18/04/2024

An injury to returning Bulldog Kirsten McLeod has overshadowed the Dogs huge win in the west (Image: Womens.afl)

The Bulldogs have taken one step closer to playing finals in season seven of the AFLW, a strong win over West Coast sets them the task of beating Carlton next week to book their spot. It was a high-tempered affair on Saturday evening, that was unfortunately headlined by an injury inside the first five minutes.

It had been 570 days since Kirsten McLeod last played, missing the entirety of season six with lingering concussion symptoms. The news of her return was the feel-good footy story of the week and was the Bulldogs’ inspiration coming into the game.

Her long-awaited first touch of the football came just three minutes into the game, but an awkward tackle left her clutching her ankle and writhing in pain. She was forced from the field and ruled out for the remainder of the game almost immediately.

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Bulldogs Coach Nathan Burke was devasted for McLeod when talking to the media post-game, saying it’s not how she deserved to return.

“Footy can be cruel, she missed all of last season, trained right the way through. She trained up until last week under the impression she wouldn’t be playing this season either,” he said.

“We found out on Tuesday that she’d be cleared to play, you can imagine how we were all feeling inside the club.

“For her to go down in the first contest like that is just cruel.”

Fortunately for the Bulldogs, it didn’t take too much wind out of the sails. The side appeared to lift after McLeod was removed from the field, and quickly piled three goals on the home side.

Burke was proud of the side for getting the job done despite the circumstances. He said they spoke a lot about creating a repeatable brand for “important games”.

“We saw today as a must-win game and a chance to create the blueprint for the way we attack important games,” he said.

“I’m happy with what the girls produced, in terms of their pressure and ball movement. So hopefully over these next few weeks, they remember what they need to do in tough situations.

“The balls’ in our court now, if we’re good enough to beat Carlton then we’re in. It’s a whole new season in finals and we’ll have the belief we can win it.”

The Western Bulldogs have everything to play for on Friday night when they meet Carlton at Ikon Park, where a win or draw will secure the Dogs a spot in the finals. Meanwhile, the Eagles will finish their season at Casey Park early on Saturday afternoon against a Demons side that will be looking for a percentage boost.

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