Melbourne has made a strong start to their 2023 campaign, taking down a re-tooled Bulldogs outfit by 50 points in Saturday night’s blockbuster.
The stage looked to be set for yet another close game in Round 1 after the first half, with the Dees and Dogs trading the lead back and forth as momentum swung constantly.
However, signs of a burst from Melbourne began to show late in the second term, the Demons getting out to a 19-point lead courtesy of a Max Gawn major just before the main break.
Melbourne then came back out of the rooms firing, simply outworking the Dogs as the Demons showed exactly why they’re a popular premiership fancy this season.
While the Bulldogs threw enough punches of their own to keep themselves in the contest throughout the third quarter, by the time the final period came around they had nothing left, allowing the Dees to further flex their muscles.
The vast majority of Melbourne’s attack came courtesy of Kysaiah Pickett and Ben Brown, each booting four majors as they made the most of their opportunities.
However, Pickett’s stellar performance is marred by the cloud of the MRO, with the livewire forward being reported for a late hit on Bulldogs star midfielder Bailey Smith.
Clayton Oliver put together the latest in a long line of stellar performances, racking up 33 disposals and 9 clearances in what has become an expected stat line for the superstar.
The much-discussed Max Gawn/Brodie Grundy dynamic proved to be effective, kicking three goals between them as they took control of the ruck battle, albeit with Gawn doing the bulk of the heavy lifting.
For the Bulldogs, it is a disappointing start to a season for which they have premiership hopes, looking disjointed as they were plagued by kicking inefficiency all night.
Brownlow Medallist Adam Cooney was particularly emphatic on their problems kicking inside 50, an issue that stopped the Bulldogs from taking control of the clash early.
“They’ve just been horrible going forward with the ball the Western Bulldogs,” he told AFL Nation.
“The talls aren’t getting the job done, they’re being out-marked and out-pointed, and when they have gone forward it’s been sloppy.”
The Demons will look to continue this dominance against another flag hopeful next round, travelling to Brisbane to take on the Lions.
On the other hand, the Bulldogs will be seeking to put together a bounce back performance against St Kilda next week.
Melbourne: 3.3, 9.4, 13.8, 17.13. (115)
Bulldogs: 2.4, 5.9, 8.10, 9.11. (65)
Melbourne: Pickett 4, Brown 4, Gawn 2, Spargo 2, Chandler, Grundy, Melksham, Neal-Bullen, Sparrow
Bulldogs: Ugle-Hagan, Naughton, Bontempelli, Liberatore, Baker, Johannisen, Macrae, Treloar, Williams
Melbourne: Gawn, Pickett, Oliver, Lever, Brown
Bulldogs: Treloar, Liberatore, English, McRae, Bontempelli
CROWD: 48,103 at the MCG