Barry Hall might be the saviour after all
Over the past few years it has become an all-too-familiar call. They need a key forward, those Western Bulldogs. They need a big-bodied warrior to spearhead their attack. They need their own Nick Riewoldt or Buddy Franklin.
And yet, when the Bulldogs finally went out and recruited that exact type of player – by acquiring Barry Hall in trade week – the cynics were still out in voice.
Hall isn’t what they need, they said. He’s too old, just like Brad Johnson and Jason Akermanis. He’s going to snap at any minute. There’s no way he’s that missing piece to the puzzle.
And on and on it went. Until Friday night, that is.
Because on Friday night, in the club’s NAB Cup game against Hawthorn, Hall was able to let his football do the talking, and the Bulldogs were able to show the world that maybe they’d made the right call all along.
He booted four goals in the first quarter, adding two more afterwards before being subbed off in the third quarter. Admittedly, he was playing on a big off-season recruit who wasn’t able to prove his doubters wrong, Josh Gibson. But not even that can detract from how imposing he looked as the main man up front.
Kicking six goals despite limited game time practically speaks for itself.
It’s early days yet, but the Barry Hall experiment looks like it could pay off big time for the Doggies.
Having said that, though, there are a few reasons for the Dogs faithful to hold back from ordering their grand final ticket packages just yet.
One man does not make a team. And one swallow does not make a summer, for that matter. Focussing solely on Hall for a minute, there are some concerns that can’t be ignored because of one NAB Cup game.
We can’t say for sure he won’t still snap at any minute. Who could forget the preliminary final Matt Maguire incident? The infamous Brent Staker incident? The Shane Wakelin incident? The triple 50-metre penalty incident against Hawthorn? The Ben Rutten incident that led to his resignation from the Swans?
This isn’t the first time Hall has switched clubs following acts of ill-discipline in search of a fresh start. That’s what got him from St Kilda to Sydney, remember. This clearly isn’t the first time he’s promised to be on his best behaviour, either.
All in all, though, you’d think the lure of a premiership would be motivation enough to keep a man focussed on the real task at hand.
His age, just like with Johnson and Akermanis, does seem like more of a worry. All three are 33 years of age, and counting. There’s no chance of all three going through a whole season without any injury concerns and there could also be worries over form and fitness, too.
These are issues will bob up, particularly as the season wares on.
There is a real opportunity for the Doggies this year, though. They’ve got a pair of great key defenders, plus a few more than handy medium-sized ones. They’ve got a midfield filled with names like Adam Cooney, Matthew Boyd and Daniel Cross.
Plus, they’ve got a forward line that, when all of them are on the park, is capable of anything. You get the feeling that this will be the one area that will make or break the 2010 Bulldogs.
But something tells me Hall isn’t worrying too much about that or looking too far into the future.
Judging by Friday night’s performance, he’d rather just let his football do the talking.
Michael DiFabrizio is completing his journalism degree. As an AFL writer, he has been an expert columnist at The Roar since 2009, and appeared in The Age and on ABC television and radio. Follow Michael on twitter @mdifabrizio
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