AFL 2 years ago

Bulldogs To Play For A Spot In Grand Final, Send Hawthorn Out In Straight Sets

Western Bulldogs 1.5    6.10   12.11    16.11.107
Hawthorn         3.4    7.5      8.9         12.12.84


Western Bulldogs: Stringer 3, Picken 3, Smith 2, Bontempelli 2, Wood, McLean, Dunkley, Roughead, Dickson, Daniel
Hawthorn: Shiels 2, Hodge 2, Sicily, Gunston, Puopolo, Rioli, Hill, Breust, Fitzpatrick, Burgoyme

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Western Bulldogs: Bontempelli, Macrae, Picken, Smith, Dunkley, Stringer, Daniel
Hawthorn: Shiels, Hodge, Burgoyne, Mitchell, Puopolo, Smith

This was a game for the true believers. The Western Bulldogs have advanced towards their first preliminary final since 2010, after stunning the three-time reigning premiers Hawthorn by 23 points in what is their first win over the brown and gold since 2010. The win ensured that the Hawks' hopes and dreams for a fourth-straight flag were stopped dead in their tracks as they bundled out of the 2016 finals series in straight-sets.

An unbelievable crowd of 87,823 at the Melbourne Cricket Ground witnessed an unbelievable performance from the Doggies, who had started the game with unsettled nerves, as Tory Dickson missed a couple of easy shots that he would've usually kicked. The Hawks on the other hand started on the upper hand, kicking the first three goals of the match, before the Doggies' stand-in captain Easton Wood delivered his side's first major of the night, coming in at the 22nd minute mark of the term.

The Dogs got to within a kick early in the second term, but three quick goals from the Hawks saw them back out to a 23-point lead midway through the quarter, before the Dogs began to control the momentum of the game, kicking three goals of their own, and missing another handful of shots, and could've well been in front at half-time.

Following a massive half-time scuffle, the Bulldogs came out of the rooms snarling in the third quarter, as they piled on six goals to one in the quarter and opened up a 26-point lead at the final break, and sewed up the game early in the last quarter, with Tory Dickson finally popping through his first and only goal for the evening followed by two goals to Liam Picken, extending the lead to a game-high 43 points.

A four-goal run from the Hawks' midway through the quarter brought back some respectability to the scoreboard, but as the final siren sounded, the crowd erupted as the champs were dethroned by the young upstarts. The stats won't lie, they were comprehensively beaten last night, the Dogs smashed them in contested possessions 161-111, and in overall disposals, 397-327. In addition to that, they were virtually on top of the clearances all night, eventually winning 42-34 and in the inside 50 count, 52-40.

Leading The Way

Like last week's amazing win over the West Coast Eagles, there were a number of Dogs who starred. Led again by Marcus Bontempelli, who just continues to emerge as a star, and anyone who doubted over his All-Australian selection a few weeks back, would've hopefully have been silenced last night. He had 27 disposals, eight clearances, five inside 50s and two goals in another stellar performance. Jack Macrae led the game with disposals and didn't stop working all night, finishing with a game-high 39 disposals along with eight marks and three clearances, while first-year midfielder Josh Dunkley stood up to the big stage and played more like a veteran, he finished with 23 disposals, eight inside 50s, six marks, six tackles and a goal.

Liam Picken backed up his brilliant game last week with another gutsy, yet fantastic performance, kicking three goals to go along with 24 disposals, eight marks, four clearances and four inside 50s. It should also be pointed out that it was mark running back with the flight just before he got cleaned up by Luke Breust that sparked the Doggies back into the contest.

Jake Stringer enjoyed a return to form at the right time of the year. In their previous meeting, Stringer was well held by Ben Stratton, but this time around, Stringer got off the leash after quarter time, booting three goals, including two crucial goals in the third term to help his side get on top of the Hawks, whilst Clay Smith possibly had his best game since returning to the Bulldogs' line-up. He kicked two very important goals in the second quarter, and his pressure throughout the game was simply enormous, with a team-high ten tackles.

The whole team deserves praise for how they conducted themselves against a side who has been at this stage time and time again. Toby McLean came in for the injured Lin Jong and did his bit as a half-forward, with 21 disposals, four clearances and a goal, Caleb Daniel couldn't replicate his game last week but still did wonderful things with the ball in hand, despite being in the hands of the trainers early, whilst the ruckwork of Jordan Roughead and – to a lesser extent – Tom Boyd, gets overlooked a little bit as they don't often dominate the hitouts, but it's their work around the ground that will please a lot of Doggies supporters.

The Opposition

Once the Doggies got going at the midway point of the second quarter, it looked clear as day that the Hawks were the second-best team on the night. The Doggies' speed and pressure were just too much for the Hawks, despite the fact that Hawthorn recorded over 40 more tackles than their opposition. 

Their were so many moments throughout the game that a lot of their top-shelf players caused so many uncharacteristic errors, which allowed the Dogs to carve them up on the rebound and as a result, comes to an end of a golden run of three-straight premierships, but Hawthorn coach Alastair Clarkson said in his post-game press conference that it's not the end of Hawthorn's golden era, and with the guys like Gold Coast's Jaeger O'Meara and potentially Sydney's Tom Mitchell coming in to the team next year, you can almost believe they'll be hanging around the upper echelon of the AFL again next season.

Liam Shiels and Hawks' captain Luke Hodge were Hawthorn's best for mine, Shiels worked hard in the midfield for 20 disposals, a game-high 12 tackles and two goals, whilst Hodge did his best around the ground and had 20 disposals, eight marks, six rebound 50s, six tackles and two goals. Sam Mitchell also tried his hardest, recording 24 disposals along with five clearances and four tackles. Another veteran who was productive was Shaun Burgoyne who featured with 22 disposals, five inside 50s, five marks and a goal, as well as Paul Puopolo who did what he could in the forward half with 17 disposals, ten tackles and a goal.

But there were a lot of Hawthorn players who could've done better. Cyril Rioli gave away a few silly free kicks and didn't have his best night. Jordan Lewis and 10 disposals in 66 percent of game time as he suffered a hamstring injury, Grant Birchall only had the 18 disposals and didn't have a big impact on the game, Luke Breust and Jack Gunston could only manage two goals between them and struggled for most of the night, and although Isaac Smith had a very solid game (21 disposals, six tackles, six rebound 50s), he would've loved to have snagged a goal to make up for last week, but missed a couple of gettable shots on goal.

Next Week

The Dogs are back on the road as they travel up to Spotless Stadium to take on the Greater Western Sydney Giants in a Saturday twilight game for a spot in the 2016 Grand Final. Not in anyone's wildest dreams would have thought that these two teams have thought this was possible, but it's fair to say that both teams have been brilliant this season, even if the Giants have had some assistance from the AFL over the last few years. It's not going to be an easy task, as the Giants defeated the Dogs earlier in the year, and two of the last three games as a matter of fact.

The Dogs have not made it to a Grand Final in over 50 years, falling short at the preliminary final numerous times since 1961 – their last Grand Final appearance. Can these young pups buck the trend next week?

Until then, soak up this win Doggies' fans, this is a win to truly remember.

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