DOGS BACK ON TRACK

MACRAE LEADS BULL­DOGS TO WIN

Sunday Herald Sun - - Front Page - SAM ED­MUND

JACK Macrae just plays.

There’s no con­tro­versy, no quirky back story or even a strange off-field pur­suit.

When­ever the name Jack Macrae is writ­ten or spo­ken, the word “unas­sum­ing” is never far away.

For­mer cap­tain Bob Mur­phy calls him “the most con­fi­dent shy per­son I’ve ever met”.

And there’s noth­ing wrong with that, par­tic­u­larly when you might be the most in-form mid­fielder in the com­pe­ti­tion.

Macrae fin­ished with a per­sonal-best 47 dis­pos­als — 26 in the first half — in the Western Bull­dogs’ 14-point win over the Bris­bane Lions last night.

A week af­ter hav­ing 40 touches against Gold Coast, the wiry left-footer torched the Lions with an equal game-high 18 con­tested pos­ses­sions, a game-high 10 clear­ances and an equal game-high eight in­side-50s. Macrae also had 10 score in­volve­ments.

He is a star, and con­sis­tent too, av­er­ag­ing 33 touches this year. Only once has he walked off a ground this year hav­ing had fewer than 30 pos­ses­sions when he gath­ered 26 in the Round 5 loss to Fremantle.

“He’s one of the smartest foot­ballers,” team­mate Lachie Hunter said.

“He knows where to go to get the ball, but he’s been re­ally good de­fen­sively too.”

With Mar­cus Bon­tem­pelli play­ing as an al­most ex­clu­sive for­ward against the Lions, Macrae pi­loted the Dogs’ en­gine room in what was an­other mas­ter­class.

Dustin Mar­tin and Pa­trick Danger­field haven’t been able to re­cap­ture last year’s form, Josh Kennedy has been patchy and Josh Kelly and Rory Sloane are in­jured.

The year is still young, but when does Macrae get talkedup as a Brown­low con­tender?

If last week was a three-vote game, chalk up this one as an­other.

The 23-year-old shuf­fles to­wards stop­pages head bowed.

But when the ball is alive he is a player in con­stant mo­tion, buzzing around to re­ceive, give off and break into space.

Macrae was the head­line act in a Bull­dogs side with an av­er­age age of just 22 who made the Lions their third straight scalp.

Yet while they could never rest easy against this fight­ing Bris­bane side, this was a Dogs per­for­mance as ef­fi­cient as we’ve seen for some time.

A side that no­to­ri­ously strug­gles to turn en­tries into scores, kicked 16.11 from 64 in­side-50s. It was only the third time in eight games the Dogs have kicked more goals than be­hinds.

It was just as well, given their 24-point three-quar­ter time lead had shrunk to seven with nine min­utes left. But the Lions’ charge had the stuff­ing knocked out of it when Lewis Tay­lor hand­balled straight to Bai­ley Dale when the Lions were on the at­tack and Bon­tem­pelli kicked his fourth goal.

The Lions sur­vived — and threat­ened — on the back of fierce tack­ling pres­sure, but their turnovers were mer­ci­lessly pu­n­ished by the Dogs, who kicked 11 of their 15 goals off the back of Bris­bane blun­ders.

Char­lie Cameron (18 touches, three goals, nine tack­les) was again ex­cel­lent, Dayne Zorko (24 touches, nine clear­ances, four goals) has turned the cor­ner, Tom Cut­ler shows prom­ise and Zac Bai­ley shows some­thing.

It would be no con­so­la­tion to any­one at the Gabba, but the Lions show more than their 18th place would sug­gest.

The Bull­dogs’ only sour point was the nasty an­kle in­jury suf­fered by Aaron Naughton, who went down in the first quar­ter and played no fur­ther part in the game.

Western Bull­dogs’ gun Jack Macrae clears de­spite pres­sure from Mitch Robin­son. Pic­ture: MICHAEL KLEIN

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