There were goals aplenty in Tamworth on Saturday as the Gunnedah and District Bulldogs asserted themselves atop of the ladder with a hard-fought 58-point victory over premiership aspirants the Kangaroos.
The Bulldogs led at every term throughout the match, and after a slow start were able to out-skill the Kangaroos in all facets of the match.
Of particular note was the display of the midfield and forward rotation coach Greg Piggott has employed through the likes of Jake Spackman, who bagged six majors on the day, Ben Maher and Andrew George.
However, Ollie Neader was labelled best on ground for his side, having taking on the role of a hard tag on dangerous forward and midfielder Matt Hodge – a previous Gillies Medal winner of the competition.
His efforts were not missed by Piggott.
“His shut down role was amazing on a quality footballer like Hodgey,” Piggott said.
However, he was a little disappointed by some ill-discipline from his side.
“We probably gave them three of four easy goals so that’ll be something we need to address,” Piggott said.
Neader’s efforts gave the midfield first use of the football going inside forward 50, where majority of the time the likes of skipper George and Spackman were able to use their skill by foot to hit targets such as Mitchell Phelps and Piggott.
The footy was hotly contested in the opening term, as the Kangaroos got the early jump on the Dogs with the opening major, but the Bulldogs still contested hard and four goals for the quarter through Spackman and Phelps meant they held an eight-point buffer heading into the first change.
That was quickly extended as Neader’s tag shut down Hodge out of the centre, where Hillard continually put the footy on a platter for the Dogs midfield going forward.
They booted six majors for the quarter, and by half-time had unlocked a 37-point lead.
The lead was maintained in the third, where Spackman, unbelievably playing with a broken thumb, provided the X-factor for the Dogs.
His ability to isolate and dominate his opponent in one-on-one contests was a highlight as he treated himself to three majors for the term and gave the Dogs a 40-point buffer.
Structures kept in place for the last quarter as the Kangaroos had waves of attack on the Dogs defence in an attempt to romp back in the match.
But time and again, the likes of Hamish Russell and James Mack used their ability to intercept marks off half-back and spoil entries.
The back-line’s efforts enabled the Dogs to quickly turn defence into attack.
Wingman Brent Hartley was a liable option on many occasion as his run and carry on the outside as well as skill by foot meant the forwards were able to put the final nails in the coffin.
Spackman’s two goals, along with six other goalscorers for the quarter, saw the Dogs run out final winners 22.14 (146) to 13.10 (88).
Piggott was delighted with his side’s efforts to again be able to run out four quarters.
“It’s good to consolidate that top two spot, but importantly to run out the four quarters,” Piggott said.
Heading into a bye round this weekend, the Dogs will play the other Tamworth side of the competition in the Swans, where it will be expected they will continue their impressive momentum in the back half of the season.