Dogs feel Suns’ bite

GOLD COAST 1.3 4.7 11.11 13.15 (93) WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3 5.6 6.10 8.13 (61) GOALS: Gold Coast – Brown 3, Hall 2, Matera, Stanley, Bennell, Harbrow, O’Meara, Shaw, Day, May. Western Bulldogs – Stringer 3, Markovic 2, Giansiracusa, Jones, Murphy. BEST: Gold Coast – Ablett, Brown, O’Meara, Thompson, Prestia, Stanley. Western Bulldogs – Cooney, Minson, Macrae, Murphy, Boyd, Griffen. INJURIES: Gold Coast – Smith (knee). UMPIRES: Jeffery, Hay, Armstrong. CROWD: 13,520 at Metricon Stadium.
Nanjing Night Net

Bob Murphy knows the price of loyalty. In a heartfelt column on Wednesday, he reflected with remarkable honesty on the fact that his chances of playing in a premiership with his beloved Western Bulldogs had come and gone. He could have moved on, chasing the dream like erstwhile teammates Brian Lake and Jarrod Harbrow. Now, he admitted, would be the time.

Murphy is one of football’s last true romantics. A fan as much as a footballer, he identifies with his battling team from the underprivileged west like he identifies with the outcasts and underclass of rock ’n’ roll. He’ll accept defeat now for the prospect of success in his dotage, when players he won’t know will hoist the flag in the name of those who have gone before. For him, even vicarious glory will be worth the wait.

You’d hope, as unlikely as it seems now, that one day he’ll get his wish. And there were glimpses, early on in Saturday’s match against the Gold Coast Suns, that his day might one day come, especially with the undeniable quality of 2012 draft picks Jack Macrae and Jake Stringer.

Macrae started on the bench, but was as influential as anyone on the field in the first half: his skills exceptional, his willingness to defend as well as attack an example. Stringer is more of a work in progress, but his three goals up forward were all class. Then there’s the speed and flair of former rookies Luke Dahlhaus and Jason Johannisen. The Dogs have a future, even if it’s distant. These young players combined brilliantly with the Bulldogs’ old heads in the first half: a seemingly reborn Adam Cooney, who won the ball at will, while Murphy and Daniel Giansiracusa were as creative and silky as ever. Matthew Boyd and Daniel Cross, combined with ruckman Will Minson, bested the Suns in the clinches. All are still fighting their hearts out for their team.

But, the longer the match went, the brighter – and more immediate – the Suns’ future loomed. And ironically, it was not one of their budding superstars but Campbell Brown, once a heart-and-soul player for Hawthorn, who initially dragged the home side back into the contest with his presence, smarts and three goals.

Of course, there was also Gary Ablett – who was as ever – and Harbrow, whose late goal in the third quarter gave the Suns a winning break of 31 points at the last change. The biggest revelation is Jaeger O’Meara, who may already have surpassed Harley Bennell and a quiet David Swallow to be the Suns’ most exciting future prospect. (That’s if you don’t count Jack Martin, the under-age prodigy who, like O’Meara last year, is playing his first season in the NEAFL.)

O’Meara’s third quarter was enormous, and a key to the Suns’ engine. He kicked one goal himself out of mid-air while lying on his back, but more impressive still was when he won a front-on contest for a loose ball with Brett Goodes, took possession and delivered calmly to Aaron Hall, who wheeled around onto his right to convert.

The Suns didn’t do much more than hold the Dogs at bay in the last quarter, Dahlhaus and Murphy combining again to briefly send a shiver through the home side camp, but it only took a goal from the otherwise rarely sighted Steven May to quickly put down the rebellion, Bennell icing the cake after that.

After beating the Demons last week, it gives the Suns two wins in a row for the first time in their history, and four wins for the year, with a narrow loss to the Lions in between. Granted, their success has come against weaker clubs, but more and more often, they’re playing like a team that’s increasingly sure of itself; that knows its potential is also its destiny.

The Bulldogs have hope. But they will be waiting a bit longer to fly their own flag.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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