Main content

Dunkley keeps Dogs in the finals hunt

Highlights: Western Bulldogs v Melbourne The Bulldogs and Demons clash in round 17

ONLY one man was going to deny Max Gawn on Sunday.

For all Melbourne star Gawn's familiar ruck heroics against the Western Bulldogs, an opponent 18cm shorter, ball magnet Josh Dunkley, was every bit as good.

Probably even better.

Steven May spoils a Sam Lloyd marking attempt. Picture: AFL Photos

Dunkley's career-best day at Marvel Stadium willed the Bulldogs across the line and thrust them within a game of the top eight with a 10.14 (74) to 9.12 (66) victory over the Demons.

The 22-year-old, sharing the field with his Melbourne-listed brother Kyle for the first time, won 39 disposals – and his second goal of the day in the final term gave his team the lead for good.

That set shot followed a nervous period for the Bulldogs, after Bayley Fritsch – playing up forward in Tom McDonald's and Sam Weideman's absence – helped the Demons go one point up.

DOGS STILL IN THE HUNT Full match coverage and stats

The Dogs should never have been in that position after dominating the third quarter, only for a series of straightforward misses to add up to a forgettable 1.8 return.

Poor goalkicking has marred Luke Beveridge's side all season, but they escaped on this occasion.

Ironically, a brilliant checkside goal from Lachie Hunter gave the Dogs some breathing room, and they went 16 points clear once first-year midfielder Bailey Smith kicked accurately on the run.


Melbourne never stopped trying and would have drawn within two points at the 27-minute mark if Fritsch had booted his third goal for the quarter.

His decision to play on proved the wrong one, and it was the Demons' last opportunity to peg the Bulldogs back.

Hunter had 10 last-term possessions and 37 for the day to be another standout, as was ex-Hawk Taylor Duryea and Jack Macrae, who each accumulated 30 touches.

GAMEBREAKER Dunkley absolutely destroys the Dees

Gawn engineered a come-from-behind Melbourne victory over the Dogs last year with an extraordinary third quarter, in particular – and Beveridge still didn't have a solution for him.

Beveridge banished Tim English to a forward role in preference of Jackson Trengove in the second half after Gawn and Braydon Preuss led the Demons to a 37-7 half-time hitout advantage.

The final tally was 52-20 in Melbourne's favour, with Gawn having 34 of them, to go with 19 disposals and six marks.

Max Gawn dominated Tim English in the first half. Picture: AFL Photos

However, that didn't translate into the sort of midfield dominance the Demons might have expected, owing plenty to Dunkley's similarly authoritative display.

Melbourne also couldn't fully capitalise on the absence of Toby McLean (hamstring) after quarter-time and Marcus Bontempelli (ankle) for most of the second term.


Dunkley had 12 possessions in the first quarter, 22 to the main break, 36 at three-quarter time and 39 by the finish (24 contested).

Making his performance even more outstanding were his complementary numbers, including 15 tackles, nine clearances and five inside 50s.

PRAISE FOR DUNKLEY Luke Beveridge says star's form demanded more midfield time

It took a contentious decision for anyone to get the better of Dunkley, with his sibling granted a mark in the second term despite the Sherrin clearly hitting the ground.

Second-gamer Kyle Dunkley made the most of his fortune, slotting his first goal in the AFL from about 40m.


The Bulldogs twice skipped away in the opening half, kicking three of the first four goals of the match, then moving 14 points clear in the second quarter thanks to back-to-back Sam Lloyd majors.

They eventually made hard work of it but improved to eight wins and eight losses and climbed into 10th position.

FINDING POSITIVES Simon Goodwin says Dees can still salvage important lessons from 2019

Gawn's best support in red and blue were co-captain Jack Viney (30 disposals, eight inside 50s), defender Christian Salem (25) and makeshift forward Harry Petty (three goals).

Defensive recruit Steven May also kept Dogs focal point Aaron Naughton to one behind, while Jake Lever came through the match unscathed in his senior return.

Western Bulldogs: Toby McLean (left hamstring) was done for the day before quarter-time, while superstar Marcus Bontempelli sat out most of the second term with a sore left ankle but started the second half on the ground.

Melbourne: Angus Brayshaw (corked buttock), James Harmes (hip) and Braydon Preuss (winded) all briefly came from the ground in the first half, but none was a serious setback.

The Bulldogs are just one game out of the top eight and will fancy their chances against St Kilda at Marvel Stadium next Sunday. Melbourne remains entrenched in the bottom four and next faces reigning premier West Coast in Alice Springs on Sunday week.

WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3       6.5       7.13     10.14 (74)
MELBOURNE              3.2       6.4       7.7       9.12 (66)

Western Bulldogs:
J.Dunkley 2, Lloyd 2, R.Smith 2, Richards, Schache, Hunter, B.Smith
Melbourne: Petty 3, Fritsch 2, Hunt, Lewis, Petracca, K.Dunkley

Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Hunter, Duryea, Macrae, Lloyd, Bontempelli
Melbourne: Gawn, Viney, Salem, May, Petty, Harmes

Western Bulldogs:
McLean (hamstring)
Melbourne: Nil

Reports: Nil

Umpires: Dalgleish, Williamson, Mitchell

Official crowd: 26,781 at Marvel Stadium