Hawks, Bull­dogs make fi­nals push

The Cairns Post - - SPORT -

The AFL’s hunger games sea­son marches on, with an­other week­end that did lit­tle to set­tle the fate of sides left in fi­nals con­tention.

Only St Kilda’s wound suf­fered on Sat­ur­day night looks like a mor­tal blow.

Math­e­mat­i­cally, the Saints are still in con­tention.

But a third de­feat in a row, and the na­ture of that two­point loss to Port Ade­laide – de­liv­ered by Rob­bie Gray with just sec­onds re­main­ing – must surely have bro­ken St Kilda hearts.

Hawthorn sit two points be­low them on the ta­ble, but their equally-tense six-point de­feat of high-fly­ing Syd­ney gives Alas­tair Clark­son’s side a sniff of Septem­ber.

And on Sun­day, the reign­ing pre­miers breathed life back into their de­fence. The West­ern Bull­dogs looked like their flag-win­ning selves with a 30point win over Essendon that tem­po­rar­ily put them back in the top eight.

Coach Luke Bev­eridge said he was start­ing to see signs of last year’s form af­ter string­ing to­gether three straight wins for the first time since Septem­ber.

“We’ve had to re­ally fo­cus (each week) to re­mind our­selves of the type of footy we need to play to es­tab­lish our­selves as a recog­nis­able and threat­en­ing team,” he said.

“It’s great in the re­cent three weeks we’ve been able to do that.

“We’d like to keep teams to a lower score but it was great that we were able to score the way we did.”

With 12 in­di­vid­ual goalkickers, the Bull­dogs 19.13 (127) was their big­gest score in 47 matches, head­lined by a four-goal bag to best-afield con­tender Ja­son Jo­han­nisen.

“That’s been the recipe for us for a long pe­riod of time. We need a (goal­kick­ing) spread and we got it again to­day,” Bev­eridge said.

“(Jo­han­nisen) had a re­ally big game.

“We sent him to one of the wings when we knew he’d be a bit freer and he snuck for­ward ... it’s amaz­ing what ac­cu­rate long kick­ing can do.”

The Bull­dogs can take a fur­ther step to­wards Septem­ber when they travel to bot­tom side Bris­bane next week­end.

Essendon are out of the top eight but are far from done this sea­son, with three matches against bot­tom six clubs in their run-in.

John Wors­fold dis­missed the sug­ges­tion that their fi­nal four games were more invit­ing than oth­ers.

“To­day was invit­ing for us play­ing a side that was level peg­ging for us and we weren’t good enough.

“We need to show that we’re good enough now by win­ning what’s ahead of us,” he said.

Else­where, Mel­bourne’s for­tunes took a hit with a poor loss to strug­glers North Mel­bourne in Ho­bart.

The De­mons couldn’t use the wind in the fi­nal quar­ter on a blus­tery day and limped to a four-point loss.

They now face a must-win clash with GWS Giants next Sat­ur­day, who were unim­pres­sive in beat­ing lowly Fre­man­tle by 12 points.

On a for­get­table Sat­ur­day night, Gee­long and Rich­mond beat lack­lus­tre op­po­nents – Carl­ton and Gold Coast re­spec­tively – to keep their top four bids on track. Fi­nally, on Sun­day af­ter­noon, league lead­ers Ade­laide ap­peared to troll the com­pe­ti­tion by draw­ing with Colling­wood at the MCG.


RUN-AROUND: West­ern Bull­dogs’ Robert Mur­phy gives Essendon's Mark Bag­u­ley the slip.

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