An old phrase has new currency in AFL football.

The term “dog tired” should now be applied
only to any side that has the misfortune of trying to run with the Bulldogs for
four quarters. This may not be the case in the second half of the season, when
some of the Bulldogs’ younger legs start to feel the pinch in about August, the
shadows of the home straight, but ask any Geelong player how they were feeling
with ten minutes to go in Saturday’s match at Telstra Dome and they will roll
their eyes and speak only of heavy legs.

(Surprisingly, the possible exception is
David Wojcinski who, coming off a knee reconstruction, showed he has lost none
of his own dazzling speed, even making the quickest Dogs look like plodders as
he tore around the park in that frenzied last term.)

Saturday’s game, won by the Doggies by a
point, was the first truly memorable match of the year, for mine. For some
reason, the 2006 AFL season just hasn’t had any zing. Sure, it could be because I’m a Richmond supporter
so the first three rounds were better to ignore, but it goes deeper than that.

Sides have played brilliant football –
Collingwood, the Bulldogs and the Cats, especially – but rarely against another
team also playing at the top of their game. We’ve had blow out results and some
of the close matches, like last weekend’s Melbourne-Adelaide game, which was
technically a thriller as the result was decided by less than a goal, was
actually close to unwatchable as players hacked their way to the siren.
Skill-free snorefests like Carlton-Hawthorn on Friday night have outnumbered
decent matches.

The Bulldogs-Geelong game had higher
expectations and managed to live up to it. This was, in tennis parlance, an
all-court game with some inspired skills, forwards chasing backmen, lots of
one-on-one bodywork and pinball footy.

How Geelong managed to
only lose by a point is the biggest mystery. When they fell 13 points behind
with less than five minutes to go, they appeared to be running on fumes. Yet
they almost pinched it. They remain a good team.

Peter Fray

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