IT WAS, as the coach observed post-match, a "night of carnage".
It is looming as a season of carnage. More serious injuries, more dysfunction in the backline, a lack of midfield spark and another loss left the Western Bulldogs at 3-5, and with as many problems in front of Luke Beveridge as any stage of his time in charge.
The season began with hopes, expectations even in the eyes of some connected to the club, that 2022 would unfold as 2021 did – with a passage through to the pointy finals.
Playing list depth is a major problem now. The injuries against Port were to livewire forward Cody Weightman (collarbone), the important hard-running Laitham Vandermeer (hamstring) and Tim O'Brien (calf). All will be absent for multiple weeks.
Even after the Dogs slumped to 1-3 after a loss to Richmond, there was an industry-wide expectation they would get on a winning roll against middle-of-the-road opponents. They could have beaten North Melbourne in round five with their VFL team, winning that clash comfortably by 68 points, and was then meant to follow that with victories against Adelaide, Essendon and Port.
The Dogs beat the Bombers but the losses either side to the SA clubs were proof that we are not to view this club as a certain finalist.
In the seven completed seasons and eight games of 2022 with Luke Beveridge as coach, the Western Bulldogs are all but guaranteed to compete hard, win or lose. They've been doing that this season, too. The loss to Port was by just 17 points. But everything has been a grind. Goals have been hard to procure, and on 2021 standards, easy to give up.
NINE THINGS WE LEARNED Battling Bulldogs have lost their bite
The Dogs will play Collingwood on Friday night at Marvel Stadium. They are hopeful Marcus Bontempelli, Tim English and Alex Keath will return. But Josh Bruce, Lachie Hunter, Jason Johannisen and Mitch Wallis are some time away.
A major problem among the many problems for Beveridge has been that Bontempelli of 2022 has not been the Bontempelli of the previous seven seasons, his body not allowing him to assume his normal place among the very best in the competition.
They have never been a one-man outfit, the Dogs, under Beveridge. But every piece of success has come only with major input from Bontempelli. In the two seasons the Dogs have reached Grand Finals under Beveridge, Bontempelli has placed the club on his shoulders and led the way. That burden can take a toll, and unless he can shake off his numerous ailments, this team won't be capable of reigniting its finals hopes.
Shades of '84 as freed-up Dons let loose
The collective mind remains the most dominant force in football.
It certainly determined the outcome of Saturday night's Essendon-Hawthorn match at Marvel Stadium. Essendon was able to convince itself it had absolutely nothing to lose. And won. Hawthorn burdened itself with the weight of knowing it could not lose, and did just that.
The five very-late changes forced upon the Bombers allowed them to play with the casino's chips. In a year which had started disastrously (1-6), suddenly they had no pressure.
Peter Wright was outstanding with six goals. He had already been one of the Bombers' better players this season. Nic Martin's incredible story became more wondrous, 22 disposals and two ultra-cool goals enhancing his come-from-nowhere claims on the NAB AFL Rising Star award.
Eight goals to one in the final quarter was old-school stuff. Some Bombers fans would argue it was the best final quarter against Hawthorn since the nine goals to two in the 1984 Grand Final.
Both teams are a mile off reaching those heights this year. But if the Bombers can somehow tap into the there's-nothing-to-lose collective mind approach of Saturday night, and not the suffocating mindset that produced methodical, at times-pathetic football of the previous seven rounds, then at the very least they will be fun to watch.
Dusty's return allows Tigers to dream
Dustin Martin has jammed in so many highs in 262 AFL matches.
Three Norm Smiths, four All-Australian jackets, a Brownlow, a couple of best-and-fairests, an AFLPA MVP, an AFL Coaches Association player-of-the-year.
As mundane, by his standards, as his 23 disposals and two goals for Richmond in Saturday's Richmond win against Collingwood were, the performance is somewhere in the mix when it comes to the all-time Dusty moments.
When Martin sought time away from the game for personal reasons after round one, there was no guarantee he would return. That he came back, and was among the best afield, was a special 2022 moment not just for anyone connected with the Tigers but the entire industry.
The fact he is back allows Richmond to still dream big this year. It is an OK team without him, a very good one with him.
Don’t for a minute think that Richmond can’t cause serious damage in 2022. Outside of Melbourne, every club has its own doubts, even the rampant Brisbane given it has won just one of six finals in the past three seasons.
Dusty is back. The footy world is a far better place.
Please don't burn me again, Suns
I want to believe Gold Coast is real deal. But I've wanted that before, and have been burnt.
I want to believe its win against Sydney on Saturday at the SCG was proof it will finally get on a roll and challenge to finish in the eight.
Let’s see what happens at Metricon next Sunday. The surging Fremantle will be visiting. As daunting as that task will be, it is time for this footy club, 12 seasons into AFL life, to win a game of football that is statement-making.