AFLW Round Two – Western Bulldogs v Melbourne: Dogs washed away by an all-round solid Melbourne performance

The VU Whitten Oval found itself loving the wet and wild weather that took hold of Victoria. Despite the humidity making for an uncomfortable night, it set the stage for a tough night’s footy that was to be won and lost at the coalface. Unfortunately, the hosting Bulldogs lacked the grunt and smarts to outwork Melbourne, who romped to a convincing 20-point victory on Friday night.

In front of a tick over 3000 faithful supporters who came out with ponchos in full force, the Demons proved they had rectified their defensive situation, while their midfield put on a masterclass in efficient ball use and solid structures around the footy.

Karen Paxman was Melbourne’s star – her clean ball use and precision running cut through the Bulldogs’ midfield and defence like a scythe, each stroke counting for an effective possession that set the Demons’ attack into motion.

Starting off with a bang, a quick Melbourne goal gave them the edge they needed in what was to be tough conditions for free scoring. Knowing the importance of majors, the Bulldogs caught a lucky break when Deanna Berry received a free kick and 50 metre penalty, gifting her the easy chance to put the Dogs on the board.

Only minutes later, Paxman crumbed a wide handball to perfection, grabbing the slippery ball in one hand with ease before snapping through a mouth-watering goal. The number four’s class was evident all night, and was made possible due to Daisy Pearce’s return to the half-back line.

Pearce’s leadership stood out all night – playing a Luke Hodge-type of role, many Bulldog thrusts forward only met spare Melbourne defenders who remained disciplined all night. The Melbourne captain’s ball use was assured and damaging, hitting targets with ease and encouraging quick ball movement. Unlike the Bulldogs, who tried to clog up a Melbourne midfield that gave an outstanding lesson on how to play breakneck uncontested footy, the Dees held their structures until the final siren.

Ellie Blackburn’s efforts in a losing cause were admirable. Constantly at the bottom of packs and attempting to shovel it out to teammates, her contested ball work was intimidating yet ultimately out-numbered by an agile and skilful Melbourne midfield.

Kate Hore was a livewire up forward; her goal was a result of some smart positioning and clever forward craft. With star forward Tegan Cunningham hindered by the wet conditions, Hore and teammate Shelley Scott seemed to revel in the slippery nature of the match.

Chantel Emonson wheels away in delight after slotting a goal against the Bulldogs (Getty Images/ AFL Photos)

Aisling McCarthy’s speed and dash in the wet was the only Bulldogs’ weapon that could match Melbourne’s persistent hammering of inside-50s – taking the game on was where they made the Demons look most vulnerable.

Despite being clearly outplayed, the experienced Bulldogs held on to a 12-point deficit going into the main break. However, with over double the inside-50s compared to the Bulldogs, Melbourne deserved to break the defensive dam wall. In the third quarter, the Bulldogs remained a chance only because the Dees hadn’t put them away. But, when Casey Sheriff’s blistering speed resulted in a clever soccer goal, Melbourne began to pull away. Another goal before the last break all but settled the result, as they relied on their rock-solid defence to secure the win and their position at the top of their conference.

The win was soured by a nasty-looking late injury to Ainslie Kemp, who infamously is already playing with a torn ACL. Refusing to be carried off in the late minutes of the match, the tears streaming down her face signalled the worst possible result for the valiant Demons youngster.

Post-match, returning Demon Libby Birch was rapt with her decision to cross from the Bulldogs back to Melbourne. “It was the biggest decision ever, but bloody oath I’m excited to be here (at Melbourne)”, she said.

“Tonight we showed we’re really strong around the ball and with our structures. Who knows what we can do on a dry day”, she said.

Starting off season 2020 strongly, Melbourne look to be one of the leading sides in this year’s competition. With the addition of Birch and Pearce, they appear to be stronger and more settled around the ground. On the flipside, the Bulldogs have some work to do to develop their youth and foster a free game plan that allows them to capitalise on their talent.

Performing with grunt and class, the Demons came to the VU Whitten Oval and played with the dogged spirit that is synonymous with the famous suburban ground. It may prove to be a landmark game for the proud club in season 2020.

WESTERN BULLDOGS     1.0     1.0     1.0     2.0     (12)
MELBOURNE     2.3     2.6     4.8     4.8    (32)

GOALS
Western Bulldogs: 
Berry, Toogood
Melbourne: Emonson, Paxman, Sherriff, Gay

BEST
Western Bulldogs: 
Blackburn, McCarthy, Lamb, Spark, Ferres
Melbourne: Paxman, Scott, Pearce, Hore, Gay, Heath

INJURIES
Western Bulldogs: 
Nil
Melbourne: Kemp (knee)

Reports: Nil

Crowd: 3133 at VU Whitten Oval

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