26/02/2024

The Dogs will be aiming to put behind a year of big outs and COVID interruptions, as they head into season seven. (Image: @BulldogsW/Twitter)

For the Western Bulldogs, it was a matter of pushing forward as they fought against several obstacles, which hit early in season six.

Last season:

Seventh (four wins, one draw, five losses)

It wasn’t smooth sailing for this Bulldogs side last season. Forced to adapt to continuous outs due to injuries, they fought on but the impact of key absences was felt in the beginning weeks of the competition.

The early losses of Gabby Newton and Deanna Berry proved to be a challenge. With Newton suffering a shoulder injury, and Berry still healing from an ACL injury, the Dogs were faced with headaches before the season had even begun.

As the season rolled around, the Dogs were dealt with more injury blows as Ellyse Gamble sustained an ankle injury. Meanwhile, Kristen Mcleod had her season ended early after sustaining a concussion. Isabel Huntington and Aurora Smith were out on the sidelines as a result of ACL injuries.

A COVID outbreak during the season saw the Dogs’ woes continue, which resulted in a 21-point loss against the Giants. It didn’t help that the outbreak occurred when the team already had to play seven games in a short period of time.

Despite the ongoing challenges, they managed to push through and have four wins, including a one-point win against the Crows. It was a gutsy display put on by the Western Bulldogs side, with a number of players stepping up when it was needed the most.

This included the performance of young gun Isabelle Pritchard, who in her second year in the AFLW has improved on her statistics greatly. Last season, the 20-year-old averaged 10.7 disposals, five kicks, 5.7 handballs and 3.7 tackles per game.

Off the back of her performances last season, Pritchard was named a part of the 22under22 squad. She also received a Rising Star nomination following a round 10 performance where she recorded 14 disposals.

Unfortunately given that the Western Bulldogs were missing crucial players from their line-up, it cost them in the form of missing out on finals, it finished seventh just behind Collingwood.

What to look forward to:

A quick look at the Bulldogs’ playing list would show you that half of the playing group is 21 and under. The exciting young guns that feature on the team is something that Western Bulldogs fans can look forward to in the upcoming season.

Fans were already treated to the performances of Pritchard but had two more Rising Star nominees in Elisabeth Georgostathis and Nell Morris-Dalton.

Georgostathis was a standout during last season across the ten games that she appeared in. Throughout her previous season campaign, she averaged 13.3 disposals, 6.7 kicks, 6.6 handballs, 1.8 marks, 4.7 tackles, and 1.6 clearances per game.

The 20-year-old earned a Rising Star nomination for her stellar work during her side’s matchup with Geelong. In the win, Georgostathis had 23 disposals, one goal and six tackles.

Morris-Dalton and was also a rightful nominee as a result of her contribution against West Coast. The 21-year-old had one of her best games of the season, recording 12 disposals, three marks, two clearances, and two goals.

If their current young talent is anything to go by, then fans can expect newly drafted Bulldogs Rylie Wilcox, Keely Coyne, Heidi Woodley, and Brooke Vernon to follow suit.

Biggest unanswered question:

The departures of key players will leave the Western Bulldogs with a void to fill. Though the biggest question is how the Bulldogs will go forward without Isabel Huntington and Bonnie Toogood.

Given that injuries wrecked havoc on their forward line, Toogood was left to fend on her own as Huntington was unavailable for an entire season.

Now with both players heading to GWS and Essendon respectively, the Dogs will be aiming to improve on this in season seven and beyond.

Newton may be a required piece of the forward puzzle on return from injury, standing at 175cm and a strong marking option.

It’s a big year for…

Young Bulldog Isabella Grant had an interesting campaign last season. Across the ten games, Grant averaged 9.3 disposals, 5.4 kicks, 3.9 handballs, 1.9 marks and 2.4 tackles per game.

The 20-year-old played a key part in the side’s attempt to make up for the number of injuries that hit their backline last season. It was a move that was well-needed, as Grant proved influential in the back half due to her athleticism.

With the new season right around the corner, Grant has potential to become one of the breakout stars for the Dogs in season seven.

More AFLW Season Reviews

AFLW Season Seven Preview: Carlton Blues

AFLW Season Seven Preview: GWS Giants

AFLW Season Seven Preview: Richmond

Fixture highlights:

R1: vs GWS Giants

The first match for the Western Bulldogs will be a big one. It’ll be the first time that the two sides will face off since Isabel Huntington switched sides during the sign and swap period, even though she won’t play.

For the Dogs, it’ll also be another chance for them put aside the loss from the last time they met. Their 21-point loss was not helped with a string of players out either with injuries or COVID protocols.

Should there be no interruptions for them this time around, the Western Bulldogs will be hoping to secure the win.

R7: vs Melbourne

Round 7 marks the first time that the Dogs play at Casey Fields in their club’s history. It’s a remarkable statistic, given both sides were inaugural AFLW teams.

With the Hampson-Hardeman Cup up for grabs, it’ll sure be a thrilling contest between the two sides.

R9: vs West Coast

When these two sides met last season, the Bulldogs delivered a stellar thrashing against a depleted West Coast side. The Dogs stole the show as they defeated the Eagles by 60 points at Optus Stadium.

It’ll be a must-win match for either side. For the Dogs, they’d be wanting the win given it’s at the pointy end of the competition, and could be a finals-securing match-up.

Meanwhile, the Eagles will be looking to gain vengeance for their brutal loss, where they only scored eight points during the entire game.

Full fixture:

R1: vs GWS Giants, August 28 (IKON Park)

R2: vs Port Adelaide, September 3 (Alberton Oval)

R3: vs Fremantle, September 9 (IKON Park)

R4: vs Hawthorn, September 17 (Box Hill City Oval)

R5: vs North Melbourne, September 23 (Swinburne Centre)

R6: vs Geelong, October 1 (Mars Stadium)

R7: vs Melbourne, October 9 (Casey Fields)

R8: vs St Kilda, October 16 (Mars Stadium)

R9: vs West Coast, October 22 (Mineral Resources Park)

R10: vs Carlton, TBC (IKON Park)

Ins/Outs:

Ins: Daisy Bateman (North Melbourne), Millie Brown (Geelong), Keely Coyne (Sandrinham Dragons), Brooke Vernon (Carlton), Rylie Wilcox (Northern Knights), Heidi Woodley (Oakleigh Chargers)

Outs: Izzy Huntington (GWS Giants), Bonnie Toogood (Essendon), Ellyse Gamble (Essendon), Ashleigh Guest (retired), Brooke Lochland (Sydney), Hannah Scott (retired)

Inactive: Aurora Smith

Predicted Round 1 line-up:

(Design: Will Cuckson)

Ladder range:

Fourth-eighth

The list they were able to work with last season saw the Western Bulldogs only just miss out on the finals.

Although they will be missing players that would be considered among their best, the young guns that are on the playing list showed positive signs.

If the Bulldogs continue to develop their young players, and their more experienced players such as Celine Moody and Kristy Lamb stay healthy, there is no doubt that the daughters of the west will be able to see finals once again in season seven.

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