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Bulldogs v Power Exhibition Match Report from London

The Power knocked off the Bulldogs in an exhibition match in London on the weekend. Ex-pat Perth boy Cam Gauder got to see some live AFL action at a reasonable hour… in the flesh! As a West Coast man he decided to have a few beers and start his AFL Dream Team study for 2013.

Having spent the past two years waking up in the early hours each weekend to get a weekly fix of footy, I jumped at the chance to watch a live game in London (even if it was the Bulldogs and Port!). Not supporting either team, the only logical thing left to do was to look at this as any other game where your team isn’t playing…purely DT focused.

Both these teams haven’t performed as well as they would have liked over the past couple of seasons. This also means that with retirements and recent player movements of guys like Lake, Gilbee, Hargrave and Chad, along with the aging brigade of players such as Cassisi, Kane, Murphy and Gia, has resulted in these clubs becoming less and less fantasy relevant. So what we are left with is largely a bunch of mid-pricers and a few rookies who we will spend hours debating over, rationalising any of their upside. Perhaps we can find the next bargain in this group?

I tried to look at the most DT relevant players from each side here since, let’s face it nobody should be looking to pick up Alipate Carlile! The sides were largely inexperienced, so if there is a DT gun who I haven’t mentioned racking up the stats don’t stress. He was probably sitting in the stands with his feet up, enjoying a warm beer and the off-season since everyone already knows what he’s about! This is more about those we may not have seen as much of, or may be changing roles/clubs.

Backing It Up

Now don’t get me wrong there are of course a number of players who did get the job done from each of these sides over the past few years. As mentioned the squads were fairly young, with the likes of Boyd, Kane, Boak and Griffin not playing. This means that there are not as many guys as there ordinarily would be fitting into this category, but I will make mention of one guy who I believe does belong here.

Brad Ebert (Port Adelaide)

Ebert had a breakout year in 2012 after moving to Alberton from West Coast. He lifted his average to a career high 98.7 and was equal 2nd in the clubs best and fairest count after playing all 22 games. Having clearly enjoyed the increased opportunity that came with changing clubs, it will be interesting to see if he can back it up in 2013.

Match Details – Started the game in the middle, and that’s where he stayed. There was not much accountability going on from either side so the players were left to run free. Ebert enjoyed the space and was one of the Power’s best gathering a number of possessions through the midfield and slotting a great goal in the final seconds to win the game. In a young side he stood out and showed leadership that should see him take his game forward in 2013.

Verdict: Looks set to pick up where he left off last season. We should expect more of the same from Ebert in 2013.

Breakout Contenders

These guys have been in and around the system for a few years now, and we hope they should now start pumping out some decent numbers regularly. The importance of breakout players should be even greater in 2013 with no GWS or Gold Coast rookies to choose from, meaning that DT coaches may have to look at more mid-priced guys who will hopefully turn themselves into premiums. Obviously we can’t guarantee anything, but here are a couple that may fall into this category for the future.

Hamish Hartlett (Port Adelaide)

Entering his 5th season on the Port Adelaide list, Hartlett is one that is due for a breakout year. Coming off 16 games averaging 88 in 2011, he then played 15 games and averaged 81 in 2012. We may see his importance rise in 2013 with the loss of Danyle Pearce. Hopefully he can string 22 games together and we may see that average rise as well.

Match details – Hartlett wore the skipper’s armband for Port, emphasising how highly the club do rate him. He started in the middle and rotated through there and a wing. Was given a lot of space and did make the most of it in kicking a great running goal from 60m in the 3rd quarter. He moved well around the stoppages and won his share of clearances as well.

Verdict: Was in Port’s best on the day and looked like he enjoyed the responsibility of captaining the side. One to watch during the pre-season, especially if he looks like getting more of a run on the wing vacated by Pearce.

Matthew Broadbent (Port Adelaide)

Another entering his 5th season at the club, Broadbent is coming off 19 games in 2011 and 22 games in 2012 which saw his average rise from 63 to 80. He pushed up the ground a bit more in 2012 and hopefully can be one of those who can increase their midfield time, and average, further in 2013.

Match details – In a nutshell, Broadbent ran around wherever he pleased. He spent a bit of time in the middle which was promising and also had a stint across half back and pushed up from the wing to half forward in the 2nd half as well. Did the warm-up with the midfield group, and could fill a bigger role in there next year.

Verdict: I’m not convinced he will get as much time through the middle to push his average up enough towards 100 to be considered for his price. Will be fighting for time in the guts when the likes of Kane, Cassisi and Boak are out there. There should be better options for his price but keep an eye on his pre-season if it looks like he is getting a regular run up the ground.

Clay Smith (Western Bulldogs)

Warnie talked this guy up before the start of last season and I am going to echo him here. Smith went on to play 16 games in 2012 and average a respectable 64 in his first season. He finished the year strongly with scores of 92, 109, 64 and 85 in his last 4. Also finished 5th at the Dogs for tackles (pretty damn good from 16 games) so he knows how to get those important +4’s. He’ll be awkwardly priced for a 2nd year player on an average of 64 but is worth a look if he can pick up where he left off at the end of last season.

Match details – Liked what I saw from Smith. He played through half-forward/wing and was good in and under feeding the ball out to team mates. His kicking wasn’t great at times, but hey as long as he gets it on the boot right…? Had enough of the ball to consider him further during the NAB Cup despite fading in the 2nd half.

Mitch Wallis (Western Bulldogs)

About to enter his 3rd season, Wallis is a prime example of a kid who is waiting to break out. The Dogs obviously rate this guy having picked him up under the father-son rule. Played 6 games for an average of 55 in 2011 and then averaged 83 in 2012 from 19 games. Wallis will make up a big part of a young Bulldogs midfield for years to come and should get under the guard with the likes of Boyd and Griffin still around to attract tags.

Match details – Started strongly and was in at a lot of centre bounces. Delivered inside 50 on a number of occasions and looked one of the Dogs better players throughout. Enjoyed the space he was given around the ground, which may translate into the season with Boyd and Griffin should attracting most of the attention.

Verdict: Moved around the ground well and he was used to link up play along the wing. I’d be looking at his pre-season closely as he should naturally progress further this year which could mean his average pushes into the 90s.

Tom Liberatore (Western Bulldogs)

Little Libba got a run and would have been keen to impress the Bulldogs hierarchy after how his season finished up. Liberatore finished 2012 with 17 games and an average just short of 78. This was up from his average of 69 (16 games) in 2011, and he probably would have played the season out had he not had a few too many jars and other substances on a night out in Melbourne. His clearance work made him important to the Dogs in 2012 and going into his 3rd season he is another to keep an eye on.

Match details – Unfortunately I hardly saw Libba all day. I don’t know if he just didn’t have much influence or if he’d sampled some of London’s finest nightlife on the Friday night before the game, but this little dog seemed to hardly give a yelp. He did manage to kick a goal, but overall was disappointing as I thought he would (and still could) be on the radar.

Verdict: I don’t want to jump straight off him based on what happened in this game but I thought he would want to put his best foot forward in his first run with the boys since being suspended. I’d still like to see how his NAB Cup goes, but at this stage I am far from convinced he’ll push his average up to where we need it to consider him.

Luke Dahlhaus (Western Bulldogs)

‘The Haus’, as some like to call him, is the final breakout contender I’m taking a look at here. Dahlhaus is another guy who is about to enter his 3rd year in the system and is coming off 11 games (63 ave) in 2011, and 17 games (74.5 ave) in 2012. The Doggies love this guy, and why not? He was great for them breaking the lines in 2012 and increased his midfield time during the season (also doesn’t mind a goal). Season 2012 was cut short by an ankle injury, but if he can stay fit he might be one to really bump things up in 2013.

Match details – The Haus was very good on the day and I was particularly impressed with his first half. He played mostly across half forward and had a few stints in the midfield. Kicked a very nice goal around the body and broke the game open at times with his trademark pace. He also worked hard to get to the front on the lead and took a couple of nice contested marks.

Verdict: I was impressed with his work rate and the amount of ball he managed to find in the first half. He faded out a bit in the 2nd half but did also spend more time in the forward line. I’m very interested to see how his pre-season goes as he could be a real breakout contender for 2013.

The New Kids on the Block

These guys have recently moved clubs looking for more opportunities. A change in role at a new club has often lifted a player to new heights, forcing their names into DT discussion (just look at the previously mentioned Ebert). So what do some of this year’s group have to offer?

Angus Montfries (Port Adelaide)

Montfries arrives at Port as a half-forward seeking more midfield time. He will be 26 when the 2013 season begins and has 150 games of experience. Tempted yet? Looking at his time at the Bombers, he produced a career high average of 78 back in 2011. When any half-forward moves clubs seeking more midfield time we should at least take note.

Match details – Montfries was a solid contributor all night for Port. Being one of the more experienced guys out there he probably had a decent ride playing against the kids but he presented well and took a couple of very strong contested marks on his way to kicking 3 goals. He had a bit of a run in the middle in the 2nd quarter but the remainder of the game was mostly across the half-forward flank.

Verdict: Showed enough to keep his name up for discussion at this stage and should have a look at him come the NAB Cup. Having said that I’m not convinced his role is going to change enough to lift his average. He should still get the odd run through the middle but I still see him as a half-forward who will average mid to high 70s.

Campbell Heath (Port Adelaide)

Heath joins the Power after being drafted back in 2008 and playing 2 games with the Swans. So far his career has been stalled with injury, but hopefully a change in scenery (and luck) will result in more games and possibly a cheap option who will get regular opportunities.

Match details – Due to this game being a bit of a free for all and lacking in the structure that we usually see with most AFL games, it was difficult to work out where he was actually lining up. Looked to be mostly across half-back and pushed up the wing a bit, however he didn’t get into the game.

Verdict: Unfortunately not much to say as yet. He could still be an option and will be cheap as chips having not played a game since 2010. Has only just joined the club so will have a lot to get used to over the next few months. Those reasons keep him on the watchlist for the NAB Cup, and if he can get a regular game he could turn into a handy bench option.

Jack Hombsch (Port Adelaide)

Hombsch comes to Port after 9 games and a 57 average at GWS. Port picked him up to ease the loss of Troy Chaplin during the trade period. This means that he should get an opportunity at the top level and will enjoy being back in his native South Australia.

Match details – Hombsch lined up down back as expected and played the typical dour defenders role, spending time on Liam Jones, and had a stint on Jarrad Grant. Worked hard and looked relatively solid at the contest with Jones and Grant not having much of an impact on the scoreboard.

Verdict: He will most likely take the 2nd/3rd tall forward and is a young key defender who I can’t see improving on his average from last year enough to warrant picking for us. The only time he may become relevant is if Ken Hinkley goes back to a style of play similar to the one that saw Chad Cornes free himself up and take marks at will. Unfortunately though, Hombsch doesn’t have a brother playing at Port. Pass for me.

Koby Stevens (Western Bulldogs)

I believe Stevens will be one of the most talked about options for a cheap midfielder. If we remember last year everyone was pumping him up after he smashed it in the pre-season for the Eagles (like Luke Shuey the previous year). Unfortunately he couldn’t break into the side and the Bulldogs were very keen to get him in this year’s trade period. He should fit right into their best 22 pretty much straight away and is one to keep an eye on.

Match details – Played the whole game in the middle. He confused me during the warm up by pulling on Ryan Griffin’s number 16 gurnsey (not sure if the dogs have decided on new numbers for some of these guys), but I did see enough of him at West Coast to recognise it was him. Ran the game out pretty well and was hard at the contest, clearly wanting to make a good first impression. He also kicked a nice goal to top off a good first outing for his new club.

Verdict: I was a massive fan of his while he was at the Eagles and think he could really be one to watch for 2013. He should get a regular gig in the Dog’s midfield and will most likely rotate a bit through the half-forward line as well. Showed he can kick a goal to back that up and is decent overhead for a player of his size. Keep a watchful eye over his pre-season, he could be one of the bargains of the year.

Interesting to Note

Ok so these clubs played two very young lists and did some different things. Buy hey you’re on holiday in another country. Nobody knows you here, you can mess around a bit and try things would normally wouldn’t dare do at home right? Well from this there were a few other interesting notes from this game that could have an impact in some way for the new season.

  1. I hate to say this but Shaun Higgins was just about clear cut best on ground. He was obviously one of the more experienced guys out there despite looking like he’d fit in at a one direction concert, but this did show through as he was the most consistent over the 4 quarters. He kicked an equal game-high 3 goals and took a couple of strong marks inside 50. He is still on the never again list though.
  2. Jordan Roughead played most of the game in the back half leaving Ace Cordy to do the majority of the ruckwork. Cordy was relatively solid in the middle throughout, but I found the Roughead move interesting. The Dogs are clearly looking at their options since the departure of Brian Lake.
  3. Liam Picken spent a lot of time in the forward 50. He provided one of the highlights of the game with a big mark and goal, finishing with two majors. I imagine since there was no negating to be done Picken got bored and decided to annoy his fellow forwards instead by taking goals off them.
  4. A couple of youngsters who showed flashes of form were Cameron Hitchcock and Alex Greenwood. I was impressed with some of Greenwood’s work in particular as he often found himself in space (not hard to do mind you) and used the ball pretty well. Hitchcock only played 2 games last year and is about to go through his 4th pre-season at the club. If he can string some consistency together he could be another to breakout this year.

So there we have it. There will be much discussion for the pre-season with coaches trying to find the right mix for the new year. It was good to have an actual game to watch rather than just speculate until the NAB Cup starts. Hope you guys find this useful and it generates some discussion in planning for DT 2013.

Submitted by Cam Gauder in London.





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