Problem solving Bulldogs soar to the top

Problem solving Bulldogs soar to the top

By Lance Jenkinson

One of the most impressive aspects of the Western Bulldogs season has been its ability to find solutions to problems.

It appears from the outside there is a no excuses policy adopted at the kennel.

The Bulldogs were forced into a top of the table clash with Melbourne on short notice and without one of their key players – both due to Covid-19.

Josh Dunkley, a star midfielder who only returned to the line up a week after a long stint on the sidelines with a shoulder injury, was found to have attended a cafe that was later revealed as a tier 1 Covid site and was forced into isolation.

It was already going to be a tough void to fill in the game originally scheduled against the Adelaide Crows, but the pandemic forced a re-shuffle of matches and a first-versus-second showdown with Melbourne.

There was hardly a peep out of the Bulldogs camp about the bad cards they had been dealt.

The Dogs just got on with business, like they did through Dunkley’s initial injury, star recruit Adam Treloar’s ankle, No. 1 ruckman Stefan Martin’s groin, veteran Easton Wood’s ankle and defender Ryan Gardner’s shoulder.

They never complained when they had to travel to Perth twice in three weeks and were forced into quarantine.

There is a steel about the Bulldogs that should stand them in good stead come finals time, which, let’s face it, could be played anywhere in Australia this September.

Even in the 20-point win over Melbourne, the Bulldogs had to overcome some pretty big hurdles to leave the MCG with four premiership points and top spot.

When star defender Alex Keath went down, it was a worst case scenario considering the Demons quality tall forwards.

After the initial shock, Keath put on a brave face and had a positive influence on the bench.

Ed Richards soon followed, concussed in a tackle from Melbourne forward Kysaiah Pickett and forced to see out the game on the bench.

Richards, who has only recently returned to the Bulldogs line up and is playing superb football across half back, did not sulk about his predicament and remained positive next to Keath.

The Bulldogs found a way against the odds to beat a side that had given them a touch up earlier in the season.

The midfield quartet of Marcus Bontempelli, Tom Liberatore, Jack Macrae and Bailey Smith were dominant.

Bontempelli put the exclamation mark on the game with a late snap goal and a centre clearance that was delivered with pinpoint accuracy to a leading Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who added the finishing touches.

Caleb Daniel and Lachie Hunter were exquisite with their ball use.

The Bulldogs defence, led by Zaine Cordy, were put under pressure, but had the answers for most of the night, restricting Melbourne to 65 points.

Schache’s back

The revelation was Josh Schache, who became so important to the structure of the team when Keath went down.

Schache played as a second tall defender, something he had been trailing for in the VFL in recent games, and excelled.

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The 23-year-old has the potential to be a quality swingman for the Bulldogs because of his elite kicking, high work and ability in the air.

He finished with 12 kicks, five handballs, six marks and four tackles, along with four hit outs, on a slippery night that was not exactly tailor-made for talls.

Mark of the year?

Small forward Cody Weightman provided the highlight of the night, soaring into the sky over Melbourne ruckman Max Gawn for a hanger that should come into mark of the year consideration.

Prior to that mark and a team lifting goal shortly after, Weightman’s stats looked a little bare, but what he provided aside from those highlights could not be measured on the stats sheet.

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His forward pressure on Melbourne players forced them into rushed exits and his enthusiasm rubbed off on teammates.

Bontempelli, Mitch Hannan, playing against his former side, Aaron Naughton and Josh Bruce kicked two goals each for the Bulldogs on a tough night for scoring.

Lance Jenkinson

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