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Murphy marks 300th game with win, but not without a scare

Robert Murphy of the Bulldogs after playing his 300th game.
Robert Murphy of the Bulldogs after playing his 300th game. JULIAN SMITH

AT halftime on Saturday, Bob Murphy would have been questioning the football gods.

Injured for last year's premiership victory, the AFL's oldest player had everything set up for a triumphant 300th game at Etihad Stadium against a lowly Brisbane outfit.

But after two quarters of football, Murphy's script was in a critical condition.

Despite having the ball in their forward half for 71 per cent of the first half, the Dogs trailed by 32 points.

Luke Beveridge's men had notched 24 shots at goal for just five majors. Seven of these attempts missed everything altogether.

On the flip side, Brisbane had kicked 12.3 from just 20 inside 50s. This contest was looking like going the way of Murphy's 50th, 100th and 250th games, which were all defeats.

Dogs supporters had every right to fear the doomsday scenario that was unfolding would continue in the second half. 32 points is a fair head start to concede whether you are the reigning premiers or not.

And the commentary was scathing.

"They (the dogs) had a chance in the first 15 minutes to put this game to bed but they had some of the most horrendous misses collectively of the season," 1988 Brownlow Medallist Gerard Healy said on Fox Footy.

"The kicking was phenomenal. We were talking about an indoor stadium. There is no issue with the wind. There is no issue with the sun. It's just poor football all around.

"It wasn't just one and it's very difficult. It's contagious. You don't want to talk about it too much because it ends up being a gorilla on your shoulder."

 

Eric Hipwood of the Lions (left) and Matthew Boyd of the Bulldogs.
Eric Hipwood of the Lions (left) and Matthew Boyd of the Bulldogs. JULIAN SMITH

Murphy himself was doing his bit, but it wasn't enough.

Then the third quarter brought the dream back to life.

The Dogs had 32 more uncontested disposals, 15 more contested possessions and nine more shots at goal than the Lions for the term.

Murphy himself contributed on the scoreboard - his fifth goal for the season - courtesy of an opposition's drinks person and the 50-metre penalty that ensued.

The Bulldogs' 34 scoring shots to three quarter-time was more than any other team to the same point in a match this year, but yet they still trailed by five points at the last break.

Speaking post-game, Murphy articulated the importance of backing their plans and forgetting about the scoreboard.

"The lead was one thing," the 34-year-old said on Fox Footy.

"We had to take the scoreboard out of it and we just needed to rewards ourselves with the finishing. We'd had a fair bit of the game."

The last term yielded five majors to the away team's two and the game was won, handing Murphy a memorable finale to his 300th milestone that had its bumps along the way.

The Dogs booted 13 goals to Brisbane's two in the second half. They also comfortably won the inside 50 count and had 25 more shots at goal the Chris Fagan's team. A final margin of 32 points did not really do it justice, but it was enough for Bob, who finished with 20 disposals and a couple of score assists.

Four points and two healthy knees were all that really mattered.

"It wasn't pretty but we got there in the end," he said.

"It wasn't happening for us early. Brisbane came and pushed us and took it up to us as a lot of sides have done early in the year. We need to improve but I'm pretty happy with the win.

"It's a bit of a throwaway line but they've got so much heart but we were there at the end.

"I'm sick of seeing my head and I know everyone else is. It's a good chance to say thanks to so many people who let me fulfil a childhood dream. I'm still able to do it. I'm almost middle age but I'm out here with these young kids. I still love it."

Topics:  afl brisbane lions robert murphy western bulldogs

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