Aaron Naughton celebrates a goal during the R6 match between Western Bulldogs and St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on April 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

AARON Naughton has led a ruthless Western Bulldogs side to a 60-point victory over St Kilda on Thursday evening.

Naughton kicked an equal career-high six for the night in what was a goalkicking masterclass from the Bulldogs, slotting their first 12 set shots of the game to cruise to a 19.10 (124) to 9.10 (64) victory under the roof at Marvel Stadium.

SAINTS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats

Jack Macrae (30 disposals, seven tackles and a goal) was immense for the Dogs, relentless around the contest and an important link going forward, while Bailey Dale (39 disposals, 15 marks and a goal) and Adam Treloar (30 disposals, nine clearances and a goal) also had a big say in the result.

Throughout the error-laden opening minutes, it was the Bulldogs who settled faster, enjoying seven goals for the term – six of which came via Cody Weightman and Naughton.


Weightman (three goals, four tackles) in particular was afforded acres of space inside 50 early, not only becoming an important target for the ball carrier, but also roving packs and exploiting slower opponents with his speed.

While the Bulldogs looked dangerous every time they moved the ball inside 50, St Kilda looked anything but. The Saints lacked consideration when kicking into attack, often spotting up an outnumber or directly kicking to the opposition's advantage.

Without Max King inside 50, the Saints struggled to find a focal point to target, resulting in a dysfunctional forward half.

They were then vulnerable to the Dogs' merciless pressure game, forced into smaller and smaller pockets of space until they would either turn the ball over or settle for a stoppage.


At the other end of the ground, the Bulldogs expertly stretched St Kilda's defence. Even without Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, who missed the game for personal reasons, tall trio Naughton, Sam Darcy and Rory Lobb were dominant in the air.

By half-time the Dogs had registered 16 scoring shots from 32 inside 50s, and eventually finished with 29 from 55.

Naughton's aggression at the footy was causing St Kilda's defenders to be drawn to him en masse in aerial contests, opening up opportunities for other forwards unopposed at the fall of the ball.

St Kilda was reactive, allowing the Bulldogs time to snatch freedom on the lead before responding to challenge the footy. The Dogs acknowledged this and were willing to be patient when needed, smartly picking their way down the ground to create genuine options ahead of the play.


Under the pump, the Saints were guilty of dump kicks out of defence that would regularly land in the hands of the opposition.

Nasiah Wanganeen-Milera (18 disposals, 354 metres gained) and Brad Hill (31 disposals, 631 metres gained) tried to generate some run and attack out of the back half, but it simply wasn't enough in the face of the Bulldogs' press.

The Saints now fall to just two wins from six games after reaching finals last year, ahead of a clash with Port Adelaide away from home next week.

A maligned star hits back
It took former All-Australian Jack Macrae two weeks to crack into Luke Beveridge's best side, but against the Saints, Macrae reminded the footy world just what he's capable of. The midfielder was a vital conduit to attack, racking up 12 score involvements for the game. Macrae also gathered 30 disposals, five clearances and seven tackles, stamping his authority in his side's big win.

Jack Macrae in action during the R6 match between Western Bulldogs and St Kilda at Marvel Stadium on April 18, 2024. Picture: AFL Photos

No Libba, no worries
With Tom Liberatore out of the game after being put into concussion protocols, the question for the Dogs was how they would cover him through the middle. The unlikely choice of Ed Richards (18 disposals, three clearances) proved to be a masterstroke. Not the most dominant physical option at the source, he expertly unsettled St Kilda, allowing star players like Adam Treloar, Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli to get to work. The Dogs ultimately won the clearance count 32-30, helped by pure dominance at centre stoppages, 16-9.

Setting the tone early
After a week under the spotlight, the Bulldogs came out on a mission, and made it count on the scoreboard. St Kilda's defence was all at sea, unable to compete with the Dogs' tall brigade of Aaron Naughton, Sam Darcy and Rory Lobb, while Cody Weightman was unstoppable on the deck. Naughton and Weightman combined for six of the side's seven opening-quarter goals, ultimately finishing with nine for the game in what was an impressive display of attacking footy.


ST KILDA                     1.0    4.3    5.7   9.10 (64)
WESTERN BULLDOGS     7.1    12.4    17.6   19.10 (124)

St Kilda: Membrey 3, Caminiti, Jones, Garcia, Wilson, Owens, Sharman
Western Bulldogs: Naughton 6, Weightman 3, Bontempelli 3, Darcy, Dale, Treloar, West, English, Gallagher, Macrae

St Kilda: Windhager, Wanganeen-Milera, Steele, Garcia
Western Bulldogs: Naughton, Treloar, Dale, Weightman, Macrae, Johannisen

St Kilda: Butler (right hamstring)
Western Bulldogs: Nil

St Kilda: Dan Butler (replaced Zak Jones in the third quarter)
Western Bulldogs: Ryley Sanders (replaced Laitham Vandermeer in the third quarter)

Crowd: 26,719 at Marvel Stadium