Coming into the season many didn’t know what to expect from the Western Bulldogs, but after starting the season on fire, the side was able to cement themselves in the finals for the first time since the clubs’ historic premiership.
Finishing Position: 7th ( 7 wins, 3 losses)
While the season didn’t end the way the Bulldogs would have liked, there is definitely plenty for Bulldogs fans to be excited about in the future.
The young pups proved they had what it takes to help propel the Bulldogs into finals, while being supported by the experienced heads with the likes Ellie Blackburn, Kirsty Lamb and Celine Moody once again playing key roles for the Bulldogs.
The rise of Alice Edmonds allowed Moody to spend more time up forward, with Edmonds creating a dangerous midfield combination with Lamb, Blackburn and Jess Fitzgerald.
The return of former number one draft pick Gabby Newton proved to be a handy inclusion, especially early on in the season, topping the club’s goal kicking tally with eight majors for the season.
Down back the likes of Eleanor Brown, Isabella Grant and Katie Lynch were instrumental in holding off clubs’ opposition forward lines, with Lynch securing a spot in the All Australian backline after yet another strong season.
While Grant was able to build off a strong Season Six and able to continue her strong form, she put her body on the line for her team several times across the season.
It was a worry for the Bulldogs going into Season Seven, with the loss of Bonnie Toogood and Brooke Lochland to expansion sides, but the Bulldogs forward line once again didn’t have the consistency that many would have liked.
While the side had plenty of star power up forward with the likes of Newton, Moody and Richelle Cranston all contributing across the season, they failed to fire on a consistent basis when it came to hitting the scoreboard.
There were plenty of occasions when going inside 50 that the ball would be bombed in hoping for one of the sides tall forwards to get the mark, but often it would cause a turnover or a ball going out of bounds.
With the Elimination Final against Collingwood a prime example of this happening, instead of lowering their eyes looking for the short option, often the Bulldogs would send the ball in deep with the likes of Stacey Livingstone and Sophie Casey able to come away with the intercepts.
There was plenty to like from the Bulldogs in terms of breakout starts, with a few players having a breakout season in Season Seven.
In her first season at AFLW level, the Bulldogs’ first draft pick in Rylie Wilcox was strong all season for the Bulldogs. Cementing herself in the club’s best 21 in her first season on the wing, she averaged 10 disposals in 10 games, using her speed to her advantage to burst away from her opponent
Edmonds was instrumental in the Bulldogs’ rise back into finals after a strong season put her in the conversation as one of the best rucks in the competition. Averaging 26.2 hit-outs per game, including a career best 39 hit-outs against St Kilda, allowed the Bulldogs midfielders to get first use of the footy.
Isabelle Pritchard took her game to new heights in Season Seven, really cementing herself in the Bulldogs side spending time in the midfield. Her physicality allowed the pressure in the Bulldogs front half to go up to a new level. Pritchard featured in all 11 matches this season, averaging 15 disposals.
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The Bulldogs’ highest point of the season probably came towards the end of the season, with a nail-biting win over Carlton. Going into the match, all the Bulldogs had to do was win to secure a finals berth, but Carlton didn’t make it easy.
Despite the Bulldogs kicking the opening goal through Sarah Hartwig, it was all navy blue from there for the rest of the opening quarter with Carlton able to find an avenue to goal a lot easier then the Bulldogs were able to. The Bulldogs went into the first break with a 14-point lead to make up.
The Bulldogs were able to bring back the margin in the second quarter with goals through Blackburn and Cranston, but the Blues had the upper hand in the third with the Bulldogs almost on the ropes going into the last quarter.
Enter Skipper Blackburn, who seals the Bulldogs finals hopes with a spectacular goal inside the final two minutes from just inside 50, with Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke saying post match that she was in doubt for the match.
Edmonds was strong in the middle, going up against All-Australian ruckman Moody. Finishing the match with 28 hit-outs and 10 disposals, while Lynch was strong down back with 15 disposals and three marks.
There was a string of disappointing games for the Bulldogs in the middle of the season, one of those games was a comprehensive 64-point loss to the eventual premiers in Melbourne. The match came eight days after the Bulldogs heartbreaking one point loss to the Cats, with many fans expecting the Bulldogs to come out firing.
The Bulldogs only scored one goal for the entirety of the game, with the Melbourne defence in Libby Birch and Sarah Lampard mopping up any entry inside the Bulldogs’ forward fifty, with many of the Bulldogs entries were long kicks inside 50.
Burke threw the magnets around in the second half sending Lynch forward in hopes of kick starting the Bulldogs attack line, but it wasn’t to be, with a four goal flurry coming from the Demons in the last quarter.
Where to next
Despite the heartbreaking end to the season, there are plenty of positives to take away from the Bulldogs season. With the league’s expansion now finished, meaning no more losses to expansion clubs, the Bulldogs can now consolidate and build on the young group that they’ve got.
The Club will be looking to add more depth to their list, especially up forward where the Bulldogs failed to get a consistent run across the season. Which could come through the Trade Period or at the draft.
With plenty of young talent to get excited about across all parts of the ground that haven’t hit their best football yet, the Bulldogs will be looking to re-load and go again in season eight.
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