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Five talking points: Western Bulldogs v Brisbane

Nathan Schmook  March 30, 2013 5:45 PM

Highlights: Bulldogs v Lions The Western Bulldogs and Brisbane Lions clash at Etihad Stadium
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Will Minson and Clay Smith celebrate as the Bulldogs defeat the Brisbane Lions

1. Dogs' new tricks
It's clearly been a long, fruitful summer for coach Brendan McCartney and his Bulldogs, who stunned the Brisbane Lions with their skill and pace under the Etihad Stadium roof. Kicking efficiency, both around the ground and in front of goal, summed up the difference between the sides. In the first half the Bulldogs kicked 6.0 from set shots compared to the Lions' 1.6. The Bulldogs averaged 70 points a game at Etihad Stadium last season; they passed that five minutes into the third quarter.  

2. Goodes the star
Last year Brett Goodes was the Bulldogs' welfare officer; on Saturday he was the club's half-back general. The 29-year-old oozed experience in his AFL debut, winning 24 disposals and barely wasting a touch. He had the responsibility of taking the kick ins and frequently directed traffic. Arguably the best player on the ground, the question must be asked: why did it take so long for the brother of dual Brownlow medallist Adam Goodes to get his start?

3. NAB Cup form counts for nothing
After winning the NAB Cup, the Brisbane Lions were widely tipped to climb the ladder this season and they were heavy favourites for Saturday's clash. It was an ugly loss for Michael Voss's men, who were dominated in the centre square and lacked composure when they had the ball. To make matters worse, key defender Matt Maguire was substituted out of the game in the third quarter with what looked like a lower left leg injury.  
 
4. Smart investments
Nick Lower and Koby Stevens were recruited from Fremantle and West Coast respectively – clubs that didn't value them as much as the Dogs will. Stevens was one of the Bulldogs' centre square instigators in the first quarter, but his day was unfortunately ended by a hamstring injury late in the third quarter. Lower tagged dangerous Lions midfielder Daniel Rich and held him to just six disposals in the first three quarters. Both look set to be key players in a new-look Bulldogs midfield.   

5. Happy returns
Playing his first game since suffering a broken leg in 2011, Dale Morris didn't miss a beat, throwing himself head first into packs and tackling with ferocity. The highly respected defender added stability to a young Bulldogs backline, spending time opposed to Ash McGrath and Aaron Cornelius, who shared one goal. It was also a return of sorts for Brownlow medallist Adam Cooney, who moved well after being in hospital with a knee infection in the lead-up to Saturday's clash. With midfielders lifting around him, Cooney played with freedom and impressed with 24 possessions and a goal.