Heat on Beveridge as Shaw's Roos shine

Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge shows his frustration during his side's loss to St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Michael Willson/Getty Images
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge shows his frustration during his side's loss to St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Michael Willson/Getty Images

In the lead-up to this season there was enormous hype surrounding the Western Bulldogs after their spectacular run to make the finals last year.

Despite being humbled on the road by Greater Western Sydney in the second elimination final, many experts ranked the Bulldogs as top-four contenders.

With an elite midfield headed by new skipper Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae, the Dogs picked up former Saint Josh Bruce and ex-Crow Alex Keath to fill their need for height at either end of the ground.

But after only two rounds Bulldogs fans are scratching their heads as their team sits on the bottom of the ladder without a win and a woeful percentage of 47.7.

Thrashed by Collingwood in the opening round, the Dogs made a promising start last Sunday against St Kilda before falling away dramatically after quarter-time.

All-Australian duo Bontempelli and Macrae struggled to have an impact against the Saints. The Dogs were undersized in the back half and their forward line lacked potency.

Coach Luke Beveridge, the 2016 premiership coach who re-signed with the club last year, is already copping heat from irate supporters on social media who are demanding answers. Maybe Bevo's magic is starting to wear off.

Off the field there have also been problems. Lachie Hunter was stripped of the vice-captaincy, suspended for four matches and fined $5000 after crashing his car in an alleged drink-driving incident in April.

The Dogs face the prospect of a 0-3 start as they meet a Giants outfit on the rebound at Marvel Stadium on Friday night.

North Melbourne's Cameron Zurhaar about to handball during the match against GWS at Giants Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

North Melbourne's Cameron Zurhaar about to handball during the match against GWS at Giants Stadium on Sunday. Photo: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

While former GWS co-captain Callan Ward made an impressive return at Giants Stadium last Sunday after missing most of last year with a torn ACL, the home side capitulated to a fast-finishing North Melbourne.

The Kangaroos have been impressive in coming from behind in their two victories over St Kilda and flag fancy GWS to sit in second spot behind Port Adelaide.

Since Rhyce Shaw took over from Brad Scott as coach midway through last season, the Roos have embraced his aggressive game style and responded positively to the former Magpie and Swans defender's no-nonsense approach.

Veterans Todd Goldstein and Shaun Higgins resisted overtures from other clubs late last year to remain with North Melbourne, showing faith in the direction the Roos were heading.

Ruckman Goldstein and midfielder Higgins starred against the Giants and now the Kangaroos have a big opportunity to set up their season in the next three rounds.

Their next three games are at Marvel Stadium - against the Sydney Swans, Hawthorn and the Bulldogs - and on form would have to start favourite in all of them.

The fans are being short-changed

Memo AFL chief executive Gillon McLachlan - let's return to 20-minute terms with time-on as soon as possible.

I understand why the decision has been made for the first five rounds, given the uncertainty on fixturing in this difficult period, but no one likes the shorter 16-minute quarters.

Key club figures have expressed their beliefs, citing an inability for players to find rhythm. Fans are being short-changed in their living rooms and broadcasters want more content.

Gill, it's time to go back to normal in round six. And the sooner crowds return, the better.

There were limited crowds last weekend at the Showdown in Adelaide and the Swans-Bombers game at the SCG and more people are expected to be permitted to attend in the next few weeks.

The AFL will control the number of tickets to be allocated to clubs, who in turn must decide who receives access to them.

Already there are divisions at a Melbourne-based club about whether coterie groups or members should be given priority.

Matt Rowell a gold nugget

In the biggest upset of the round at Metricon Stadium, the No.1 pick in last year's national draft, Matt Rowell, stole the show with a brilliant display.

In only his second AFL game last Saturday night, the teenage inside midfielder was best on ground in Gold Coast's stunning win at home over a lacklustre West Coast.

The AFL has poured millions of dollars into the Suns, who are yet to make a finals appearance since joining the competition in 2011.

The Suns have assembled an impressive array of young talent under the watchful eye of coach Stuart Dew and as long as they can hold on to players such as Rowell, the future appears bright.

Earlier in the day at Marvel Stadium, West Australians Luke Jackson and Trent Rivers, also taken in last year's draft, were impressive on debut for Melbourne in the Demons' thrilling win over Carlton.

Readers' Question of the Week

Bruce Phillips, from Rye, Victoria, asks: "Was Barrie Robran the greatest footballer never to play AFL/VFL?"

Excellent question, Bruce. I saw him play and he was a superb footballer who excelled as a key forward or midfielder. An eight-time best and fairest winner at SANFL club North Adelaide and a triple Magarey medallist, he is the only Australian Football Hall of Fame legend never to play in Victoria. There are other contenders from SA and Western Australia in the Hall of Fame, but Robran is clearly the best and could have made a big impact in the VFL had he decided to leave Adelaide.

Email:  howardkotton11@gmail.com

Twitter: @hpkotton59

  • This article is supported by the Judith Neilson Institute for Journalism and Ideas
This story Heat on Bevo as Shaw's Roos fire first appeared on The Canberra Times.