Luke Beveridge’s mysterious response at a news conference has prompted questions about what the Dogs coach was really alluding to on Saturday.
The Western Bulldogs have won consecutive games 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 after the match.
Naughton and the Suns’ underrated defender Sam Collins played an exciting head-to-head battle, but Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge was coy as to why Naughton fell in the second half.
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“I have to be very careful here,” Beveridge said. “She has 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 problem the superstar key forward has been dealing with.
“We’ll do a little follow-up, he kept fighting and bringing the ball to the ground which is what he does.
“He was just outstanding in that first half.”
Asked if Naughton’s second-half output was affected by Collins’ blocking, Beveridge said again that he had to be “very careful”.
“After the game, what happens is you’re pretty sure you know what happened, but you have to go back to take a look just to make sure,” he said.
“I can’t really comment, I’ll just go back and take a look.”
While Beveridge was perhaps alluding to off-the-ball incidents involving Naughton, Suns coach Stuart Dew believed his midfield “turning up the heat” was the key reason the Suns were able to quell Naughton’s influence.
“We just changed the combination … the ball was falling pretty freely in the first one,” he said. “I think we have more pressure on the ball and heat on delivery.
“Sam Collins’ ability to bounce back from the first 10 minutes when things weren’t going his way… he struggled.”
The Dogs leveled their season ledger at 5-5 and Beveridge hoped the win would set the stage for the Dogs to explode in the second half of the season.
“Our mandate is to try to establish consistency,” Beveridge said.
“During the course of the game we had momentum and then they increased, thanks to them they kept coming. Their perseverance was strong and they are improving all the time.
“There were some fundamentals that we were disappointed in, for our guys to keep their nerves and come back… it was encouraging.
“Hopefully we can establish ourselves as a team that can bring a few more together.”
The Dogs defeated the Suns in the coalface, winning the punt battle 49-34 and Beveridge believed that turned out to be a key factor in deciding the Ballarat thriller.
“Our midfield was always on the edge and did a pretty good job, for our guys to be influential in that area was very important for us today,” he said.
The depth of the Bulldogs’ roster has been tested in recent weeks, with the likes of Tim English, Cody Weightman, Mitch Wallis and Jason Johannisen not being available.
Beveridge was pleased with the performances of youngsters Luke Cleary and Jordon Sweet, who stepped up in the absence of several regular contributors.
see luke [Cleary] he played like he did today, he had a really good game,” Beveridge said.
“Jordan [Sweet] fought a great fight against great [Jarrod] Witts, before the day he had had 43 more hits for him than any other ruck in the competition.
“It’s great for our club and our team that those guys can come in and play really important roles.”
Beveridge also sang the praises of Bailey Williams (two goals) appearing in a new role on the sideline and Ed Richards repelling numerous Suns advances.
“We’ve had a lot of changes through our wings. We are practically playing inside midfielders and defenders on our wings and they are doing very well,” he added.
“[Williams] he gained his wing; We haven’t been able to say that about a lot of our wingers in the last ten games.”
Tim English is likely to be available next week, but Beveridge isn’t sure what the English-Sweet ruck combination would look like and says Sweet’s form has presented a “challenge” to the coaching staff as English returns.
Dew was pleased with the fighting spirit his Suns displayed, but lamented the inability to gain significant momentum.
“We never got going, but we never gave up,” he said.
“You can look at those two forms, but we are facing a formidable opponent.
“We feel like we are building a consistent brand that our players and fans can look forward to when we come to play.
“We will continue to pursue 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 guy to kick five goals under those circumstances, we’re proud of him, and his family should be proud of him too.
“He’s going to get more out of it than us, we know he’s a good player… he’s going to get more confidence.
“I think today we saw what he is capable of.”
Dew also revealed that Rory Thompson appears to have escaped an ACL injury, but will be receiving scans in the coming days.