The Gunnedah Bulldogs recorded their eleventh straight victory with a tough 71-point win over fellow North West AFL finals contenders Tamworth Kangaroos at Wolseley Oval on Saturday.
Although they didn’t put their best performance together, the Dogs managed to grind out a 18.16-124 to 8.5-53 victory.
On the back of five goals from full forward Mitchell Swain and four from coach Greg Piggott, the Dogs were able to outclass a willing Kangaroos side, with the match in the balance up until the last term.
Piggott was quick to acknowledge Michael Leven and Ollie Neader’s efforts post match.
“Levo and Ollie were great for us with their run and carry. They’re tough over the footy and won a lot of ball for us,” he said.
In a hotly contested start, it was the Dogs who drew first blood through Swain.
The Kangaroos hit back hard, and on the back of two goals from forward Dan Overeem found themselves in front for what would be the only time in the game as the Dogs went into the first break up 3.1-19 to 2.2-14.
The second quarter was much the same, as Piggott employed his midfield rotation through Barrow and Jake Spackman.
Spackman landed the first of his three goals, while Swain scored two and Barrow his second to extend the margin to 19 points.
The Dogs weren’t quite at their best in the third term as they butchered the ball in front of goal, and could only manage three goals from 10 scoring shots to take a 10.11-71 to 6.3-39 lead into the final quarter.
Whilst slightly aggrieved at his sides inaccuracy Piggott believes it was his defensive unit that kept the scoreline in check for his side, and presented opportunities for the half and full forward lines on the rebound.
“Our back six were great, James Mack off half back was great in intercept marking.
“They’ve been our rock all year and stood up well again against a dangerous forward line,” he said.
The last quarter saw the Dogs produce their best football of the game, and kick eight majors. Spackman booted two and skipper Andrew George three.
The win puts the Dogs on top of the ladder for the week, as the New England Nomads had the bye.
Overeem finished with four for the Roos, while coach Ben Mitchell kicked three.
“We just wore out in the end,” Mitchell said.
They had headed over optimistic with the Dogs missing a couple of players, but didn’t have a lot of rotation options with no bench.
Mitchell felt that was a factor. The big field didn’t help either.
He said as soon as the Dogs used the ball wide and played their fast-paced game it was hard for them to keep up.
The Roos did do well in the ruck contest, Mitchell said, but the Dogs midfield is so good that they weren’t really able to take advantage of that. Ciaran McCann continued his recent good form and was one of the Roos’ best playing in the backline.