31.5 disposals, 16.3 contested possessions, 8 clearances and 3.6 tackles.

Player A is Western Bulldogs inside midfielder Josh Dunkley, while Player B looms as his likely match-up in round 20 – Brisbane's Brownlow Medal fancy Lachie Neale.

Over the past 12 weeks, Dunkley has quietly entered the 'who's the best inside midfielder in the competition' discussion.

Dunkley on the left! #AFLDogsSuns pic.twitter.com/YrDU5oagAk

— AFL (AFL) April 7, 2019
The Bulldogs were sitting 2-4 at the end of round six and struggling to get their midfield and forward mix right.

Dunkley had been employed in a forward role and his stats were reasonable without being eye-popping – 18 disposals, 4.7 tackles and 0.5 goals per game, while sitting 260th in the Official AFL Player Ratings League-wide, and 11th at the Whitten Oval.

He'd barely even been near the middle in that time, averaging just 1.7 clearances and 8.2 contested possessions.

Then came the shake-up in round seven. It wasn't just Dunkley who coach Luke Beveridge unshackled, but it's the young midfielder who has shown the most improvement in that time.



Dunkley's stats as a permanent midfielder across the past 12 weeks have been astounding. He is averaging 32.6 disposals, 6.8 tackles, 6.3 clearances and a whopping 15.9 contested possessions in that time.

Consider that those numbers have actually taken a slight dip after a comparatively 'quiet' 26-disposal effort against the Dockers in round 19.

FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game

The spike in Dunkley's standing in the Official AFL Player Ratings has been impressive too, jumping 198 spots to 62 across the whole League. He now trails only Marcus Bontempelli (No.9) and Jack Macrae (No.10) at the Bulldogs.

The Bulldogs as a team have seen success with the addition of Dunkley's move – averaging an extra 3.4 clearances per game since round seven.

They've also won seven games and lost five in that time span, putting them firmly in the mix for a place in the finals.
 

_M_16_

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It’s time for the Western Bulldogs to grow up

Adrian Polykandrites


https://www.theroar.com.au/2019/08/07/its-time-for-the-western-bulldogs-to-grow-up/#comments-section


https://www.theroar.com.au/author/nabfw/
https://www.theroar.com.au/2019/08/07/its-time-for-the-western-bulldogs-to-grow-up/#comments-section



First things first: the 2016 Western Bulldogs are gone and they aren’t coming back.
The game and the league have changed in the past three seasons, and half of the Dogs’ premiership players have either left or are unlikely to play for the club again.

Too much of the analysis on these Bulldogs is still viewed through the 2016 prism. It’s time for everyone to move on and see them for what they are, and what they could be.

The stars
The Dogs don’t have many A-graders on their list, which is part of the reason they’re stuck in the middle of the ladder. But they do have two bonafide stars.
It’s not difficult to make a case that Marcus Bontempelli is the best player in footy, and his prolific running mate, Jack Macrae, is one of the league’s best second bananas.

The second tier
This is the Bulldogs’ strength, and why when things click they can mix it with just about any side – they’ve beaten three of the current top-four.

Captain conundrum
As one of only two Bulldogs premiership captains, Easton Wood will forever be a legend at Whitten Oval, but Father Time is undefeated, and it appears he’s come for the skipper.
Of 66 players this season who have been involved in at least 30 one-on-one defensive contests, Wood’s loss rate of 39.4 percent is worse than 62 of those players – blimey.

The coach
Luke Beveridge has earned some criticism since the glory of 2016. His regular shuffling of players both on the field and in and out of the 22 over the past three seasons has at times been baffling.
But while criticism is warranted, he has also come up with a plan to put his team in a winning position on many occasions only to be let down by woeful finishing in front of the big sticks.
Sunday’s loss to the Lions was a good example. There’s no shame in a three-goal defeat at the Gabba these days, but if the visitors had made the most of their early chances, it could have been a different game – that’s been a regular theme.
Luke Beveridge

Luke Beveridge (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)
The defence
The Team That Should Be Footscray is far too easy to score against. They’re giving up a goal on 24.9 per cent of opponents’ forward-50 entriwa
Some of that is because their aggressive transition game can leave them badly exposed on turnovers, part of that is because their defenders aren’t very good.
Zaine Cordy always seems to be outsized and outclassed, and while Jackson Trengove has been a solid addition to the back six, much of his good defensive work is undone by skill errors and poor decisions.

The future
There’s not a more exciting young prospect in the league than Aaron Naughton. He can be a little shaky in front of goal – it’s the Bulldog way – but he’s special in the air. Naughton is eighth in the league for marks inside-50 this season and has taken more contested marks than anyone. Oh, and he’s still a teenager.
Tim English is starting to look every bit the modern ruckman he was advertised as, and Bailey Smith gives the club the kind of player they’ve been crying out for – an inside midfielder with breakaway speed.
Ed Richards has had a bit of a second-year slump, but still looks a long-term player off halfback or a wing. Josh Schache might never live up the lofty expectations that come with being a No.2 pick, but he should play plenty of footy alongside Naughton and – unlike many of his teammates – is a reliable kick for goal. As are Patrick Lipinski and Bailey Dale, who are both contributing forward of centre.

The now
The finals door is still ajar and if the Dogs can beat the injury-hit Bombers on Saturday night, they’ll nudge it open a little further. It’s a game they should expect to win.

Then what?
There’s a strong foundation here with one gaping hole: they desperately need a quality key defender. That has to be the priority this offseason, and their entire haul of draft picks should be on the table for ready-made players.
We’ve seen how even the league has become; the gap from first to everyone but Gold Coast is pretty slim, but if you don’t step up, you’ll quickly be left behind.
Three years without finals would be tough to swallow, a fourth would be borderline unacceptable.
 

bobs head soup

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Sep 14, 2015
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It’s time for the Western Bulldogs to grow up

Adrian Polykandrites


https://www.theroar.com.au/2019/08/07/its-time-for-the-western-bulldogs-to-grow-up/#comments-section


https://www.theroar.com.au/author/nabfw/
https://www.theroar.com.au/2019/08/07/its-time-for-the-western-bulldogs-to-grow-up/#comments-section



First things first: the 2016 Western Bulldogs are gone and they aren’t coming back.
The game and the league have changed in the past three seasons, and half of the Dogs’ premiership players have either left or are unlikely to play for the club again.

Too much of the analysis on these Bulldogs is still viewed through the 2016 prism. It’s time for everyone to move on and see them for what they are, and what they could be.

The stars
The Dogs don’t have many A-graders on their list, which is part of the reason they’re stuck in the middle of the ladder. But they do have two bonafide stars.
It’s not difficult to make a case that Marcus Bontempelli is the best player in footy, and his prolific running mate, Jack Macrae, is one of the league’s best second bananas.

The second tier
This is the Bulldogs’ strength, and why when things click they can mix it with just about any side – they’ve beaten three of the current top-four.

Captain conundrum
As one of only two Bulldogs premiership captains, Easton Wood will forever be a legend at Whitten Oval, but Father Time is undefeated, and it appears he’s come for the skipper.
Of 66 players this season who have been involved in at least 30 one-on-one defensive contests, Wood’s loss rate of 39.4 percent is worse than 62 of those players – blimey.

The coach
Luke Beveridge has earned some criticism since the glory of 2016. His regular shuffling of players both on the field and in and out of the 22 over the past three seasons has at times been baffling.
But while criticism is warranted, he has also come up with a plan to put his team in a winning position on many occasions only to be let down by woeful finishing in front of the big sticks.
Sunday’s loss to the Lions was a good example. There’s no shame in a three-goal defeat at the Gabba these days, but if the visitors had made the most of their early chances, it could have been a different game – that’s been a regular theme.
Luke Beveridge

Luke Beveridge (Photo by Adam Trafford/AFL Media/Getty Images)
The defence
The Team That Should Be Footscray is far too easy to score against. They’re giving up a goal on 24.9 per cent of opponents’ forward-50 entriwa
Some of that is because their aggressive transition game can leave them badly exposed on turnovers, part of that is because their defenders aren’t very good.
Zaine Cordy always seems to be outsized and outclassed, and while Jackson Trengove has been a solid addition to the back six, much of his good defensive work is undone by skill errors and poor decisions.

The future
There’s not a more exciting young prospect in the league than Aaron Naughton. He can be a little shaky in front of goal – it’s the Bulldog way – but he’s special in the air. Naughton is eighth in the league for marks inside-50 this season and has taken more contested marks than anyone. Oh, and he’s still a teenager.
Tim English is starting to look every bit the modern ruckman he was advertised as, and Bailey Smith gives the club the kind of player they’ve been crying out for – an inside midfielder with breakaway speed.
Ed Richards has had a bit of a second-year slump, but still looks a long-term player off halfback or a wing. Josh Schache might never live up the lofty expectations that come with being a No.2 pick, but he should play plenty of footy alongside Naughton and – unlike many of his teammates – is a reliable kick for goal. As are Patrick Lipinski and Bailey Dale, who are both contributing forward of centre.

The now
The finals door is still ajar and if the Dogs can beat the injury-hit Bombers on Saturday night, they’ll nudge it open a little further. It’s a game they should expect to win.

Then what?
There’s a strong foundation here with one gaping hole: they desperately need a quality key defender. That has to be the priority this offseason, and their entire haul of draft picks should be on the table for ready-made players.
We’ve seen how even the league has become; the gap from first to everyone but Gold Coast is pretty slim, but if you don’t step up, you’ll quickly be left behind.
Three years without finals would be tough to swallow, a fourth would be borderline unacceptable.
Pretty good analysis that, hard to disagree with much.

The stat that Easton Wood is ranked #63 of 66 defenders for one on one contests (30 contests minimum) is damning . Unless he can work back to a role that allows him more intercept opportunities I think his position must be questionable.
 
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Virgin Dog

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Pretty good analysis that, hard to disagree with much.

The stat that Easton Wood is ranked #63 of 66 defenders for one on one contests (30 contests minimum) is damning . Unless he can work back to a role allows him more intercept opportunities I think his position must be questionable.
On output, it's getting to the point where Wood is only making it into the side ahead of Williams because of his role as captain. As players, it seems even Williams has gone past him. If he weren't captain, and if we weren't so desperate for proper on-field direction, then I doubt Wood would be playing in the 22 from next season onwards.

Hopefully he can turn it around next year, because this is a huge drop from the AA-level he once showed
 

NoName

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Good article by Wayne Carey in the Age about Dogs season and immediate to long term future

Why the Dogs are poised to rise

Since their premiership in 2016, the Western Bulldogs have been one of the more curious cases in football.
Back then a young and hungry group was seemingly on the verge of a dynasty, but as we know that's not how things have panned out.
The Bulldogs' midfield superstar Marcus Bontempelli.
The Bulldogs' midfield superstar Marcus Bontempelli.CREDIT:AAP
For a number of reasons, there's been a high turnover of players, with the team of 2019 barely resembling the one that stepped out on grand final day three years ago.
In fact, just 10 of that 22 are still playing regularly at Whitten Oval.

But while the drop off after that day was dramatic, the Dogs could rise again just as swiftly.
I believe they have most of the ingredients and, perhaps more importantly, the maturity for a more sustained period of success.
The Bulldogs are a very different team in 2019 to the one that won the premiership in 2016.
The Bulldogs are a very different team in 2019 to the one that won the premiership in 2016.CREDIT:JOE ARMAO
There's no reason why they can't be a contender next year.
Tenth on the ladder, with a below-average percentage of 95.8, it will probably be tough for the Dogs to sneak into the September picture this season.

But with Essendon looming on Saturday night, they're not without a chance.
And, if nothing else, the final three rounds provide this group with the perfect opportunity to sell itself to any free agents or trade targets they might chase in the off-season.
We know they have a war chest after the early retirement of Tom Boyd due to personal reasons, and Liam Picken because of concussion.
The fact they have been two key men down for much of the season further highlights how impressive their season has been.
Following the departure of Joel Hamling at the end of 2016 and the injury struggles of veteran Dale Morris, a key defender must again be their No. 1 target.

Magpie Darcy Moore's name has been bandied about, but because of his history of hamstring injuries he's also one to be wary of throwing big money at.
In Aaron Naughton they have one of the most exciting young players in the game and a guy who they can build a forward line around.
He's not afraid to fly from five deep, and the confidence he already has as a 19-year-old is incredible.
Naughton still needs some added support but get another pre-season into Josh Schache and he might be the man, alongside a more aggressive third tall like Billy Gowers.
Still, clearly the key to the Dogs' resurgence has been their midfield.

Marcus Bontempelli has almost flown under the radar while the likes of Carlton's Patrick Cripps and West Coast's Elliott Yeo, or Geelong's Patrick Dangerfield and Richmond's Dustin Martin get most of the attention.
But he's every bit as good as all of those guys with his ability to win the footy at the coalface, before spreading and breaking the lines.
Jack Macrae is prolific, "Libba" is "Libba" again, and Josh Dunkley has become a crucial inside player, ensuring the Dogs have found the right mix around the ball.

In the ruck, Tim English still has a lot of developing to do and still faces challenges against the game's best ruckmen, but he's also getting more exposure than Max Gawn was at the same age.

He should really enjoy taking on Zac Clarke this weekend, in turn allowing his midfielders to play more off him, rather than trying to shark the taps of the opposition ruckman.
It's because of the Dogs' midfield strength they should prove too strong for the Bombers, with a settled and healthy on-ball brigade against a more makeshift set-up that Essendon have been forced to put on the park because of injuries.
Much credit must go to Luke Beveridge for the way he's reinvented this group. The manic brand of 2016 has been tweaked and again stacks up against the best teams.
Remarkably, what's let the Bulldogs down this year has been their performances against so-called lesser opposition.
While they've beaten Geelong, Richmond and the Brisbane Lions, they have lost to the likes of Gold Coast, Carlton and St Kilda.

As it stands, the Dogs are probably playing better footy than two or three sides in the eight, and if they do happen to sneak in, they could cause a few headaches.
September or not, this season still appears to be the perfect platform for 2020. And, come the trade period, the Dogs might be one of the destination clubs.
 

Dannnnnnnnnn

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Pretty good analysis that, hard to disagree with much.

The stat that Easton Wood is ranked #63 of 66 defenders for one on one contests (30 contests minimum) is damning . Unless he can work back to a role that allows him more intercept opportunities I think his position must be questionable.
I don't think it's surprising that losing Adams, Naughton (to the forward line) and Morris (plus Hamling if you want to go a bit further back) has seen Wood and Cordy have their worst seasons in some time. It's just not their game. They need help, but a particular kind of help that the likes of Young (x2) etc can't really provide.
 

ossie_21

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I don't think it's surprising that losing Adams, Naughton (to the forward line) and Morris (plus Hamling if you want to go a bit further back) has seen Wood and Cordy have their worst seasons in some time. It's just not their game. They need help, but a particular kind of help that the likes of Young (x2) etc can't really provide.
Stop talking complete sense
 

Cadillac

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I don't think it's surprising that losing Adams, Naughton (to the forward line) and Morris (plus Hamling if you want to go a bit further back) has seen Wood and Cordy have their worst seasons in some time. It's just not their game. They need help, but a particular kind of help that the likes of Young (x2) etc can't really provide.
Haven’t had a great success rate with that surname.
1F967634-F8F2-42E2-BEF5-75B7E0362DE0.jpeg
 

Islanddoggy

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On the channel 9 footy show the commentators just ripped into Damian Barrett (especially Tony Jones) and asked him if Rhyce Shaw was his new target (when he started to have a go at north for appointing him so early) and then they went on to rib him that Beveridge "had been his previous target" for the past 3 years. If you want to see Barrett angry and not happy when someone takes a pot shot at him it is definitely worth watching.
 

Substance

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Can everyone please post the best media takes this week for us vs essendon. Even if it's just a roast of them I wanna hear it
 

Bont2Bruce

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Can everyone please post the best media takes this week for us vs essendon. Even if it's just a roast of them I wanna hear it
Matthew Lloyd:

"It was horrible. They were horrible last night, Essendon. One of the worst performances in the history of the club and obviously the club has been around for well over 120-odd years. It was appalling," Lloyd told Channel Nine's Sunday Footy Show.

"I was there as a spectator last night – the amount of people leaving at half-time and three-quarter time angry, the venom towards the players for a lack of effort."
Mark Robinson:

DISLIKES
1. What was that, Essendon?

The texts came at quarter-time. Every Essendon person either sent them or received them. Disappointment and disbelief eventually gave way to texts dripping with anger and fury as the Bulldogs piled on goal after goal. The positive trajectory from the past five weeks has been enveloped by doom. Suddenly coach John Worsfold is a target because his insipid players made him a target. That’s what happens when players surrender. It’s also what happens when the coach’s game plan doesn’t stand up. It’s too easy to say the coach must be sacked. It’s far bigger than that. When a team kicks 106 points from turnovers there are queries about defending without the ball. Worsfold may well be gone if his players surrender over the next two weeks — they play Fremantle away and Collingwood at the MCG. As coach he is responsible for every aspect. but this was also a players’ issue. This was pathetic. The team has kicked eight goals in six quarters of football. They didn’t come to play in the second half against Port Adelaide and didn’t come to play in the four quarters against the Bulldogs. If they don’t come to play over the next two weeks then change will be demanded.
2. Injuries are not an excuse
There’s no shame in losing — unless you lose like that. Six changes at selection hurts connectivity but doesn’t break hearts, spirit and systems. There were words spoken after the game by players and there likely will be more during the week. “We can either listen to the outside noise and succumb to the pressure or we bury deep and stick together,’’ skipper Dyson Heppell said after the match. “Fair enough, we’re going to cop it from the outside. We’ll own that, that’s fine. They can say what they like, but we’re going to stay strong internally as a whole club. The whole club needs to own this one.’’ The club is already bunkered down. No Essendon player or official was available for radio interviews yesterday which was the right decision. Enough has been said already.
3. Why so inconsistent?
Orazio Fantasia is sore according to the Bombers and that may explain why he had one handball in the first half on Saturday night. He is symbolic of Essendon. He can look a million dollars or he can look a footy pauper. Anthony McDonald-Tipingwuti is the same. One week Jake Stringer is one of the most devastating players in the AFL, the next week scratches for seven possessions. Shaun McKernan is the same. David Zaharakis was limp and Heppell is injured. Zac Clarke is beaten every week. Every player on the field on Saturday night has the finger pointed at them. This club has been inconsistent for 15 years, which is what hurts the fans most. Is that a Worsfold problem, a players’ problem or a culture problem? Starting to think there’s an acceptance of mediocrity.

LIKES
6. This week the Dogs kick goals
The Bulldogs didn’t muck around. It started in the midfield with the ball hogs — Josh Dunkley, Jack Macrae and Lachie Hunter and Marcus Bontempelli — and ended in front of goals with 11 goalkickers and a score of 21.11. Hunter told 3AW it’s a positive to have a settled forward squad of Aaron Naughton and Josh Schache as the talls with Bailey Dale, Toby McLean, Tory Dickson, Sam Lloyd and Patrick Lipinksi around them. Dale has been a revelation. He has kicked 13 goals and averaged eight score involvements from his past four matches. He had just seven goals from his previous 13 matches. If the Dogs make September they will scare which ever team they play.
 

Bont2Bruce

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Michael Gleeson:

4 Points: Don and dusted? The Bombers don't look a finals team
Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin took 108 minutes to circle the earth on his first space flight in 1961. Essendon took the same time between kicking goals at Marvel Stadium on Saturday night. So yes, you could have circled the earth in the time it took Essendon to kick their second goal against the Bulldogs. At least Gagarin would have enjoyed the view, which is more than can be said for those watching the Bombers.

Of course, we are still waiting for North’s second goal – but that is a different story. This was no normal round of footy. It snowed Friday night, North kicked one goal for the match Saturday night. And Essendon, oh Essendon. Put their loss this way: a statistician reported on Saturday night that in the history of the top-eight system, no side outside the eight had ever beaten a side inside the eight by 100 points or more.

First, we start with the partial explanation, not the excuse. Essendon had more of their best team missing than playing. Those absences can explain a loss, but not one of this magnitude. Injuries are only a partial explanation, for Essendon lacked something more elementary than players.

This was a passionless defeat. It was a meek surrender that spoke to a lack of desire to run and to work. And while yes, they missed many players, the midfield still had Dyson Heppell, Zach Merrett, Dylan Shiel and Dylan Clarke (tagging) in the team. They are first-choice centre-bounce players. Jake Stringer was also there for burst rotations and while Tom Bellchambers was a critical loss because it exposed Zac Clarke, who is well past his use-by date, they were playing against a third-year, stripe of paint ruckman in Tim English (enormously promising but still a foal). English was excellent again.

Essendon lost the contested possession count by 38 and the uncontested possession count by triple figures. So they were beaten in congestion and beaten for running once the ball broke from congestion. Oh, and the tackle count. That combination speaks to their appetite for work.

The Bulldogs are a side that likes to counterattack from half-back. They are back playing in the manner of their 2016 flag year, with clean sharp handballs from superior numbers of players, drawn to where the ball is trying to be won. Then once they win the ball, they ricochet it about with snappy handballs until they reach one of the many players already heading at pace towards goal. Suddenly, they are a wave washing through the ground. Essendon knew this and were powerless to stop it.

Here are two stats that describe this picture better than any others. Essendon laid one tackle in their forward 50. For the night. The Bulldogs kicked 10 goals from balls that started in Essendon’s forward line. Essendon could offer nothing to counter. In large part this was because they had three quarters of their spine missing – Michael Hurley, Joe Daniher and Bellchambers – so they had little marking power.

These are not matters that are going to be quickly fixed. Essendon now not only looks unlikely to make the finals, but undeserving of doing so with the team they have available to them. Pressure returns to John Worsfold, but it might as readily turn to the medical and fitness program that has left them so thin for numbers.

Essendon have lost more than 10 percentage points in the last two games. They are easy to play against now, and unfortunately came up against sides in the last two weeks that punish teams that do not have an appetite for work. Port Adelaide and the Western Bulldogs are fast, attacking, offensive units that both deserve to be playing finals, and the Bulldogs in particular are ripe to win a final if and when they get there. Port and the Dogs are in both in far better form than either of the sides that look likely to finish in fifth and sixth place – Collingwood and GWS.

Those two making the eight would not be a case of making up the finals. Both look likely to be able to win finals if and when they do get there. The same cannot be said of Essendon.

New Dogs, old tricks
The measure of the Bulldogs' win is also impacted by the fact they were without Tom Liberatore, Caleb Daniel and Mitch Wallis. The reason they we able to so thoroughly cover their absence was that Josh Dunkley has moved from good to very good. As others have noted, after he racked up 16 touches and kicked a goal in the first quarter alone, he's in the best form of his career.

The critical thing about Dunkley as a midfielder is that he is a big body and defence-first in his thinking, and has an enormous aerobic capacity to run all day. He knows where to put himself, and helps create space and time for others. His kicking is still poor but his running and ball-winning ability offsets it.

Other midfields have drawn credit for containing bigger names, but the combination of Marcus Bontempelli, Jackson Macrae, Lachie Hunter and now Dunkley (and Liberatore and Wallis) stands up with any midfield in the competition. Beyond that, they’ve also recruited a serious, underrated talent in Hayden Crozier. His run off half-back in the first quarter set up what was to come, as much as Dunkley's efforts around the ball.
 

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