Western Bulldogs 4.4 7.6 11.9 14.15.99
West Coast Eagles 2.3 3.6 5.9 7.10.52
Western Bulldogs: Picken 2, Dickson 2, Dunkley 2, Dahlhaus, Hunter, Daniel, Liberatore, Smith, Roughead, Bontempelli, Stringer
West Coast Eagles: Darling 2, Kennedy 2, Hill, Brown, LeCras
Alex Docherty's Best
Western Bulldogs: Dahlhaus, Daniel, Picken, Johannisen, Hamling, M. Boyd, Hunter
West Coast Eagles: Gaff, Hutchings, Shuey, Butler, Hurn, Priddis
The Western Bulldogs have produced one of the most stunning finals wins in the history of the football club, after thumping an in-form West Coast by 47 points on their home turf at Domain Stadium. The Dogs hadn't won a final since 2010, hadn't won against the Eagles at Domain since 2010 and the Eagles hadn't lost a home final since 2007, but all that amounted for nothing last night, as the Dogs' pressure around the West Coast ball carriers and made them pay for their horrible turnovers at every term as the Dogs recorded easily their best win of 2016.
The Eagles' did kick the first two goals of the night through Jack Darling and Josh Kennedy after the Dogs had sprayed the first three shots on goal, but from the tenth-minute mark of the first term, the Dogs took control and never relinquished the lead and gradually built on the lead at every break.
But as it has often been the case this year, the Bulldogs have not come out of this game unscathed, after Lin Jong appeared to have broken his collarbone after he was tackled and landed on his shoulder in the second term. The emotion that he displayed on the bench told the story: Season 2016 is done and dusted for the 38-game veteran and it might've just been the last game that Jong has played for the Bulldogs after Jong, still uncontracted for 2017 and may be on the move in the off-season. Easton Wood and Jordan Roughead also had moments during the first half where they hobbled off into the hands of the trainers, but returned to the field and played out the match.
Leading The Way
There were plenty of Dogs players who had fantastic games. Luke Dahlhaus was probably the best on the ground for mine. He was everywhere around the ground and finished with 29 disposals, nine tackles, six marks, four clearances and a goal, while Caleb Daniel responded to a very unlucky second-place in the AFL's rising star award with a career-best 33 disposals, eight inside 50s, five goal assists and one goal.
Jason Johannisen was brilliant and finished the night with 25 disposals, eight marks, eight inside 50s and six tackles, Liam Picken displayed one of his best games of the year, displaying real strong hands and finished with 23 disposals, nine marks, with three of those contested grabs, four inside 50s and two goals and Lachie Hunter was again superb with 26 disposals, five marks, five inside 50s, four clearances and two goals.
A special mention goes out to Tom Boyd, who also probably played one of his best games of the season, his numbers might not reflect it, but he was taking a couple of impressive grabs and getting involved in a fair bit of play and showed a fair amount of work rate, which would certainly please fans that criticise him on a weekly basis.
Tom Liberatore and Jack Macrae, who were two of the five massive ins for the Doggies leading up to this match were solid in their return. Liberatore had 22 disposals, six clearances, three tackles, three inside 50s and a lovely goal in the first quarter, and Macrae had 24 disposals, four clearances, four rebound 50s and four tackles, Jordan Roughead marked his return to the side with a solid performance, with his contested mark against Jeremy McGovern and then running goal one of the highlight's of the night. Jake Stringer was another inclusion, and struggled to get involved for most of the night, but bagged a really good goal from just inside the 50 metre arc.
But it would be the defenders that stood up again in a big-pressure situation. Josh Kennedy has often tormented the Dogs in recent years, but Joel Hamling had probably one of his best defensive games in his very short career, keeping Kennedy to only two goals, Hamling will continue to develop and will be a very good defender in years to come. Dale Morris did what Dale Morris often does and that's defend, defend, defend. He was again brilliant and Matthew Boyd showed the nation why he was given an All-Australian jacket last week, with 26 disposals coming out of half-back, but collectively a brilliant game from the Bulldogs' defensive unit keeping a side that averaged just under 100 points a game this year, to only just 52 points for the night.
Whilst the Bulldogs were among one of the biggest beneficiaries of the week off, West Coast looked to be one of the biggest losers of the week off. Heading into last night, they were the red-hot favourites after beating fellow finalists Hawthorn at home, GWS away and Adelaide away, but did not look like one bit of the side that made the grand final last year.
Except for the tackling, the Eagles lost in every statistic. They lost the disposal count 363-400, lost the clearances 40-32, the inside 50s 43-55 and got a walloping in contested possessions 139-162. Too many skill errors didn't help the Eagles' either, but too much was left to too few of their star players.
Andrew Gaff was probably their best player on the night, recording 35 disposals, four clearances, four inside 50s and four rebound 50s. Mark Hutchings did a very good job in curtailing Marcus Bontempelli's influence of the game, and although he finished the game strongly, Hutchings' efforts against one of the in-form players of the competition couldn't be ignored, Hutchings finished with 25 disposals and five tackles whilst Luke Shuey amassed 28 disposals, eight clearances and six tackles in a spirited effort for the losers.
Others that played well were Sam Butler with 24 disposals, five marks and five rebound 50s, Matt Priddis who had 25 disposals, eight tackles and five clearances and Eagles' captain Shannon Hurn who played his 200th game last night, and was solid with 25 disposals and nine rebound 50s.
But there were so many that could've done so much better. Do the Eagles regret bringing in a tall in Mitch Brown? He only had five disposals and kicked a gimme goal in the goal-square. Jamie Cripps didn't see a lot of the ball, only recording the six disposals on the night, as did Dom Sheed, who had nine disposals. Jeremy McGovern and Tom Barrass tried as hard as they could as the keys down back, but couldn't provide massive influences, whilst the decision to play Scott Lycett backfired as he re-injured his knee and although he managed to play out the game, he struggled big time to make a serious impact.
The Dogs will play whoever loses tonight's qualifying final between Geelong and Hawthorn. It doesn't matter who they play, recent history doesn't bode well for the Dogs against either side. The Dogs haven't beaten the Cats since 2009, and haven't beaten the Hawks since 2010, and if that's not enough, the Dogs lost their previous finals encounters to both the Hawks and the Cats. They got thumped by the Hawks in 2008 and lost to the Cats in a qualifying final in 2009. Strangely enough, both sides went on to win the premiership in their respective years.
But it's clear as day that it's not the same Bulldogs team from eight years ago, and it's not the same Bulldogs' team that lost to Fremantle two weeks ago. They looked like they want the flag last night and if it doesn't come this year, it's certainly a lot closer than what most are suggesting.