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Perceptions punish Demons, but Dogs are none too rosy

The Western Bulldogs leave the field after losing to Geelong in round 5.

The Western Bulldogs leave the field after losing to Geelong in round 5. Photo: Pat Scala

First impressions are often accurate, and lasting. The first impression of Melbourne this season was not pretty nor was it inaccurate - a 79-point loss against Port Adelaide. And it has been lasting.

As first impressions go it was like walking in on your grandmother in the shower - some images you can't get out of your head.

Some first impressions also flatter to deceive. Like the Western Bulldogs. The Dogs accosted a Brisbane Lions side that come round one retained a bloated and misguided pre-season optimism.

Melbourne has won one game; the Western Bulldogs have won one game. Melbourne has lost five games by 10 goals or more, the Bulldogs three games by 50 points or more. Admittedly, two of those Melbourne losses were by more than 15 goals. But for all of the excitement of the Western Bulldogs' first-round victory, the stark reality is this: the Dogs have won one of their last 18 matches.

In this season, Melbourne might have quickly and cringingly re-established itself as a poor side, but the Western Bulldogs' slide has continued without anything like as much scrutiny. The difference between the teams and the disparity in the criticism they have deservedly drawn is because the biggest discrepancy between the sides has not been win-loss but effort and competitiveness.

The Bulldogs have escaped serious criticism because, first, there is always a more compellingly pathetic option to focus on (Melbourne) and because the players have appeared largely to be trying. They have been competitive in each of their games - bar the West Coast loss - even when the margin has blown out late in matches, such as occurred again at the weekend against North. They have also played better sides than Melbourne has and pushed them harder (Geelong recently).

Against that, Melbourne deserves its lumps because from the opening minute of its game against Gold Coast at the weekend it plainly was not there to play. Or it was there to play, it's just that the game the Demons wanted to play was not football.

Over 100 missed tackles says enough about their limp effort. But it also in part is a reflection of the fact the Demons were missing six of their best 22 players. This week Colin Sylvia's knuckle-headedness means it will be seven (Trengove, Grimes, Watts, Clark, McDonald and Jamar). Few good teams can afford to lose that number of their best players and still be competitive. When poor sides lose that number the result is grim.

The Western Bulldogs mind, have had the bulk of their best side out there each week. Bob Murphy and Matthew Boyd have both missed three games, Daniel Giansiracusa and Ryan Griffen two each and Shaun Higgins has gone for the year. But Adam Cooney, Daniel Cross, Dale Morris and Luke Dahlhaus have played every game.

The Bulldogs' problem is not that the players have lacked effort but they have constructed a side around a game plan which is skewed towards big contested ball-winning midfielders but seemingly at a cost to players with polish in disposal and foot speed to cover the ground. Coach Brendan McCartney has acknowledged this ground cover problem recently.

The Bulldogs' further problem is that those senior players - save for the experienced Will Minson - do not occupy key positions. This has magnified a problem of covering the ground for when there are not the big players to mark the ball, the smaller players have to work that much harder.

Melbourne's problem over the Bulldogs is that its issues are not restricted to the misery on the field. The chief executive has been pushed out the door, the board has proven itself well-meaning but flawed and now the dark touch of Dank has drawn the Demons into the ugly AFL investigation.

All of these matters further pollute the idea of the club beyond what is occurring on the field. Unlike at Essendon where what is happening on the field is salving the wounds off it and galvanising the club, at the Demons it is only painting a starker picture of chaos and incompetence.


Melbourne and the Bulldogs from round 13 last season

*Melbourne is 16th, the Bulldogs 17th and GWS 18th in all those categories.

17 comments so far

  • WOW comparing the Dogs to Melbourne that is ridiculous so here's a few points;

    - The Bulldogs were challenging for a premiership in 2010 and have been rebuilding for just a year and 7 games. Melbourne have been rebuilding for 5-6 years and are still showing no improvement

    - Melbourne have shown absolutely no desire to follow the coaches instructions and was evident last week against the Gold Cost. One thing you can guarantee is the Dogs will have is effort, no-one in the world could guarantee the Dees to do that

    - Mentions a stupid stat at the bottom that says since round 13 last year Melbourne have won 4 games and the Bulldogs 1. Of those four Melbourne victories three were against GWS (Rd 13 2012, Rd 21 2012 & Rd 4 2013) and one against Gold Coast (Rd 19, 2012). Guess how many times the Dogs have played those two teams since Round 13 last year?? A big fat 0, plus you can add into that they havent played Melbourne in that time either

    You want to see the difference between the Dogs and Dees, take a look at how the Dogs go against Gold Coast this week compared to how the Dees did last week. I'm actually offended to have my team compared to Melbourne, we are a side rebuilding they are a basket case.

    Daniel Saliba
    Date and time
    May 15, 2013, 11:20AM
    • Totally agree Daniel. I watched that Demons game last week - the day after watching the Dogs live at Etihad, where they showed exactly how good they will be in a year or two - and frankly it's like comparing horse manure with roses. The Demons ducked, avoided tackles, stood around outside the packs waiting for something to happen and generally looked slow and disinterested. In contrast the Dogs were hard at it, competitive and tough. No-one took a backward step. We were beaten by a better side, not beaten because we couldn't be bothered.

      Date and time
      May 15, 2013, 11:43AM
    • Cherry picked statistical timeframes by the author since 9am this morning: 1
      Non-cherry picked statistical timeframes by the author since 9am this morning: 0

      Date and time
      May 15, 2013, 12:01PM
    • Totally agree, Daniel.

      Melbourne are an embarrassment to watch.

      Sometimes you see a player who doesn't have a heart for the contest, but I've never seen so many as are running around in a Dees jumper at the moment. Too many look like a school kid watching the clock for the hometime bell. There's no pride down there at Dee-land.

      The extraordinary thing is, they showed in the last quarter against the Giants that they are capable, but still aren't trying to reach that again.

      A team of Michael's grandmas could beat the Dees.

      Doggies on the other hand, might not have the talent at the moment, but they aren't giving up. When it comes to the Dogs, you still have to beat them. Any team that turns up not 100% to play, will get beaten by them.

      You still have to earn your win against the Dogs, unlike the Dees.

      Swans Fan
      Date and time
      May 15, 2013, 1:02PM
    • Watched the Crows Dogs game and it wasnt good but agree harsh to compare Dogs to Melbourne. Good picks in the draft though so promise for future.

      Date and time
      May 15, 2013, 2:52PM
  • Totally agree with you Daniel, im a passionate Bulldogs supporter myself and for this bloke (Michael Gleeson) to even put us in that catagory without even checking all the facts just shows how good he is at his job, he just blazed away with all those ridiculous figures which are true figures but look at the quality of opposition Melbourne has played compared to us and like you said we have been rebuilding for a year and a half Melb has been rebuilding for the best part of 10 years, and i reckon we are streets ahead of them in our development. Michael may just be another one of those frustrated sad Melbourne supporters trying to turn the attention elsewhere, sad thing is Melb are looking worse than Fitzroy of '96' i hope they can turn things around for there supporters sake, but Michael fairdinkum do you even watch the game ' i think not' !

    Port Melb
    Date and time
    May 15, 2013, 11:52AM
    • This article makes some reasonable points about the Dogs' deficiencies, but makes little mention of the things they're doing right.

      For example, winning the contested possession count in five of seven games is a huge positive for a young side, as highlighted in this article:

      By comparison, there's no area in which Melbourne is improving; that's the difference between the two clubs right now.

      Footy Tragic
      Date and time
      May 15, 2013, 12:03PM
      • I'm a rusted on Dogs supporter. While I think there are far more differences between the Dees and the Dogs than there are similarities (all of which have been well outlined in the preceding comments), I think the Dogs have escaped some genuine scrutiny. Lets compare with teams like Geelong, Collingwood, Hawthorne, we were rebuilding at about the same time as these teams through the noughties and we were competitive with them a couple of seasons ago. But look at the disparity now. They remain top 8, arguably top 4 teams and we are now bottom 4. I do think questions need to be answered about how we were unable to retain the status of a competitive top 8 side. I get that we're "rebuilding", but what I don't get is why we can't keep it built?

        Date and time
        May 15, 2013, 12:13PM
        • Its about money, unfortunately... Geelong are extraordinary, but Hawthorn and Collingwood have buckets of money to throw at staying "up".

          Date and time
          May 15, 2013, 2:46PM
      • what both teams have in common is that their current ead coaches were very good assistants who can't cut it at the elite level as a head coach. what is the point of melbourne continuing with neeld when his message is not getting through still after 29 games. or is it that his tactics and motivational ability just aren't up to it? either way, everyone knows he won't be there next year so surely they would be better off getting the next sucker in to start as soon as possible so next year isn't a complete waste. starting with someone new at the neginning of next year is akin to writing that year off for a team like melbourne. western bulldogs have shown more effort at times but mccartney's emphasis on players capable of winning contested possession to the exclusion of pace and skill has cost the bulldogs dearly given the increasing trend over the last couple of years for teams who win the contested ball/clearances to lose the game. they generally hack it out of the pack (lack of skill) and get caught on the rebound (lack of pace).

        Date and time
        May 15, 2013, 5:05PM

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