Both teams have changed so much and come so far since last year’s encounter, but it was a case of history repeating as Canberra kid Jason Tutt once again played a pivotal role in getting the Western Bulldogs over the line by 27 points against a dogged Greater Western Sydney at Manuka Oval on Saturday.
Like last year, the Giants led for most of the game, but got overrun by the Doggies in the last term to go down 17.8 (110) to 12.11 (83) on a ground that had so much sand on the surface it could have been part of the ACT Government’s ‘‘City to the Lake Project’’.
While the loss was hard to take, the Giants will also be without star ruckman Shane Mumford for this week’s clash against Adelaide.
The former Swan had an operation on his knee before the game to drain fluid off it and will miss at least one week.
It wasn’t all good news for the Bulldogs though, as Dale Morris is likely to come under scrutiny from the match-review panel for a possible trip on Will Hoskin-Elliott in the first term.
He’ll have a nervous wait until Monday, although the cork thigh he received could keep him out of Sunday’s clash against Carlton anyway.
Giants defender Josh Hunt also injured his knee after landing awkwardly in a marking contest, although he played out the game.
Tutt came off the subs bench for Morris in the second term and kicked two second-half goals as the Bulldogs stormed home after being behind for most of the night.
Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney said Tutt’s speed and finishing were the key weapons that helped the Bulldogs home.
But there were several others who played significant roles. Matthew Boyd (eight clearances) was prolific around the stoppages, Will Minson (32 hit outs) enjoyed a cracking ruck battle with Giant Jon Giles (37taps) and Jack Macrae (30 possessions) continued his rise through the AFL ranks.
McCartney said Tutt knew what he had to do to stay in the side.
“We’ve been pretty strong on him with certain areas of his game, tonight he was more consistent in them ... it was a step forward tonight,” McCartney said.
“It’s up to him [if he stays in the side]. We give the opportunities to young people who are strong and tough.”
Bulldogs forward Stewart Crameri (four goals) kicked the opener, before the Giants piled on the next five to lead by 26 at the first break.
From there the Bulldogs slowly worked their way back into the contest and when captain Ryan Griffen kicked the first goal of the last quarter it started their comeback as they banged through the last six of the game, including two from centre half-forward Liam Jones (three).
Giles was brilliant shouldering the ruck on his own, but he’ll have to do it again next week against Adelaide as Mumford is expected to spend further time on the sideline.
“His knee’s really blown up, he’s been operated on today actually, so we had to pull him out late,” Cameron said.
“It’s a very minor operation and so he’s probably going to miss one more week.”
Early on it looked like Giants forwards Jeremy Cameron (three) and Jon Patton were going to prove the difference, but a strong second half from Crameri and Jones helped the visitors home.
Cameron did produce a contender for the goal of the year, snapping a cracker over his shoulder in the opening quarter when the Giants were runninghot.
Manuka resembled a beach rather than an oval and lots of players were treated for grazes and cuts after the game.
It resulted in the ground producing dead bounces and making it difficult to read the direction of the ball.
No official reason was given for the truckloads of sand on the surface, but Cameron thought it might have been because of the past two weeks’ heavy rain.
He had no qualms with it, saying both teams had to play on the surface.
McCartney was surprised with the quality of the surface given it was an AFL game.
“There was not a lot of give in it, it was almost like a dull thud, it was pretty sandy,’’ he said.
“It is AFL footy, you probably expect that you don’t have that. It was a little surprising.”
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.1 5.5 10.6 17.8 (110)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 5.3 8.7 11.8 12.11 (83)
Goals: Western Bulldogs: S Crameri 4, L Jones 3, J Tutt 2, D Giansiracusa, L Hunter, L Picken, M Boyd, R Griffen, R Murphy, S Higgins, T Young. Greater Western Sydney: J Cameron 3, A Kennedy, A Tomlinson, C Hampton, J Giles, J Kelly, J Patton, L Sumner, N Haynes, T Greene.
Best: Western Bulldogs: M Boyd, L Jones, S Crameri, J Macrae, J Tutt. Greater Western Sydney: J Cameron, N Haynes, H Shaw, J Giles, J Patton.
Injuries: Bulldogs: D Morris (leg). GWS: J Hunt (knee), W Hoskin-Elliott (leg), S Mumford (soreness) replaced in selected side by A Tomlinson.
Umpires: Stuart Wenn, Jason Armstrong, Matthew Leppard.
Crowd: 7863 at Manuka Oval.
9 Jonathan Giles (GWS Giants)
9 Matthew Boyd (Bulldogs)
8 Jack Macrae (Bulldogs)
7 Stewart Crameri (Bulldogs)
7 Liam Jones (Bulldogs)