The Western Bulldogs’ premiership hangover lurched to a new low on Sunday when Melbourne delivered the reigning premiers their biggest loss of the AFL season.
Dogs coach Luke Beveridge made five changes to the side beaten by Sydney as he desperately tried to hit on a winning combination, but they were soundly beaten 17.11 (113) to 8.8 (56) at Etihad Stadium.
The misfiring Bulldogs have kicked 14 goals in their past two matches combined and haven’t cracked the 100-point barrier since round five.
Tensions between the two sides were stoked before the game, with Melbourne enforcer Tomas Bugg using social media to taunt Bulldogs speedster Jason Johannisen.
The Norm Smith medallist had a shocker during their loss to Sydney, courtesy of a hard tag from George Hewett, and Bugg took to Instagram to make it clear he could expect the same treatment.
The Dogs made a beeline for Bugg before the opening bounce but it was one of the few shots they fired in an otherwise meek performance.
Sitting in ninth spot with a 6-6 record, the Dogs’ season is hardly too far gone, but Beveridge agrees something needs to change quickly.
“It’s definitely not an attitudinal issue or an application issue,” Beveridge said.
“(But) the nature of the last two losses are really concerning.
“So I can understand the external commentary (about a premiership hangover). Momentarily, we’ve lost our momentum and trajectory.
“Belief in yourself as an individual and as a team can be fleeting … we’ve kept it going for a while but at the moment we’re being challenged in that regard.
“We’ll just troubleshoot and problem solve and get ourselves in a mindset where we can win again.”
The Bulldogs’ next chance to reinvigorate their season comes on Saturday when they host North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium.
After 13 rounds of an incredibly even AFL season, just two games or eight premiership points, separates Port Adelaide in fourth spot and 15th-placed Carlton.
Sydney’s season is alive after they continued their recent resurgence with a 12.8 (80) to 10.11 (71) come-from-behind win over Richmond.
Alex Rance outpointed Lance Franklin in their much-anticipated duel, but Kieren Jack kicked a goal in the dying minutes to give his side the lead after the Tigers led by 36 points in the second quarter.
The Power moved into fourth spot with an 18.13 (121) to 12.9 (81) win over Brisbane at Adelaide Oval on Saturday.
Paddy Ryder had 40 hitouts and kicked two goals for Port, while Dayne Zorko starred with 32 possessions and two goals for the Lions.
Carlton star Bryce Gibbs put in a performance for the ages in his side’s 12.11 (83) to 11.7 (73) win over Gold Coast.
Gibbs had 43 possessions and kicked two pivotal goals late in the game to help his side to their fifth win of the season.
West Coast kicked the round off with an 11.17 (83) to 10.10 (70) win over Geelong at Domain Stadium on Thursday night.
Luke Shuey and Sam Mitchell were both important for the Eagles with 32 and 29 possessions respectively, but both face a nervous wait for the match review panel’s assessment of incidents they were involved in.
St Kilda halted a run of three losses with a 12.17 (89) to 10.12 (72) win over North Melbourne at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.
Adelaide, Greater Western Sydney, Collingwood, Essendon, Hawthorn and Fremantle had their bye rounds.