BRISBANE LIONS 17.12 (114) d WESTERN BULLDOGS 10.11 (71)

Eric Hipwood of the Lions celebrates his 6th goal.

Eric Hipwood of the Lions celebrates his 6th goal.Credit: AFL Photos

No Bont, no Bulldogs

The Western Bulldogs’ reliance on Marcus Bontempelli has never been more apparent than during their 43-point loss to the Brisbane Lions at Marvel Stadium on Friday night. Lions tagger Jarrod Berry harangued and harassed the Bont at the opening bounce and was immediately able to put him off his game.

While Berry collected 14 possessions across the first half, the Bulldogs skipper’s output was reduced to a meagre six disposals, drawing criticism from one of the game’s greatest players. “That’s about as bad a half of footy as you’ll see him have,” Leigh Matthews told 3AW.

The problem for the Bulldogs wasn’t just Bontempelli’s uncharacteristic returns, but the fact that few were able to step up in his place. Tom Liberatore tried valiantly to lift his side in the third term – having 23 possessions for the match – while Adam Treloar toiled away (30 disposals) but there were very few other contributors.

Like all champions, Bont fought hard, having a moment during the third term in which he kicked a banana goal, his second for the match, and setting up another for James O’Donnell. He even took a hangar in the goal square deep into the last quarter, to kick his third for the game. But, in the end, his 19 possessions were not nearly enough.

It seems the round 15 bye can’t come quick enough for him and the tired-looking Dogs, who play Fremantle at home next week and are now 6-7 for the year.

Lions bare their claws

Reports of the death of Brisbane’s season have been greatly exaggerated. To prove they still have a finals heartbeat, let’s dust off the season predictor.

The Lions are 5-6, and a draw, after 12 games and have the following month ahead: St Kilda at home (win), away to Port Adelaide who are starting to wobble (win), home to Melbourne who are also starting to stagger (win) and home to the battling Adelaide (win). That makes them 9-6, and a bye, and suddenly looming as a possible September threat.

Further boosting this hypothetical is the nature of their list. Against the Bulldogs, Lachie Neale was in Brownlow form, Eric Hipwood turned in his best game of the year with an equal career-best six goals on Liam Jones, Jarrod Berry should be used as a tagger on the opposition’s best midfielder every week after smothering The Bont, Harris Andrews continues to anchor a solid defence and they have unearthed a beauty in 19-year-old Logan Morris, who showed glimpses of brilliance in just his fifth game.

On top of all this, Charlie Cameron had a shocker – nine disposals and goalless – so they’ve got his return to look forward to in the coming weeks.

Tom Liberatore of the Bulldogs and Jarrod Berry of the Lions clash.

Tom Liberatore of the Bulldogs and Jarrod Berry of the Lions clash.Credit: Getty Images

Welcome back, Libba

One of the positives on a bleak night for the Bulldogs was the return of Liberatore after a worrying spell out of the game with concussion concerns. Libba threw himself into the fray from the opening bounce, gathering an early possession and doing his best to unsettle the hard tag of Berry on Bontempelli.

In fact, the heart and soul of the Sons of the West might have thrown himself in a little too eagerly. He stepped in with a forceful jumper punch that almost clocked Berry on the chin. “Libba crossed the line and gave away a free kick,” Channel Seven commentator Luke Hodge said. He might also give away some coin if the action is looked upon unfavourably by the MRO. Regardless, it was heartening to see Libba play out the game.