The Western Bulldogs returned to form spurred on by guilt out of not protecting Marcus Bontempelli in last year’s AFL elimination final capitulation.
After a horror opening two rounds, the Dogs opened their 2020 account and gained revenge on rival GWS during a spiteful Friday night clash at Marvel Stadium.
Even without injured key protagonist Toby Greene, the Giants came hard at the Dogs captain from the opening bounce in strangely familiar scenes.
Tagger Matt De Boer went straight to Bontempelli, reminding him of the punishment the Dogs endured last September in a humiliating 58-point defeat.
But Luke Beveridge’s men handled the heat this time and restricted last year’s beaten grand finalists to the equal-fifth lowest score in their history.
“The boys felt like they let him (Bontempelli) down last year and they wanted to make amends,” Beveridge told reporters.
“He doesn’t need to prove anything to us. But tonight will do him the world of good.
“He’s built himself up, he’s felt the pressure, but all the while, he’s been vocal.
“He’s been looking for answers and solutions and that’s what great leaders do.”
GWS have targeted Bontempelli since an incident with Nick Haynes in round 22 last year, which left the Giants defender with a fractured larynx.
In what Beveridge called a “peculiar” move, Haynes swapped in for Giants captain Stephen Coniglio at the coin toss to face up to Bontempelli.
“I wasn’t sure if he (Haynes) had a milestone. If he didn’t, it was strange,” Beveridge said.
But Giants coach Leon Cameron said he “wouldn’t look anything into it”.
“I’ve got more problems than worrying about who tosses the coin than nutting down and making sure our contested ball is right,” he said.
“Matty De Boer is an out and out run with player, that’s what he does at the start of every game.
“It wouldn’t matter whether it’s Bontempelli, (Patrick) Dangerfield, or (Ben) Cunnington and (Shaun) Higgins; we use him in a run with role and we don’t hide the fact that we do.
“We’ve got a rivalry there (with the Dogs). The game was played at a high intensity and they won this battle tonight.”
The result leaves both teams at 1-2 and outside the top-eight in the shortened 17-round season.