21/04/2024

The Western Bulldogs defeated the Saints in unconvincing fashion. (Photo: AFL)

Sunday afternoon was another unconvincing victory for the Western Bulldogs, snapping a three-game losing streak.

Much like the men’s side did in 2022, the AFLW team is keeping its head above water in the finals race. The Dogs sit eighth with a 5-3 record after defeating the Saints, but have failed to claim a win over a fellow team in contention.

As it stands, they’ve defeated the teams placed 12th, 13th, 14th, 16th, and 17th. In games against higher-ranked opposition, they’re 0-3.

Against Melbourne, the Bulldogs were completely dominated in every facet of the game. The game against Geelong saw them fall just short of a brilliant comeback, while they were run over the top of by North Melbourne in the second half.

With games against the 15th placed West Coast and 11th placed Carlton to finish their home and away fixture, they have every chance to qualify for their first finals series since 2018, where they won the premiership.

But before that, the game against the Saints showed plenty of areas where the Dogs need to improve. First and foremost is converting opportunities in front of goal.

With the midfielders going to work all game long, they created 30 inside 50s, led by the likes of skipper Ellie Blackburn (five), Kirsty Lamb (four) and Deanna Berry (four).

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Of the 15 scoring shots they had, the Bulldogs only managed to kick 4.11. What should have been a comfortable victory was made much harder, as they had to scrap to the finish line.

Blackburn and Richelle Cranston kicked two behinds apiece, with five other players also failing to hit the mark.

Coach Nathan Burke spoke on the failure to put the game to bed, while also focusing on the positives that came out of it.

“It was a real arm wrestle, and we knew it was going to be,” he said post-match.

“We knew if we kept plugging away, we’d break through at some stage. It’s a double-edged sword, because I focus on how we’re getting to have a shot and a score.

“Then we have a shot and you go, ‘oh, we missed’. After a while you sort of go ‘hey, let’s start kicking them’. I try and focus on what we’re doing to get a shot on goal.”

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With finals in their sights, the Bulldogs are in a similar place to where they have been the past few seasons after bottoming out in 2019.

The club finished 2021 one game and percentage out of finals, dropping three of their last four games after being within touch of a post-season return.

After being hugely interrupted in season six due to COVID, the Bulldogs lost an important clash against Collingwood which could have seen them play finals.

Despite the ups and downs of this campaign, the group knows the opportunity they have in front of them, and the importance of the momentum they can build.

“The good thing is it’s in our hands. We win two games, we get to play the week after, it’s as simple as that,” Burke said.

“If we drop some, then that makes it tough. We’ve been in that position for the last couple of years, but this has been the game we’ve dropped [previously], and that’s put us behind the eight-ball.

“I’ve resisted looking at the ladder, because that doesn’t do me any good.”

Individually, the game had a number of strong performances. Eleanor Brown continued her move in the midfield, picking up 16 disposals, five tackles, four clearances and two inside 50s.

Berry had one of her best games since returning from injury, while Naomi Ferres continued her solid season with 12 disposals and nine tackles.

Alice Edmonds and Celine Moody were once again stand-outs. Up against makeshift ruck Lucy Burke, who didn’t go down easy, Edmonds had 38 hit-outs, nine tackles, three tackles, two clearances and two inside 50s.

Moody meanwhile kicked one of the Dogs’ four goals, taking three important marks and bringing the forward line lift in the second half.

The Bulldogs travel to Perth to take on West Coast in Round 9 on Saturday, October 22.

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