Bulldogs start to find their bite

Damien Holmes’ Kilcunda Bass has dropped its past two games after starting the season 2-0. 180267 Picture: STEWART CHAMBERS

By Russell Bennett



It was always going to take time for this Bunyip group to find its feet under new coaches Aussie Jones and Ricky Clark.

Given the player turnover in the off-season, it had to be expected.

But for Jones and Clark, this isn’t about a quick fix. They’re there for the long-term, putting plans in place to get the Yips back into premiership contention – where they were not all that long ago.

But for now, it’s about continual improvement from a group that has a real mixture of experience and youth.

The Dogs put their first number in the win column on Saturday with a nine-point victory over Kilcunda Bass at home, 11.5 (71) to an extremely wayward 7.20 (62).

After what he described as “some ordinary results” in the opening few rounds of his side’s 2018 campaign, Jones said it was promising that the group was able to put “three-and-a-half good quarters” together.

“The boys had got some good confidence at training, but to get a result like we did on the weekend – you can’t buy that (effect),” he said.

“It’s hard with our group – if we don’t do everything right, we’ll leave ourselves open to the opposition’s ability.

“But (in that game) the pressure was the best we’d had, and we had more contributors than we’d had (previously).”

Jones said there were particularly encouraging signs across the board from the side, which had a raft of changes since its heavy Round 3 defeat to Nar Nar Goon.

He said his players’ ability to play their role on Saturday was key, but he highlighted the performance of Jordan Wyatt (three goals) in particular.

“He was absolutely brilliant,” Jones said.

“He plays District ones (cricket) at Casey-South Melbourne and didn’t do a lot of the pre-season so took him a little while to get out of that cricket mode.

“He put in an unbelievable four-quarter performance – he won clearances, kicked goals, and his work-rate first rate.

“He needed that bit of confidence not playing footy at all last year.”

While this year’s Bunyip side has a mixture of younger and older players, as Jones pointed out, the group overall is inexperienced in playing together.

But he and Clark are confident that with the character and ability of the players in the group, it won’t take them long to find more consistency.

“The guys know that Rick and I have signed on for three years, and we’re not after a quick fix, but a platform to get them back to where the club wants to be (to compete for premierships like they were prior to 2017),” Jones said.

The Yips led for most of the day on Saturday, and Jones said it was important that his players continued to play positive footy rather than going into their shells.

“When they challenged us, we responded,” he said proudly.

“And we probably initiated most of the contact and the physicality.”

While Wyatt shone on Saturday for Bunyip, so too did experienced Beaconsfield recruit Damien Szwaja, Jason Williams, Tom Blakey (two goals), and Matt O’Halloran.

The Panthers, on the other hand, would be made to rue their missed opportunities in front of goal. Athletic big man Taylor Gibson bagged four goals for the visitors, while Jeffrey Winmar and Aiden Paton continued their strong individual seasons to date.

At Garfield, the visiting Phillip Island came roaring back from five goals down during the final term to fall just three points short, 14.9 (93) to 14.6 (90).

Consecutive goals were a rarity throughout the first half between the two evenly-matched sides, with both showing the ability to open the other up on the counter.

At half-time the Stars were told to stick to the basics and get the game back on their terms, and they subsequently kicked the first four goals of the third term.

But the Bulldogs were never going to lay down without a fight, and through some of their bigger-bodied players such as Mark Griffin (three goals), Brendan Kimber and James Taylor shot straight back into the contest only to ultimately fall just three points short. Jonty Bow was outstanding across the backline for the Stars on Saturday, as was tall utility Tanner Stanton (three goals). Corie Intveen also continued his brilliant start to the season.

Korumburra-Bena, meanwhile, was incredibly gallant at home against Inverloch Kongwak at the showgrounds – going down to the reigning premiers by just eight points, 12.6 (78) to 10.10 (70).

The result was even more impressive given the Sea Eagles shot out of the blocks with a five-goal unanswered first term.

Ben Fitzpatrick, Willie Jeffs, and Nick Besley shone for the Giants, while the likes of Andy Soumilas and Shem Hawking were at their influential best for the Sea Eagles.

Finally, at Dalyston, things went from bad to worse for the home side in a 137-point annihilation at the hands of a rampant Kooweerup, who had 45 scoring shots to just eight in their 23.22 (160) to 3.5 (23) win. The in-form Jason Wells booted another eight goals in a best-on-ground effort.