Beveridge puts faith in Dogs
MELBOURNE cruised to a 49-point AFL win over the Western Bulldogs, but the Demons hold serious fears for star defender Jake Lever.
The 22-year-old took no further part in the win at Etihad Stadium after he twisted his left knee in the first quarter.
Lever did not reappear on the bench and was reportedly sent for scans on the knee, which he had reconstructed as a junior.
After a slow start, the De- mons consolidated their spot in the top four with their sixth win in a row.
Angus Brayshaw set a new career-high with 39 possessions, as did Clayton Oliver with 37, as Jesse Hogan kicked five goals for Melbourne.
Lachie Hunter (32) and Jack Macrae (31) had plenty of ball, but it was another maddeningly inconsistent performance from the Bulldogs.
The Demons had won 18 quarters in a row going into the clash, but the Dogs ended that streak with a bright start.
The appetite for contested ball that had been sporadic this season was on show, as the Bulldogs booted the first three goals of the game to lead by eight points at quarter-time.
The Demons were riding high after a 91-point thumping of Adelaide and they found their rhythm in the second term.
After a quiet start, Max Gawn imposed himself on the contest as the Demons roared to life, kicking five goals to one to lead by 16 points at the main break.
Luke Beveridge’s side was held goalless in a miserable second half in last week’s loss to Collingwood, but Marcus Bontempelli converted from close range 30 seconds after the restart.
Melbourne was not in the same formidable form it displayed against the Crows in Alice Springs, but the Demons’ eighth win of the season looked in the bag from a long way out.
The Bulldogs had won just one last quarter in a disappointing season heading into Round 11. They trailed by 29 points at three-quarter time and their poor finishes continued, with Hogan booting two goals for the term.
Bulldogs forward Tory Dickson also left the game in the first quarter with a hamstring injury. WESTERN Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge can see how some predicted the 2016 premiers would face tough times in the years that followed the glory.
But he doesn’t subscribe to the theory that his team’s September aspirations this season are dashed.
Beveridge said there were “some” positives to be taken from the Dogs’ 49-point loss to Melbourne at Etihad Stadium yesterday, particularly from early in the match when his team surged to a three-goal lead.
Hours before the Dogs’ seventh defeat in 11 games, it was reported football boss Chris Grant had admitted that a post-premiership plummet was always a possibility. But Beveridge was adamant that his belief in the group had not wavered.
“That’s a back office discussion that may have been had,” he said. “My job and my focus has always got to be to get the best out of our players.
“Some might have thought that way, when you consider how we won it, why we won it, where we won it and how it was a bit unusual … if you attempt to be a realist and think about whether or not that’s sustainable, I can see how the notion was there that maybe it was going to be tough.
“I always see things as glass half full and the growth is still there.”
He said other elements — including injuries to key players and players “not quite being able to handle themselves after the heights of winning it” — could have also had an effect. And while there had been “some good signs”, it had not been for long enough.
Beveridge said what the Bulldogs achieved in 2016 “hasn’t done anyone a favour” and affirmed his belief that his team’s season was not over.