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Five talking points: Western Bulldogs v Fremantle

Ben Guthrie  March 27, 2016 3:45 PM

Highlights: Western Bulldogs v Fremantle The Bulldogs and Dockers clash in round one
AFL 2016 Rd 01 - Western Bulldogs v Fremantle

Returning star Tom Liberatore lays a strong tackle on Nat Fyfe

1. Liberatore's triumphant return
It didn't take long for returning Bulldog Tom Liberatore to throw himself into the thick of the action. A goal off his non-preferred right boot in the fifth minute of the first quarter was a defining moment in the game. After his year out of the game following a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Liberatore's teammates mobbed him because they knew how special the moment was. The 2014 best and fairest winner was back to his ball-winning best, gathering 25 disposals as well as chalking up seven inside 50s. Libba will be an important addition to what looks like being a finals-bound Dog outfit, adding another layer to a promising midfield.

Click here for full match coverage and stats

2. Ross the Boss' unwanted record
Not many people saw the absolute shellacking coming that took place in the first quarter on Easter Sunday at Etihad Stadium. Not least Dockers coach Ross Lyon, who was left searching for answers after his side failed to kick a goal in the opening term for the first time since the 2013 Grand Final against Hawthorn. The two behinds the Dockers kicked contributed to the largest quarter-time deficit Lyon had faced in his decorated coaching career. Vision of Lyon tossing aside a piece of paper handed to him by an assistant at the first break emphasised the coach's disbelief at what was taking place. The Bulldogs slammed home seven goals in a whirlwind first term.

3. Pavlich reported, may be cleared
If things were not already bad enough for the Dockers, seeing former skipper Matthew Pavlich put on report for rough conduct would have added to their woes. The spearhead came flying in and collected Bulldog defender Easton Wood high with his head over the ball. It looked really bad, and exactly the type of incident the AFL is trying to stamp out. However, on second viewing it appeared as if Pavlich struck Wood on his right shoulder – the 2015 All Australian defender certainly reached for his shoulder, which might be the decisive factor in Pavlich escaping any ban. It was a dirty day for Pavlich who was well beaten by Bulldog debutant Marcus Adams.

4. Knock on Wood
It may only be round one, but Easton Wood's leaping effort while running back with the football in the third quarter is the early leader for Mark of the Year. Wood ran back hard to round up the dangerous Docker forwards and rose in front of Lachie Weller. He sat on Weller's shoulders and while falling backwards hauled in a spectacular grab. It was courageous and gravity-defying, making it even more impressive. Good luck chasing Wood down this year, Nic Nat, Jeremy Howe, et al.

5. Bulldogs show Dockers the way
The contrast in game styles could not have been starker. The run-and-gun Bulldogs, led by Jason Johannisen, Shane Biggs, Wood and Robert Murphy excelled on the fast track of Etihad Stadium and gave a snapshot of how good football is expected to be played this year. Fremantle, on the other hand, looked sluggish and unwilling to take risks as they went goalless in the first quarter. Minus Aaron Sandilands, who missed the game through suspension, the Dockers seemed to lose their way and their identity. They were smashed in contested ball (114-157) and kicked just five majors for the match. The scoreline did not tell the full tale, as the Bulldogs' inaccuracy in front of goal kept the shell-shocked Dockers closer than they should have been.