TIM ENGLISH was the star turn in a three-pronged tall forward set-up as the Western Bulldogs continued their unbeaten start to the season with a 19-point win over Brisbane at Mars Stadium.
A cold and windy day in Ballarat was hardly tailor-made for marking forwards, but English (three goals and nine marks), Aaron Naughton (two goals and eight marks) and Josh Bruce (one goal) still combined for the bulk of the Bulldogs' tally in the 10.13 (73) to 8.6 (54) victory.
DOGS v LIONS Full match coverage and stats
Eight days ago, Bruce had slotted a career-best 10 goals in the Good Friday flogging of hapless North Melbourne.
Against the Lions he mostly played third wheel to high-flying duo English and Naughton.
The Bulldogs had the better of the early going on Saturday. But they only led by eight points at the first change after Laitham Vandermeer was hit with a 50m penalty for moving on the mark, allowing Harris Andrews to slot a late goal.
With Naughton and Bruce both hitting the scorboard in the second term, the Bulldogs pushed their advantage to 26 points at the long break.
The Lions briefly threatened to get back into the contest in the third quarter when they kicked successive goals for the first time through Zac Bailey and Eric Hipwood.
The Dogs were able to steady through the impressive English, who kicked a difficult set shot into the wind after being paid a contentious mark, allowing the home team to hold a 22-point lead at the final change.
The Lions kicked the first two goals of the fourth term - including a remarkable dribbling effort by Joe Daniher from outside the 50m arc near the boundary line.
But as they had done for the most of the day, it was the Bulldogs who had the last laugh with Tom Liberatore landing a long-range goal with just eight seconds left on the clock.
Onballers Jack Macrae and Marcus Bontempelli, and defenders Alex Keath and Bailey Dale played well for the Bulldogs, while the Lions were well served by ruckman Oscar McInerney, midfielder Hugh McCluggage and backman Daniel Rich.
Big Tim's big first quarter
Tim English started the match in the goalsquare with Stef Martin assuming the No.1 ruck role against his old side. As the third forward behind Josh Bruce and Aaron Naughton, English was matched up against Darcy Gardiner and the returning Lion had his measure early with a contested mark and a solid spoil. But English came to life midway through the quarter with two goals in quick time and narrowly missing a third. He remained a constant threat throughout and added his third major in the third quarter just when the Dogs needed it.
Hipwood soars high on Mars
Electric Lion Eric Hipwood is certain to feature in the mark of the week after his stunning effort in the second quarter. With a pack brewing on centre wing, Hipwood took a ride over Dog Bailey Williams and hung in the air majestically before hanging on to the cracking mark.
Defender Dale a masterstroke
Bailey Dale played the majority of his career as a speedy forward and looked to have established himself at that end of the ground with 21 majors in 2019. But after only managing nine games last year, Dale has been swung to defence in 2021. And the move has proven to be a masterstroke with his dash and foot skills providing the Dogs with great drive from the backline. It also gives the Dogs another damaging option if Caleb Daniel is quiet - like he was against the Lions.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 3.3 7.6 9.10 10.13 (73)
BRISBANE 2.1 3.4 6.6 8.6 (54)
Western Bulldogs: English 3, Naughton 2, Hunter, Bruce, Macrae, Smith, Liberatore
Brisbane: Hipwood 2, Andrews, Fullarton, Lyons, Bailey, McCluggage, Daniher
Western Bulldogs: English, Treloar, Macrae, Dunkley, Naughton, Dale
Brisbane: McCluggage, Lyons, Andrews, Rich, Neale,
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Lipinski replaced in the selected side by Young
Western Bulldogs: Lipinski (unused)
Brisbane: Ah Chee (unused)