THE Western Bulldogs may still miss out on this year's finals, but after
yesterday's amazing victory over Carlton, one of the best of the club's recent
history, it will not be for want of inspiration.
The obituaries were being written yesterday morning, not just for the
Bulldogs' season, but for an entire era. With key players on the verge of
retirement, speculation continuing to mount about coach Terry Wallace's future,
and the already undersized list having been deprived of most of its height, the
reasoning seemed sound.
All of a sudden, at least for the moment, the Dogs have a little breathing
space, a temporary four-point break in sixth place over Hawthorn and Richmond.
While, with upcoming games against Collingwood, then Essendon and Hawthorn, the
Bulldogs still have their work cut out, Wallace's tactical ingenuity in shutting
down the Blues' free-flowing runners has given his side at least a pretty good
``With four weeks to go we had to win two to be a chance, but two wasn't a
guarantee. Now we've got one up our sleeve, we've got to get at least another
one to be in the hunt, and, realistically, two out of three to guarantee our own
position," was the coach's assessment last night.
You wouldn't bet against it on yesterday's showing, more in keeping with the
gritty Footscray of old than the fast-running side of the past few years. The
Bulldogs simply committed themselves to clog Carlton's forward line, at times
three and even four men spare in defence.
While it made the Bulldogs' forward thrusts at times painful to watch, the
Blues' frustration (not relieved, it must be said, by some unhelpful umpiring)
was vindication of the Dogs' game plan. When it came to the crunch yesterday,
the Bulldogs were harder than their opponent, reputedly the hardest side in the
All the Dogs' key players stood tall. Simon Garlick bobbed up with his best
game of league football, rewarded with six out of 11 goals and, importantly, the
Bulldog youngsters, thrown to the wolves in recent weeks, all showed real
ability when the game was in the balance. Defender Mitchell Hahn was
particularly impressive in a frantic finish, and first-gamer Robert Murphy also
chipped in with some important touches.
As a statement of defiance, wins do not come a lot better. ``That's right up
there with the best we've ever given to our supporters," Wallace commented
later. The Bulldog coach has emphasised this week to his players the importance
of not ``falling into the eight".
Along with Hawthorn's win in Brisbane last week, the Bulldogs' surprise
victory has revived the stocks of the clubs chasing the last couple of spots in
the eight. At least now, it doesn't look like someone is going to end up in the
finals more by default than good management.
The biggest worry for the Bulldogs will remain their wounded list, which grew
yesterday when Paul Dimattina aggravated a hamstring injury in his first game
back from the same ailment.
With big men Chris Grant, Luke Darcy, Kingsley Hunter and Craig Ellis all out
for at least several more weeks, if not the season, the Bulldogs will be going
``short" in attack for a while yet.
That could be a scary prospect indeed, particularly against the tall timber
of Essendon and Hawthorn, both of whom have already worked the Bulldogs over
with their height advantage when Grant and co. were still in the line-up.
Apart from bringing to an end its 13-game winning streak, the loss in real
terms means little to Carlton, the Blues all but certain of playing the
Kangaroos in the second qualifying final in a month's time.
Carlton coach David Parkin said last night he had been worried during the
week about a lack of intensity among his troops, who trained only once with the
footballs. He knows his side well.
While the pre-game withdrawals of skipper Craig Bradley and Adrian Hickmott
were less than ideal for the Blues, there seemed some sense of ``we'll win it
when we want to" about their play, best typified by Carlton's burst of three
goals in less than three minutes in the third quarter to give it a seven-point
lead, only to watch the Dogs hit back with three of their own over the next few
The Bulldogs might even have done Carlton a favor. Certainly, there's no
danger now of the Blues going into next Friday night's blockbuster against
Essendon too full of themselves. By the same token, if the Blues go under, with
the prospect of a game against the improving Port Adelaide at Football Park to
follow, three straight losses on end is a distinct possibility.
No side, no matter how well-performed during the year, would fancy taking
that form into a finals series.
W BULLDOGS 220.127.116.111.9(75)
P W L D For Agst Str %
ESSENDON 18 18 - - 2364 1435 W18 164.7
CARLTON 19 15 4 - 2376 1730 L1 137.3
KANGAROOS 19 13 6 - 2156 1984 W3 108.7
GEELONG 19 10 8 1 1894 1982 L1 95.6
MELBOURNE 18 10 8 - 1985 1776 W1 111.8
W BULLDOGS 19 10 9 - 2063 1988 W1 103.8
ADELAIDE 19 9 10 - 2018 1995 W1 101.2
HAWTHORN 18 9 9 - 1836 1873 W1 98.0
Richmond 18 9 9 - 1708 1854 L4 92.1
Brisbane 18 8 10 - 2058 1979 L1 104.0
West Coast 19 7 11 1 1938 2020 W1 95.9
Sydney 18 7 11 - 1801 1837 L1 98.0
Fremantle 18 7 11 - 1580 2096 L1 75.4
Collingwood 18 6 12 - 1738 2050 L1 184.8
Port Adelaide 18 5 12 1 1568 1899 W1 82.6
St Kilda 18 2 15 1 1538 2123 L1
82: M Lloyd (Essendon)
61: L Whitnall (Carlton) 1
54: W Carey (Kangaroos) 3
52: J Farmer (Melbourne)
49: A Lynch (Brisbane)
48: T Modra (Fremantle)
47: S Cummings (West Coast) 0S Lucas (Essendon)
43: D Bradshaw (Brisbane)
42: S Welsh (Adelaide) 0
41: Phillip Matera (West Coast)
40:C Waterhouse (Fremantle)
Essendon v Hawthorn
Brisbane v Port Adelaide, 12.30pm, Gabba
Collingwood v Sydney, 2.10pm, MCG
St Kilda v Melbourne, 2.10pm, Colonial Stadium
Fremantle v Richmond, 3.20pm, WACA Ground
Carlton v Essendon, 7.40pm, MCG
Hawthorn v Port Adelaide, 2.10pm, MCG
West Coast v Geelong, 8.40pm, Subiaco Oval
Sydney v Kangaroos, 7.40pm, SCG
Collingwood v W Bulldogs, 7.40pm, Colonial Stadium
Adelaide v Brisbane, 2.10pm, Football Park
Melbourne v Fremantle, 2.10pm, Colonial Stadium
Richmond v St Kilda, 2.10pm, MCG
PAGES 6-7: Carlton v W Bulldogs
PAGES 8-9: Ungarie: the land of the Danihers
PAGE 10: VFL, amateurs, country football
PAGE 11: The trials of Cockatoo-Collins
PAGE 12: West Coast v Adelaide
PAGES 14-15: Watch this space: football fund-raising.
PAGES 16-17: The trouble with Pikey
PAGE 18: Geelong v Kangaroos