15/08/2022

The Dogs will be hoping for more smiles in 2022. (Photo: Western Bulldogs FC)

After a late season fadeout in 2021, the Western Bulldogs will be looking to do better and make the AFLW finals this upcoming season.

Following a middle of the table finish in 2021, the Bulldogs’ young and emerging group will be looking to build on their five wins this season and push for a finals spot in 2022.

Last season:

Eighth (5-0-4)

The Bulldogs started off the 2021 season in hot form, despite dropping the opening game to the newly-installed Saints by nine points. Yet their next four games were all wins that signalled their improvement, including strong victories over Melbourne (by 13 points) and GWS (by 25) that had them in the all-important top six.

But a 36-point loss to the rising Collingwood sent their campaign into a downward spiral, with three straight losses dropping them just out of the six.

A final round win over Richmond wasn’t enough to rise into finals calculations, meaning the Dogs finished just outside of the top six, having narrowly missed out on finals footy due to a late-season fadeout.

What to look forward to:

With the Bulldogs possessing a young list, fans can be excited about the continual growth that the group should have in 2022.

In the first half of the 2021 season they were one of the best teams in the competition, playing tough and fast-paced footy that allowed the Dogs’ speedy forwards to capitalise around the sticks.

But when opposition teams slowed them down and they tired out in the back half of the season, they missed out on a prime opportunity to play finals footy.

In 2022, the Dogs’ young group has been bolstered by three recruits, including the experienced Richelle Cranston, who has spent time at both Melbourne and Geelong, and former GWS star Elle Bennetts.

With the likes of Cranston adding much-needed leadership to the Dogs’ on field, expect them to be more mature in clutch moments and provide a sustained campaign that could see them figure as one of the best sides in the AFLW in 2022.

But Cranston doesn’t just add experience, she also adds an uncanny goal sense that Dogs fans will be keen to see. If she can add another piece to their forward line puzzle, the Dogs may explode up forward and put together some eye-boggling scores in 2022.

Biggest unanswered question:

The major issue that the Bulldogs will have to answer this upcoming season is if they have the consistency and depth to take a finals spot if they get on a roll in the first half of the year.

Many expect the Dogs to come flying out of the gates like they did in 2021, where they sat at the halfway mark as one of the teams to beat.

If confronted by a similar scenario, the Dogs will be challenged by their ability to learn from their 2021 mistakes and this time draw on different experiences to go better and stop a late-season form slump.

With the experienced duo of Ange Gogos and Lauren Spark retiring, the Dogs will turn to new emerging leaders to take the reins and steer the red, white and blue away from a run of losses that could once again derail their finals aspirations.

The likes of Bailey Hunt, Bonnie Toogood, Isabelle Pritchard and Izzy Huntington can consider themselves experienced members of an AFLW side, and will be counted on to take the next step and iron out their depth.

To add to this, the draft crop of Amanda Ling, Aurora Smith and Elizabeth Snell should inject more promise and talent to a young list that is now crying out for depth all over the field. If they can fill these gaps, expect the Doggies to maintain their form later into the season.

More AFLW Season Previews

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2022 AFLW Season Preview: GWS Giants

2022 AFLW Season Preview: Richmond Tigers

It’s a big year for…

Although it can be dangerous to put pressure on high draft picks, the Dogs will be internally hoping for 2021’s number two draft pick in Jess Fitzgerald to explode in 2022.

Having now had a year of AFLW footy under her belt, the Northern Knights prospect is set to add another element to the red, white and blue heading into this season.

With nine games and five goals in her debut season, Fitzgerald certainly didn’t let anyone down, as she proved she could be a wonderful asset to the Bulldogs heading forward.

Her impressive start to her career, which ended in the Dogs crowning her as their Best Young Player in 2021, could now go to another level.

With more experienced added around the field, Fitzgerald may benefit from this close tutelage, as well as freeing herself up to roam forward and boot vital goals when all attention is on the likes of captain Ellie Blackburn.

If you thought you’d seen it all with her 50 metre goal against the Tigers that wowed many, saddle up and see what the emerging talent can do after another pre-season in the AFLW system.

Fixture highlights

It all kicks off early for the Dogs, who will renew their burgeoning rivalry with the Melbourne Demons in a Round 1 blockbuster under lights at their home fortress of the VU Whitten Oval.

This Saturday night clash will be followed by a Round 2 return to GMHBA Stadium for Richelle Cranston, as she’ll take on her old team in Geelong in another prime time Saturday night match.

The next two clashes against Carlton and Richmond will give the Dogs a tough but important start to the season – if they can conquer their main Victorian rivals early, then they should be on track to vindicate their 2021 demons.

A Round 8 clash against the Pies at Victoria Park will give them a chance to return the serve against the side who ruined their 2021 four-game winning streak, with the main positive being they’ll get to avoid playing the reigning premiers in Brisbane in 2022.

Instead, they’ll take on runners-up and AFLW powerhouse in Adelaide in the middle of the season.

Full fixture:

R1: vs. Melbourne, Jan 8 (VU Whitten Oval)

R2: vs. Geelong, Jan 15 (GMHBA Stadium)

R3: vs. Carlton, Jan 23 (VU Whitten Oval)

R4: vs. Western Bulldogs, Jan 30 (Henson Park)

R5: vs. Richmond, Feb 5 (VU Whitten Oval)

R6: vs. Adelaide, Feb 13 (Norwood Oval)

R7: vs. Gold Coast, Feb 20 (VU Whitten Oval)

R8: vs. Collingwood, Feb 27 (Victoria Park)

R9: vs. West Coast, TBC (Lathlain Park)

R10: vs. Fremantle, TBC (Eureka Stadium)

Ins/Outs:

Ins: Elle Bennetts (GWS), Richelle Cranston (delisted free agent, Geelong), Alice Edmonds (replacement player, formerly Richmond), Amanda Ling, Aurora Smith, Elizabeth Snell (draft)

Outs: Ange Gogos, Lauren Spark, Amelia Van Oosterwijck (retired), Katy Herron, Danielle Marshall, Kim Rennie (delisted)

Inactive: Gabby Newton (shoulder)

Round 1 line-up:

Ladder range:

Second-Fifth

The Dogs really should be looking to break into the top six in 2022 and make a mark in the finals, as their list has only improved from last year’s hot start.

With Ellie Blackburn doing her thing as skipper, she should lead a side with more experience towards the pointy end of the season and make them a dangerous side.

With so many home games at the VU Whitten Oval, the Dogs can consistently get to build upon wins and dispose of dangerous teams without being forced to travel often.

If they can nail down the start of their season, they now have a friendlier run home that should see them book a finals spot in 2022.

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