21/04/2024

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan kicked an equal career high three goals. (Photo: Western Bulldogs)

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan kicked three goals in the Bulldogs' Friday night win over the Saints, playing alongside Josh Bruce for the first time in nearly 12 months.

Young forward Jamarra Ugle-Hagan was one of the big benefiters of the return of teammate Josh Bruce.

The 20-year-old kicked an equal career highest three goals in Friday night’s win over St Kilda, in what could be a preview of the Bulldogs’ forward line to come.

Coach Luke Beveridge hasn’t had all three of Bruce, Ugle-Hagan and Aaron Naughton available for selection since Round 21 last season. The work the former two were able to do inside 50 gave a look into the future of all three playing together.

Team selection saw four talls named to the forward line: Bruce, Ugle-Hagan, and ruckmen Tim English and Jordon Sweet. Perhaps against expectations, only two talls were used against St Kilda’s backline at any one time throughout the match.

Beveridge praised the number one draft pick’s output inside 50 post-game.

“His first half was outstanding in particular,” the coach told reporters.

“The more games he plays, the better he’ll run them out. Tonight we probably managed a bit of game time…”

Naughton had to withdraw from the game after being placed under the AFL’s health and safety protocols, with the Dogs having to wait another week to see the three in action together.

Beveridge believes that all three have a role to play in the forward line into the future.

“We were hoping we’d be able to play them together… but in the end with having to take Aaron out, we went down the Timmy English bit more forward time path,” he explained.

“We felt like we needed that with the Saints not having Dougal Howard and not being as tall as they were in the past, we thought we could challenge that a bit.

“We’d like to play the three together. That might be a chance next week.”

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Despite the strong showing from the forward group, taking 12 marks inside 50, they didn’t make the most of their entries.

The Bulldogs only created 19 scoring shots from 49 inside 50s, often mistiming a kick or entering to the advantage of the Saints’ talls.

Callum Wilkie in particular managed a massive 16 marks and 14 intercept possessions, while Josh Battle took 14.

The cleanliness by foot is something the entire group needs to work on, according to the coach.

“They took 27 intercept marks, which is crazy stuff. It’s a combination of not being able to bring the ball to ground, and some of the delivery and execution to our forwards was quite horrendous at times,” Beveridge said.

“That doesn’t help ‘Marra’ and Josh and others down there at times. He would have found it frustrating here and there.

“But it’s encouraging to see. Really important game for him to have a first half that really helped us on our way. Good step for him.”

The increased output from the midfield group despite the ball use gave Jamarra and the forwards every opportunity to shine, however.

They dominated the clearances 41-21, with Tom Liberatore (11), Bailey Smith (seven) and Jack Macrae (five) the key contributors in and under.

Well and truly the best clearance team in the competition, averaging 40.4 per game, the Dogs’ midfield is looking primed to continue the charge into September.

“By and large the midfield brigade was outstanding for most of the match. That centre bounce equation was important for us,” Beveridge said.

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