PLENTY has changed in the world since September, but for the Western Bulldogs, Friday night's 52-point loss to Collingwood was a haunting reminder of their brutal 2019 finals exit.
Under the open Marvel Stadium roof, thanks to COVID-19 indoor event restrictions, the Magpies were as clinical as the Bulldogs bereft in the 13.8 (86) to 5.4 (34) round one clash.
PIES DISMANTLE DOGS Full match coverage and stats
The Pies had winners everywhere; Brodie Grundy manhandled Tim English to be best on ground with 37 hitouts, one goal, three behinds and 19 disposals, while Taylor Adams dominated in the middle and Brody Mihocek booted three goals.
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Scott Pendlebury was typically influential in the first quarter as the Pies put on a 26-point lead by quarter-time, while the Dogs struggled to simply get the ball into their forward arc and managed one goal from just two entries.
With Jackson Macrae and Bailey Smith getting involved in the second and Matt Suckling giving them some forward drive in the third, the Dogs offered a whimper to get within five goals after the margin blew out to 48 points.
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But, with Josh Daicos contributing two of the Pies' three final term goals, the Dogs finished the game as they started it; unable to get a foothold anywhere and scoring just two behinds for the quarter.
The Brown brothers
On any normal night, the crowd's reaction to this moment would have blown Marvel Stadium's roof clean off. As the Pies pressed forward yet again in their dominating first quarter, debutant Tyler Brown found the ball and dished off a quick hand pass to big brother Callum, who slotted their fifth goal. They're Collingwood royalty, and that combination alone – which was celebrated by their family watching on from a corporate box - would have sent the cheer squad into a frenzy.
Getting the hang of social distancing
There seemed to be some controlled measures taken after Thursday night's display of physical contact between the Richmond and Carlton players with Marcus Bontempelli and Pendlebury giving each other a nod rather than a handshake at the coin toss, and the players engaging in forearm "bumps" at the quarter breaks. However, there was still plenty of high-fiving going on during play, which goes to show that some habits will simply be impossible to break.
On the social distancing thing, there was nowhere to hide for Bulldogs debutant Ben Cavarra in the second quarter when the mature-age recruit nailed his first goal. The 24-year-old won a free kick inside 50 when he was double-teamed into the ground by Brayden Maynard and Jack Crisp, went back and used his first kick in AFL football to boot a major. The Bulldogs, in desperate need of a spark, swamped the former VFL forward to commemorate a moment he won't forget – and later, did the same with Josh Bruce when he bagged his first goal as a Bulldog.
Sing it loud
The Pies declared before the game that, along with stricter water bottle use, they would not sing the theme song afterwards in the rooms should they win. However, they couldn't resist belting it out once they left the field, although it was an odd sight to see the usually jubilant celebration take place with the players standing on their own and Grundy dancing by himself.
Happier times ahead
If you're into symbols, the light dusting of pre-match rain that led to a rainbow stretching across the stadium could be seen as significant. It's fair to say we've still got a bit of the metaphorical storm to come, but that brief colourful vision was a reminder there are better days ahead.
Western Bulldogs: The Bulldogs appear to have come through unscathed although Jackson Macrae suffered a poke in the eye in the third quarter and appeared troubled by it as the game wore on.
Collingwood: Mason Cox sent a scare through the Magpies' camp when he limped off with a sore knee after landing awkwardly in the second quarter. He was treated in the rooms and had a fitness test on the boundary before returning eight minutes later. He finished the game, as did a tender Brody Mihocek despite a bruising bump to his right hip early in the fourth quarter.
The Bulldogs are back at Marvel to face Carlton on Saturday in a twilight game, while the Magpies will host Richmond at the MCG on Thursday night.
FULL FIXTURE Every round, every game
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.0 4.0 5.2 5.4 (34)
COLLINGWOOD 5.2 8.6 10.7 13.8 (86)
Western Bulldogs: Wallis, Williams, Cavarra, Suckling, Bruce
Collingwood: Mihocek 3, Cox 2, Daicos 2, Elliott, Hoskin-Elliott, Grundy, C. Brown, De Goey, Adams
Western Bulldogs: Macrae, Smith, Keath, Suckling, Hunter
Collingwood: Grundy, Mihocek, Adams, Mayne, Pendlebury, Howe
Western Bulldogs: Macrae (face/eye)
Umpires: Donlon, Hosking, Whetton