TEN GOALS from Aaron Naughton and Cody Weightman plus a monster day from Bailey Smith made it another Good Friday to remember for the Western Bulldogs on a day where they threatened to embarrass North Melbourne for a second straight year at Marvel Stadium.
With last year’s 128-point margin still fresh in the memory banks, it looked ugly for the Kangaroos early when the Dogs led by 45 points at quarter-time, following a dominant opening 30 minutes that saw Luke Beveridge’s side make a mockery of the accuracy headaches that has caused it grief across the past fortnight.
After a disappointing loss to Richmond last Saturday night and a week of forensic examination from the goalkicking mafia – on the back of a fortnight that produced scorelines of 7.19 and 9.17 – the Bulldogs discovered some polish in one of their most efficient performances under Beveridge.
KANGAROOS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats
Smith and Naughton have produced more dominant displays, but they were both pivotal in helping the Western Bulldogs move to 2-3 with the resounding 68-point win.
The box office midfielder with the flowing blonde mullet ran from the opening bounce to the final siren, amassing a clear personal best 43 disposals, seven marks, six inside 50s and 646 metres gained, as the Roos let Smith roam around Marvel Stadium. Naughton finished with 5.3 and could have inflicted even more pain, while skipper Marcus Bontempelli added three playing predominantly deep inside 50
The signs were ominous early for North. It almost made the perfect start when Jy Simpkin burst out of the middle and pinpointed Jack Ziebell on a searing lead straight up the middle, but the ball bounced off the skipper’s chest and outside 50. The Western Bulldogs went coast-to-coast and Weightman snapped a clever goal at the end of the ground. A two-goal turnaround that summed up the day.
It took until the 22nd minute mark of the opening quarter for North Melbourne to score for the first time, through Jaidyn Stephenson who took the advantage from a free kick to stroll into an open goal. But there was no momentum swing. The Dogs had eight goals to one on the board at the first break and North Melbourne supporters were almost on their way home.
David Noble needed a response after quarter-time. And he got one. The Western Bulldogs kicked the first goal of the second quarter, but then the momentum completely swung.
Tristan Xerri got the ball rolling, Ziebell kicked the next with his first touch of the game – 40 minutes after the ball bounced off his chest – Eddie Ford goaled and then Curtis Taylor added two of his own to make it five consecutive North Melbourne goals in a dominant 16-minute burst that resurrected a day that looked destined for a massacre.
But it was only short lived. The Dogs ripped the momentum back at the start of the second half, kicking the first three goals to grab some breathing room.
And from there, the Western Bulldogs were never troubled, building confidence across the ground ahead of an enticing month against Adelaide, Essendon, Port Adelaide and Collingwood.
Foursome opening-quarter performance
Cody Weightman kicked four goals in a memorable elimination final performance that stamped the former first-round pick as a star of the future. But this was something else. The 21-year-old tore the Kangaroos to shreds in the first quarter at Marvel Stadium, kicking four goals that should kickstart his season. And he did it in different ways. Snaps, set shots, overhead marks and down at his feet. Weightman went quiet after that, but added one more to finish with a career-high bag of five.
Hyphenated Roos the big positive
At half-time of North Melbourne’s round four clash at the SCG, Jason Horne-Francis had the Rising Star nomination in his keeping. Josh Rachele claimed it on Monday night, but the No. 1 pick produced another performance that shows why there is so much excitement around the South Australian. And he wasn’t the only top pick to perform at Marvel Stadium. Luke Davies-Uniacke made a slow start but was pivotal in dragging the momentum back in the second quarter, before finishing with 22 disposals and 10 contested possessions.
Super sub plays another half
Mitch Wallis fell out of favour in 2021 and only managed six senior games after producing a career-best 2020. The 29-year-old was the medi-sub across the past fortnight and played almost a half in each game, and he did the same again on Friday, replacing Riley Garcia at the main break. It didn’t take Wallis long to make an impact, kicking a long set shot from a tight angle in the first minute of the second half. He got involved with two other scores straight after that, providing the Dogs with a spark to put his hand up for a spot in the 22 next week.
NORTH MELBOURNE 1.0 6.2 8.4 11.5 (71)
WESTERN BULLDOGS 8.3 10.4 15.8 21.13 (139)
North Melbourne: Larkey 4, Taylor 2, Ford, Powell, Stephenson, Xerri, Ziebell
Western Bulldogs: Naughton 5, Weightman 5, Bontempelli 3, Scott 2, Cordy, English, Hunter, Macrae, Ugle-Hagan, Wallis
North Melbourne: Simpkin, Larkey, Davies-Uniacke, Xerri, Horne-Francis, Scott
Western Bulldogs: Smith, Naughton, Macrae, Dale, Liberatore, Duryea, Treloar, Weightman
North Melbourne: Hall (hamstring), Mahony (ankle)
Western Bulldogs: Garcia (knee)
North Melbourne: Tom Powell, replaced Aaron Hall at half-time
Western Bulldogs: Mitch Wallis, replaced Riley Garcia at half-time