Bulldogs’ fight “pleasing” for Burke
AFTER a “slog” of a first quarter, the Western Bulldogs managed to get the game back on their terms against Hawthorn, running out 30-point winners, which pleased coach Nathan Burke. The Bulldogs coach said the playing group did not quite adapt to the conditions as they had hoped, but were able to adjust after both teams were scoreless at the first break to slot six goals to one in the next three terms during the 6.1 (37) to 1.1 (7) win.
“First quarter was a bit of a slog, we were a bit tight,” Burke said. “They probably caught us on the hop, but the way that they managed to adjust and change the way we were playing and counter the way they were playing because they were very good in that first quarter was really pleasing. It wasn’t just a hard contest and effort, they actually fought their way through the last three quarters in particular and came away winners which was great.”
The challenging weather conditions made it difficult to find easy touches, and though Burke admitted he “loved playing” on the soggy deck as a player, it made for hard going from the first bounce.
“First quarter was a bit of a slog, we were a bit tight. They probably caught us on the hop, but the way that they managed to adjust and change the way we were playing and counter the way they were playing because they were very good in that first quarter was really pleasing. It wasn’t just a hard contest and effort, they actually fought their way through the last three quarters in particular and came away winners which was great.”
Burke said he was impressed by his team being able to adjust to the conditions after quarter time, booting five of the Bulldogs’ six goals from within prime goalscoring range, inside 20 metres. By contrast, Burke was complementary of his defenders to not afford Hawthorn the same courtesy inside the Hawks’ front half. That was the deciding factor in the game despite both sides getting looks, with the Bulldogs winning the inside 50 count, 31-22.
“I reckon if we took a stat from getting the ball inside 20m, we probably won that one. I thought our defenders did a really good job of not allowing them to get the ball too deep into their forwardline. There you get a free kick, you can throw one on your boot it can go through for a goal, so that’s always hard. I reckon today the key stat was not necessarily inside 50, but inside 20 was the real key killer for us.”
Burke held particular praise for 50th gamer Kirsty Lamb, who was best on ground in the win, collecting 25 disposals, four marks, five tackles, seven clearances and hitting the scoreboard with a goal. She was one of four midfielders to kick goals in the victory.
“I think if she put her head on a pillow a couple of nights ago and said what sort of conditions would I like for my 50th game, she’d say I’d want it wet and soggy and tough as nails, and that’s what she got. So absolutely no surprise whatsoever that she was the one that really stood up and I think 25 possessions and a goal in that as well.
“Our midfielders haven’t been kicking very many goals, so I put it on them today so we got [four] goals from our midfield, which was great. Lamby just lead the way, she put the team on her back and they wanted to perform for her because they all love her.”
When assessing his team’s 4-0 start to the season thus far, Burke was pragmatic. The Bulldogs coach said the team took a look of confidence out of the wins, but was always looking to improve and gain greater consistency across four quarters.
“I think what they’re seeing is that when we play the way that we want to play, it’s really, really effective. The thing we have to do is put that together for longer and more often in the game, and then we’ll absolutely be able to match it with those teams that you mentioned. I’m not sitting here saying we’re four-zip and we’re absolutely shooting the lights out.
“We’ve got so much to improve on and the players are really keen on that as well. You can chalk on the wins, but we’ve still got so much to work on and that’s the mindset through the group. A couple of big challenges coming up, but this group here they’re up for any challenge.”
Western Bulldogs host North Melbourne at Punt Road Oval from 12:40pm next Friday, September 23.