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Match report: Bob back, but Hogan-inspired Dees triumph

JLT Highlights: Western Bulldogs v Melbourne The Bulldogs and Demons clash in Week 1 of the JLT Community series
MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 18: Robert Murphy of the Bulldogs bumps Aaron Vandenberg of the Demons during the AFL 2017JLT Community Series match between the Western Bulldogs and the Melbourne Demons at VU Whitten Oval on February 18, 2017 in Melbourne, Australia. (Photo by Michael Dodge/AFL Media)
Robert Murphy made a successful return in loss to Dees
I walked in at about 12.30pm (for a 4.40pm start) and he (Murphy) was already here
Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge

A RE-ENERGISED Travis Cloke and a sharp-looking Bob Murphy look set to make the premiership-winning Western Bulldogs an even more dangerous proposition in season 2017.

The duo's encouraging performances would have pleased coach Luke Beveridge, despite his side's six-point loss to Melbourne in the club's JLT Community Series clash at Whitten Oval on Saturday evening.

Jesse Hogan spearheaded Melbourne to its 0.14.8 (92) to 2.9.14 (86) victory, booting four goals to prove he is going to be a force to be reckoned with again in just his fourth season at AFL level.

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With Stewart Crameri returning from a 12-month doping suspension, Beveridge has three seasoned players at his disposal bound to make his side better as it hunts back-to-back flags.

While there were plenty of positives for both teams, they also had two significant concerns with Bulldogs ruckman Jordan Roughead (right knee) and Melbourne's Josh Wagner (right ankle) succumbing to injuries in the first half.

Returning from a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament last April, crowd favourite and Bulldogs skipper Murphy moved freely and with zest as he provided plenty of rebound from defensive 50.

"I walked in at about 12.30pm (for a 4.40pm start) and he (Murphy) was already here – it was like he was an Auskicker turning up hoping he's the first one here to get a free can of Coke," Beveridge said.

"He was looking forward to playing again, more than anything, that's the impression I got, so it was good to get him through his first one."

Former Magpie Cloke made an encouraging start to his career at his new club, booting a goal in the first three minutes of the game before launching a long-range supergoal in the second term.

Cloke, 29, who was traded after 246 games in 12 seasons at Collingwood, has trimmed down significantly and appears ready to prove he still has plenty of football left in his AFL career. 

"He definitely hit up well and we found him at different times and he kicked the ball well," Beveridge said.

"He's trained hard and we're hoping we find the best qualities in his performances this year and there were some really good signs."

At the other end of the ground, the form of Hogan – only coming into his prime at 22 – was encouraging as the Demons set their sights on finals under new coach Simon Goodwin.

"I just loved the way he jumped at the ball today. When he jumped at the ball he had real presence about him," Goodwin said of his star forward.

"He has had a great summer and I thought today was a good reward for that."

Marquee recruit Jordan Lewis racked up a game-high 28 disposals.

"By his own admission he probably struggled to settle into the game early," Goodwin said of Lewis.

"But once he did, I thought his direction, particularly down at half-back, was very good."

Co-captain Jack Viney (22 touches and eight clearances) led from the front and Christian Salem – who has been slated to play more midfield time this season after overcoming a number of injury problems – collected 19 disposals to make the Demons a more balanced unit on the outside of the contest.

"Jack just plays the game the way it should be played. He's really consistent and he does everything we expect of a team leader," Goodwin said of Viney.

 

WHAT WE LEARNED
Western Bulldogs: Not that we needed confirmation, but the Bulldogs are going to again be one of the teams to beat in season 2017. In fact, they might be better placed. Adding experienced forwards Travis Cloke and the returning Stewart Crameri gives the Dogs two dependable targets to kick the football to up forward. Bob Murphy's run from the back half is another fillip for Dogs fans eager for more premiership success. Let's not forget premiership players Marcus Bontempelli, Dale Morris, Matthew Boyd, Liam Picken, Easton Wood and Clay Smith all didn't play.

Melbourne: Jesse Hogan may be the focal point up forward for the Demons, but second-year youngster Sam Weideman went a long way to claiming the second tall-forward spot. Weideman, who added two majors, now tips the scales at 94kg and is much better placed, body-wise, to be a consistent force up forward in 2017. Weideman possesses an outstanding leap and will complement Hogan and Jack Watts perfectly in the years to come.

NEW FACES
Western Bulldogs: Former Pie Travis Cloke made a positive start in his first game for his new club, marking strongly and finishing confidently for his first goal within the first three minutes of the contest. He backed it up with a long-range supergoal in the second term to be one of the most dangerous forwards on the ground. Cloke looks trim and re-energised. Rookie Brad Lynch has been compared to skipper Bob Murphy in regard to his sharp kicking skills (on both feet) and he showed them off when he booted a tidy goal in the second term. Half-back Declan Hamilton had seven touches from just 33 per cent game-time after coming on in the second half.

 

Melbourne:
Marquee recruit Jordan Lewis collected a game-high 28 disposals as well as the match-saving spoil in the dying stages of the game. Lewis' on-field direction and experience in key moments will be crucial for the young Demons. Playing his first match for Melbourne, Jake Melksham – sporting a slick hairdo – spent time in the middle and down back and had 13 touches. Rookie Joel Smith – the son of former Melbourne high-flyer Shaun – fitted in nicely down back. Simon Goodwin has described Smith as one of the most exciting athletes he has coached.

NEXT UP
Melbourne will trek down the Monash Freeway to face Carlton at its other home base down at Casey Fields next Sautrday afternoon. The Bulldogs have a decent break before they do battle with the Brisbane Lions at Etihad Stadium on March 2.

WESTERN BULLDOGS      0.2.0      1.6.3       1.8.4         2.9.14 (86)
MELBOURNE                    0.4.2       0.8.3      0.12.5       0.14.8 (92)           

SUPERGOALS
Western Bulldogs: Cloke, Johannisen
Melbourne: Nil 

GOALS
Western Bulldogs: Dahlhaus 2, Hunter 2, Cloke, Dale, Lynch, Daniel, McLean
Melbourne: Hogan 4, Weideman 2, Petracca, Gawn, Viney, Bugg, Jones, Neal-Bullen, Brayshaw, Garlett 

BEST 
Western Bulldogs: Dahlhaus, Hunter, Liberatore, McLean, Cloke, Murphy
Melbourne: Hogan, Viney, Lewis, O.McDonald, Salem, Jones, Gawn 

INJURIES
Western Bulldogs: Roughead (right knee)
Melbourne: Wagner (right ankle)

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Williamson, Dalgleish, Rosebury, Margetts

Official crowd: 7581 at Whitten Oval