MELBOURNE has overrun an inexperienced Western Bulldogs line-up to remain undefeated in the first two rounds of the NAB Challenge.
In blustery conditions, Melbourne kicked four goals with the wind in the last quarter to win by 12 points, kicking 0.10.12 (72) to 1.7.9 (60).
The Western Bulldogs did not kick a goal into the wind in either the second or last quarter.
However, the day was a positive one for the Bulldogs, with star midfielder Tom Liberatore making a successful comeback from a knee reconstruction that forced him to miss last season.
Fit Libba gives Dogs bite
They also gave seven of the eight players that joined the club in the off-season a taste of senior action, with free agent Matt Suckling the only new player to miss.
Josh Dunkley was impressive and Bailey Williams kicked a nice, long goal in his first game.
Jack Watts was lively up forward for Melbourne, kicking three goals in the absence of key forward Jesse Hogan, while 18-year-old midfielder Clayton Oliver once again pushed a strong case to be included in round one against Greater Western Sydney with 17 disposals.
Young Demon stakes claim
Jack Viney was his usual industrious self while Nathan Jones, who had neck surgery in the off-season and then hurt his knee a month ago, and Bernie Vince will be better for the run.
Small forward Jeff Garlett also looked dangerous and promises to build on his impressive performance last season when he kicked 40 goals.
Coach-in-waiting Simon Goodwin said it was good to get the win in tough conditions and the last quarter was outstanding.
"They're showing a bit of fight and grit and resilience with the way we play, so that was really pleasing," Goodwin said.
"We recognise the Bulldogs played a pretty inexperienced team but we're really focused on how we're going about our footy. Contested ball was a bit of a highlight. We played pretty well in that area for most of the day (Melbourne won the count 130-119). Some of the things are not quite ingrained in the way we want to play yet but that will come."
The Bulldogs decided to give Robert Murphy, Dale Morris, Matthew Boyd, Jake Stringer, Marcus Bontempelli and Jack Macrae a rest, but they intend to play close to a full strength team against Collingwood next Saturday.
That side will give an indication of the Bulldogs thoughts ahead of their round one clash against Fremantle.
The 23-year-old Liberatore had 16 disposals and showed a glimpse of the future in the second quarter when he rifled a pass off half-back to a leading Tom Boyd that eventually led to a shot at goal from first gamer Dunkley.
Big Boyd showed his potential when he took a screamer 12 minutes into the third quarter, but he missed the set shot to bring his tally to three behinds for the day.
Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge said he was pleased with the performance.
"When you are a sniff to win you always like to win. We were rapt with what some of the new blokes did and our experienced guys and their leadership. It was a terrific effort," Beveridge said.
WHAT WE LEARNED
Melbourne: Max Gawn is vital for Melbourne in the opening rounds with back-up ruckman Jake Spencer sidelined with injury. Thankfully for Demon fans he is in good shape and form at this stage. The Demons are also heavily reliant on young bookends Jesse Hogan (who did not play) and Tom McDonald. Both provide aerial power, an area Melbourne battled in against the Western Bulldogs. Nathan Jones is fit and ready to go and Jeff Garlett could be a surprise packet if he receives enough supply.
Western Bulldogs: To only lose by two goals with 14 of your best players missing was a credit to the system Luke Beveridge has developed in his short time at the Bulldogs. The team not only has a deep list, it looks organised and plays like a good team. Tom Boyd missed a few opportunities to kick goals but he is very good in the air and is shaping well, while Jack Redpath has the grunt to be a good target and foil inside 50. Tom Campbell could also address ruck concerns although Will Minson is still serviceable.
Melbourne: Clayton Oliver backed his good game against Port Adelaide with another impressive effort. Sam Frost did enough up forward to suggest he has a role down there after having his 2015 ruined by injury while Josh Wagner was used sparingly. Tom Bugg was impressive and looks a certain starter for round one.
Western Bulldogs: A raft of new faces had their first hit-out in a Western Bulldogs jumper and none looked out of place. Josh Dunkley's interceptions were a highlight, while Bailey Williams kicked a long goal. Brad Lynch found the ball well with 13 touches. Jed Adcock was in all the tough stuff, showing his experience, and mature-aged recruit Marcus Adams has the perfect build for a defender. Poor Luke Goetz didn't get a touch during 14 per cent of game time but tried to exert a physical influence, and Declan Hamilton had five touches in just 17 per cent game time.
Melbourne fronts up against St Kilda for the Sunday twilight game at Etihad Stadium with the Saints desperate for match practice after the cancellation of their NAB Challenge game against the Brisbane Lions. The Western Bulldogs will pick a full strength team for the game against Collingwood as it prepares for the opening round against Fremantle.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 0.4.3 0.4.5 1.7.8 1.7.9 (60)
MELBOURNE 0.1.2 0.4.4 0.6.5 0.10.12 (72)
Western Bulldogs: Webb
Western Bulldogs: Hrovat, Roughead, Minson, Redpath, Williams, Honeychurch, Jong
Melbourne: Watts 3, Pedersen, Garlett, vandenBerg, Tyson, Harmes, N. Jones, Frost
Western Bulldogs: Jong, Hrovat, Honeychurch, Liberatore, Daniel
Melbourne: Viney, N. Jones, Watts, Vince, Bugg
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Umpires: Brett Rosebury, Scott Jeffery, Ben Ryan, Chris Kamolins
Official crowd: 4139 at Highgate Recreation Reserve, Craigieburn