Luke Beveridge’s mysterious answer in a press conference has led to questions about what the Dogs coach was really alluding to on Saturday.
The Western Bulldogs have won consecutive matches for the first time in 2022 after defeating the Gold Coast Suns by 19 points in Ballarat.
However, the match was not without controversy with blocking incidents involving Aaron Naughton sparking interest post-match.
Naughton and underrated Suns defender Sam Collins played an enthralling head-to-head battle, but Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was coy as to why Naughton dropped off in the second half.
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“I’ve got to be really careful here,” said Beveridge. “He’s been so dominant, there are reasons why he wasn’t in the second half.”
Beveridge specified that Naughton’s quieter second half had nothing to do with a knee niggle the superstar key forward has been dealing with.
“We’ll do some follow up, he kept fighting and bringing the ball to ground which is what he does.
“He was just outstanding in that first half.”
Asked if Naughton’s output in the second half was affected by blocking from Collins, Beveridge said again he had to be “really careful”.
“After the game what happens is you are pretty sure you know what happened, but you’ve got to go back to have a look just to make sure,” he said.
“I can’t really comment, I’ll just go back and have a look.”
Whilst Beveridge was perhaps alluding to the off the ball incidents involving Naughton, Suns coach Stuart Dew believed that his midfield “cranking up the heat” was the key reason the Suns were able to quell Naughton’s influence.
“We just changed the mix… the ball was coming down pretty freely in the first,” he said. “I think we got more pressure on the ball and heat on the delivery.
“Sam Collins’ ability to rebound from the first 10 minutes where things weren’t going his way… he fought it out.”
The Dogs levelled their season ledger at 5-5 and Beveridge hoped that the victory would lay the platform for the Dogs to burst in the back half of the season.
“Our mandate is to try and establish consistency,” said Beveridge.
“Throughout the course of the game we had momentum and then they spiked, credit to them they kept coming. Their perseverance was strong and they’re improving all the time.
“There were some fundamentals where we let ourselves down, for our lads to hold their nerve and come again… it was encouraging.
“Hopefully we can establish ourselves as a team who can string a few more together.”
The Dogs monstered the Suns at the coalface, winning the clearance battle 49-34 and Beveridge believed that proved a key factor in deciding the Ballarat thriller.
“Our midfield was always on edge and did a pretty good job, for our guys to be influential through that area was so important for us today,” he said.
The Bulldogs’ list depth has been tested in recent weeks, with the likes of Tim English, Cody Weightman, Mitch Wallis and Jason Johannisen all having been unavailable.
Beveridge was pleased with the performances from youngsters Luke Cleary and Jordon Sweet who stepped up in the absence of several regular contributors.
“To see Luke [Cleary] play the way he did today, he had a really good game,” Beveridge said.
“Jordon [Sweet] fought a terrific fight against big [Jarrod] Witts, leading into the day he had had 43 more hit outs to advantage than any other ruck in the competition.
“It’s great for our club and our team that those boys can come in and play really important roles.”
Beveridge also sang the praises of Bailey Williams (two goals) who featured in a new role on the wing and Ed Richards, who repelled numerous Suns advances forward.
“We’ve had a lot of change through our wings. We are virtually playing inside midfielders and defenders on our wings and they’re doing a good job of it,” he added.
“[Williams] won his wing; we haven’t been able to say that about too many of our wingers over the past ten games.”
Tim English is likely to be available next week, but Beveridge is unsure how the English-Sweet ruck combo might look saying that Sweet’s form has presented the coaching staff with a “challenge” as English returns.
Dew was pleased with the fighting spirit his Suns showed, but rued the inability to gain any significant momentum.
“We never quite got going, but never gave up,” he said.
“You can look at those two ways, but we were up against a formidable opponent.
“We feel like we are building a consistent brand that our players and supporters can expect when we come to play.
“We’ll just keep chasing improvement and look forward to the next opportunity.”
Joel Jeffrey, who suffered the loss of a family member during the week, was one of the Suns best players in just his sixth AFL game.
“For a young lad to kick five goals in those circumstances, we are proud of him, and his family should be proud of him as well.
“He’ll get more from that than we will, we know he’s a good player… he’ll get more belief.
“I think we saw today what he is capable of.”
Dew also revealed that Rory Thompson looks to have escaped an ACL injury but will receive scans in the coming days.