Bulldogs’ playing coach Ben Dalton couldn’t be happier with how his side is tracking after Saturday’s thumping win.
“This was the first time this season when we really stamped our authority on the game,” he said.
“We built some good scoreboard pressure in the first half. In the last couple of weeks, we’ve pulled away in the second half after being level-pegging at half-time.
“So to build up a good (39-point) buffer at half-time and then run out the game was fantastic.”
Dalton said one of the keys to victory against Ouyen was reducing the amount of unforced errors, such as turnovers.
“Our ball use was really good – and we had fewer errors than we’ve had in earlier games this year,” he said.
He said the Bulldogs’ long-term plan for the 2021 season was already paying off.
“We had a very clear indication of how we wanted to play this season from when we started pre-season in November,” Dalton said.
“We had a heavy pre-season with the running and focus on ball movement – and both of those things are working well for us now.
“We played a really good spread game against Ouyen. Our overlap and run was positive – and that’s where we got them.
“They were carrying a few injuries and fielded a bigger side, and we were able to make the ground quite big with our spread and carry.
“We went into this season wanting to improve and match it with the best teams in the competition, and we’re certainly doing that.”
NO EX-SPENCE SPARED: Matt Spencely has brought real class to the Bulldogs’ kennel. The 25-year-old previously played with Adelaide’s SANFL side, where he won the Crows’ Dean Bailey Award as best development player in 2015. Even as a midfielder he averaged just under three goals a game in four years at Waikerie, including consecutive flags from 2016 to 2018. It’s not hyperbole to suggest he could become of the most damaging players in the SFNL after his five-goal haul.
OUYEN WOES: The Kangas were touted as one of the premiership fancies ahead of the 2021 season, so to see them stuck without a win in their first four outings is surprising. Co-coach Brad Vallance was correct, however when he said finals aren’t won in May. They will rue losing two games by less than a goal. They can still work their way back into contention, but they won’t want to leave it too late.
NOD TO NOLAN: Nathan Nolan is one of a number of Bulldogs who have come on in leaps and bounds this season. Coming off a best-on-ground performance against Mildura the previous week, the half-back has become an intercept machine and was influential once again in stopping a dangerous Ouyen United forward line.
OUYEN United were one of the flag favourites heading into the SFNL season.
Hopes were high that the proud club would turn around a below-par 2019, when they just missed out on playing finals footy after winning the flag in two of the three previous years.
However, heading into the interleague break they are winless with a 0-4 record and sit anchored at the bottom of the ladder with Red Cliffs.
Their latest loss – an 80-point drubbing at the hands of South Mildura (4-1) on Saturday – exposed the young side’s lapses in concentration and the need to improve their fitness levels.
But according to co-coach Brad Vallance, “it’s not all doom and gloom for us”.
“We spoke about this after the game. We’re not giving up on the season,” said Vallance, who was one of Ouyen’s best players against the Bulldogs.
“Finals aren’t won in May – and we’ve been in this position before. With such an even comp this year, there’s not going to be a runaway top four.
“We’ve had two narrow losses so we could have been 2-2. We’re not far away and we just need to string a few wins together and the confidence will naturally come back.”
Vallance conceded his side went into the season “a bit underdone” due to injuries, including a groin strain to himself, and a lack of match practice.
“We also haven’t found the consistency we’re looking for,” he said.
“I don’t think we’ve fielded our best 22 for the year so far. We’re still trying to piece it together.
“When we get our best side out on the park, we’ll start to play better footy.”
Vallance praised the Bulldogs’ performance on the weekend.
“We got beaten in the middle, and their run and spread made it difficult for us. They are a well-drilled, quality team,” he said.
SOUTH MILDURA 21.12 (138) d OUYEN UNITED 8.10 (58)
GOALS: South Mildura: M. Spencely 5, K. McDonald, M. Min 4, T. Curtis, C. Sellens, H. Kiel 2, A. Gauci, N. Fitzgerald. Ouyen United: T. Hulland, W. Brady 2, B. Vallance, L. Stanbrook, A. Morrish, B. Mole.
BEST: South Mildura: M. Spencely, T. Curtis, N. Nolan , J. Cogan, H. Kiel, K. McDonald. Ouyen United: W. Brady, S. Mead, J. McGlynn, B. Vallance, L.