DOGS BACK ON TRACK
MACRAE LEADS BULLDOGS TO WIN
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