Well, it wasn’t a game to remember, unless you’re a Western Bulldogs supporter, but it was a game for the ages. Resting uncomfortably on the bottom of the AARFL ladder again, the Doggies pulled off a huge upset over the Midtown Bombers on Saturday.
When I say ‘huge’, I’m talking from a bookmaking point of view. After the previous week, when the Bulldogs were smacked by the Roswell Roos in the last regular season game, the bookies made the Midtown boys a massive favorite to advance to the Grand Final. Even though Western had beaten Midtown in two of their three games this year, the odds were with Midtown.
As I noted last week, Western were missing some crucial players for their game against Roswell. But oh what a difference having your best team on the field makes. This week it was the Midtown team who were missing a crucial player. Without Curtis Jones, their drive out of the backline was missing and that seemed to throw everything out of alignment. Granted, the way Western played, even having Jones there might not have been enough for Midtown to win. Western started on fire, remained hot during the middle quarters (when nobody seemed to be able to kick a goal, but the score differential changed little) and finished with a scorching last quarter.
Western had 3 goals on the board before the Bombers even had a sniff. Dave Evans in the ruck provided the impetus for Benny Crist, Tim Day and (returning from injury) Cam Hellinger to run riot all over the ground. Midtown didn’t have enough players to cover all three and it proved the difference. Simon Davis and Josh Trombley were both on dodgy knees and that didn’t help matters much. Trombley did a great job keeping the Western forwards from scoring too often, but the Bombers missed Davis’ silky smooth skills around the packs. Jeremiah Cain was the go to guy in the middle for Midtown, but he had to battle against three quality players. Western’s Crist was his usual smothering self and kept Davis from getting easy kicks. Hellinger has really taken to the game of Aussie Rules and shows some excellent skills around the ground. He still has to work on his tackles, but the intensity is there.
At quarter time it was Western 4.4 (28) to Midtown 1.1 (7). This was Midtown’s lowest first quarter output this year.
The second quarter was an even affair with the Doggies not able to put much more distance between themselves and Midtown. Joey Costyn was strong in defence for Midtown and always plays with intensity. Scoring was low and the 20-odd point difference was starting to look ominous for the Bombers. They could not get their running game going and that made it harder for Matty Williamson to get free for marks and goals. Western were swapping defenders on Williamson in an effort to keep him off kilter. First it was Braden Medders, then Wayne Kraska and then the effervescent Eddie Rowe. By keeping a fresh player on Williamson, it made it harder for him as the game wore on. While Medders and Rowe tend to play a neutralizing role in the backline, Kraska gave the Doggies a lot of drive from this position. While getting slower every year, Kraska has much to offer in terms of experience. Running past for handballs is his forte and this forces the opposition forwards to come with him and therefore out of position.
At half time, the Western boys were pumped and leading by 22 points – 6.5 (41) to 2.7 (19).
The third quarter was ugly football at its best (worst?) and can best be summed up with the statistic - 1 goal 11 behinds kicked, total, by both teams. As a football game, it wasn’t pretty. From Western’s point of view, it was a masterpiece. Third quarters are where games are won or lost. Midtown are used to scoring 3 to 4 goals in the third quarter in games this year and they needed that sort of scoring to get back into this game. They did get the only goal, but wasted many chances kicking 5 behinds. Western weren’t any better but at least they had the lead going into the final quarter. It was a tough quarter of football.
To independent observers, the three quarter time huddles said it all. Western were pumped, seeing a famous victory in the offing. Midtown were desperate, trying to inspire each other for a final surge.
It wasn’t to be. Western stormed out of the gate with Tim Day and Chase Trujillo doing all the damage. Day scored 3 goals and Trujillo 2 in this quarter. Day was all over the ground, taking marks and driving the ball forward to Brent Bacon and Trujillo. Bacon was the focal point and this allowed young Chase to play the flanker position to perfection, roving the marking contests and running onto loose balls.
After the first 3 Western goals, Midtown were done. In a low scoring, inaccurate kicking game, they weren’t going to make up the difference. Both teams played out the match, but in the end, it was Western with a comfortable, if somewhat surprising, 33 point win.
Final score was Western 11.12 (78) to Midtown 5.15 (45).
Midtown will be disappointed in not being able to defend their title. Crucial losses during the season – a one-point defeat to Roswell midway through the year being one – cost them a chance to finish on top of the ladder and the free pass into the Grand Final. They certainly have had the players to win it all this year, but not having all of them for all games will be their epitaph.
As for the Western Bulldogs, last year’s zero win misery has been put behind them. They rolled the Bombers three times this year and, if not for wayward kicking, would have had a Roswell scalp as well. Next Saturday they have the chance to finish them off too. Western are a good team, coalescing at the right time of the year. With Paul O’Connor and Brent Bacon up front, they’re slow but experienced. As a team they can run, they can mark, they can tackle hard and, above all, they’re playing as a team. All good pointers toward a crackerjack game next Saturday against the Roswell Roos. They have the experience to shut down Roswell’s gun forward Chris Moerman (or at least keep him from winning the game off his own boot), but it remains to be seen if they can. I wouldn’t bet against the Doggies taking the big prize.
Tune in next week for the big one, the Grand Final and glory awaits the team who wants it most.
Western: Trujillo 4, Day 3, Bacon 1, Ellison 1, O’Connor 1
Midtown: Williamson 3, Brennan 1, Davis 1
Western: Day, Trujillo, Kraska, Evans, Hellinger
Midtown: Trombley, Brennan, Cain, Costyn, Williamson
Georgia Downunder Website Design Best Player Award:
Western: Chase Trujillo
Midtown: Josh Trombley