IT WAS only eight weeks ago, but the last top-of-the-ladder clash between Melbourne and the Western Bulldogs was over by quarter-time. The Demons made sure of that.

They slammed on six goals in the opening term to register their best first quarter of the season and held a 27-point advantage at the initial break. It was maintained throughout the contest, with the Dees skipping to a 28-point win

But as the sides prepare for another first-versus-second clash on Saturday night, it is clear the areas the Dogs will be looking to remedy to turn the tables on Melbourne this time around – and potentially before another meeting in the finals between the premiership contenders. 

The Bulldogs won the disposal count by 54 in round 11 (also uncontested possessions by 73), led the tackles by 11, had six more inside-50s and nine more clearances.

But they were smashed in the contested possessions (18 behind the Demons) in what Champion Data statistics show is their worst differential of the year. Melbourne match-winners Christian Petracca and Clayton Oliver combined for 29 contested disposals themselves.

Superstars Christian Petracca and Marcus Bontempelli during the round 11 clash. Picture: AFL Photos

Despite winning the clearances, the Dogs scored just 22 points from stoppages, which ranks as their second-worst result this year. Simply, their scoring broke down, with a 15.4 per cent goal per inside-50 entry their equal-worst in 2021 and score per inside-50 rate (36.5 per cent) was their third-worst. 

The Demons played their part in that. They sent tagger James Harmes to Bulldogs ball-getter Tom Liberatore and were able to limit his influence and keep him to a season-low 16 disposals and four clearances.  

Tom McDonald dominated in attack with three goals while Bayley Fritsch also booted three in a typically efficient display. 

Steven May was also dominant with 22 disposals, seven rebound 50s and five grabs in one of the standout games of his season and his defensive partner Jake Lever also ranked 16.6 points in AFL Player Ratings, 3.9 more than his 2021 average of 12.7, showing his impact on the contest. 

Josh Bruce and Steven May compete for the ball in the Bulldogs-Demons clash in R11, 2021. Picture: Getty Images

With the battle for a top-four spot so tight, the MCG meeting of the flag frontrunners has big consequences. A Demons double win over the Bulldogs would send them six points clear of Luke Beveridge's side on the ladder, but a Bulldogs win would see them reclaim top position.  

There is also plenty to prove. Where the Demons' battles have come against lower-placed sides, the Dogs' last three games to top-six teams – against Melbourne in round 11, Geelong in round 14 and Sydney in round 17 – have all been losses. 



Rd 11 v Melb

2021 Avg.

2021 Rank

Contested Poss. Diff.




Time in Fwd Half Diff.




Scores from Turnover Diff.




Scores from Stoppages Diff.




Score per Inside 50%




Goal per Inside 50%