ESSENDON 7.5 12.7 15.10 21.14 (140)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.2 3.5 6.7 8.8 (56)
Essendon’s first goal, to Michael Hurley, truly defined the entire night as the Bombers crushed the Western Bulldogs at Etihad Stadium.
After five behinds overall to start the match, Hurley, wearing a glove and wrist guard to protect his hand which was stepped on last week against Fremantle, took a chest mark on the lead just inside 50 on an angle.
His slice of a wobbly flat punt ended up splitting the big sticks, and his head shake and smile as he celebrated it summed up the night as a whole.
Whatever, or however, the Bombers were simply too good for the Bulldogs. Stewart Crameri even lost a boot in a marking contest, but followed up with a strong tackle, free kick and goal (with the boot back on, it’s worth noting).
It was defined by Jobe Watson’s fourteen-disposal first quarter which blitzed the Dogs on their way to seven goals in that time. His impact was somewhat nullified later by Liam Picken, but despite that he willed himself to 30 disposals and three goals in a best-on-ground performance.
It set up a learning experience, as Bulldogs coach Brendan McCartney would call it, as the Dons were too cool setting up off half-back, with Cale Hooker, Courtenay Dempsey, Dustin Fletcher and Michael Hibberd the focal points.
Racking up 150 marks to the Bulldogs’ 97, Essendon were sublime in transitioning the ball forward.
It gave Hurley the best opportunity he could, who kicked five goals to make it eleven in two weeks, despite playing through pain. Recalled forward Kyle Reimers chipped in with three of his own to lead a consistent display across the forwards.
It wasn’t all bad news for the Bulldogs, however. It’s hard to imagine them without Matthew Boyd nowadays but he was comfortably their best. Tom Liberatore played very well through the midfield and Shaun Higgins had 26 disposals in his 100th game.
Their ruck situation also looked good, with Will Minson and Tom Campbell combining for 29 hitouts and four goals.
It’s a big lesson for a team with a tough draw, as the Dogs travel to Perth to play Fremantle next week, while the Bombers remain at Etihad to play St Kilda in what looms as an exciting contest.
3 – Jobe Watson (Ess)
2 – Ben Howlett (Ess)
1 – Michael Hurley (Ess)
Essendon: Hurley 5, Reimers 3, Watson 3, Crameri 2, Ryder 2, Dell’Olio 2, Melksham 2, Hocking, Dempsey
Western Bulldogs: Minson 3, Liberatore 2, Campbell, Smith, Boyd
Essendon: Watson, Howlett, Hurley, Ryder, Hocking, Dempsey
Western Bulldogs: Boyd, Minson, Liberatore, Dahlhaus, Lake, Campbell
Western Bulldogs: Murphy (hamstring), Griffen (calf)
Essendon: Nathan Lovett-Murray replaced Stewart Crameri in the third quarter
Western Bulldogs: Jordan Roughead replaced Robert Murphy at half-time
Umpires: Margetts, Leppard, Findlay
Official crowd: 40,824 at Etihad Stadium