Gabby Newton celebrating after a goal. (Photo: @AFLWomens/ Twitter)

The Western Bulldogs remain undefeated after a three-point win over Fremantle. The win was led by a brigade of young Bulldog stars playing key roles to get the win in Ellie Blackburn’s 50th match.

A goal late in the final quarter from Gabby Newton saw the Bulldogs go three points up for the first time since the opening quarter.

The Bulldogs really stood tall to prevent the Dockers from getting the opportunity to score, with strong contested marks in the final minutes from the likes of Newton, Kirsty Lamb, and Isabella Grant allowing the Bulldogs to hang on.

Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke said that those contested marks have been something that the side has worked on over the pre-season.

“It’s funny what you choose to work on over the pre-season and contested marking is something we’ve done a lot of,” Burke said.

“So James Kennedy who’s our ruck coach, I’ve never taken a contested mark in my life so I handballed a lot to him and he’s been working with the players.

“Especially right at the end there, I think we took three in a row which really iced the game. To take a mark in this game is probably worth two in the men’s game, it’s such an important feature.”

The Bulldogs looked strong going into their forward early in the opening quarter with Newton starting well early providing that marking option in the forward 50. Isabelle Pritchard also played an important role in the Bulldogs’ attacking half.

In only her third game Rylie Wilcox was strong, using her speed to her advantage to get the ball inside 50 and finished the game with 11 disposals.

Wilcox kicked a goal in the second quarter to bring the Bulldogs back within reach, sparking plenty of excitement around Ikon Park.

Burke said he has been pleased with what Wilcox has brought to the team across the last three weeks.

“She’s amazing, we brought her in because she filled a need. We needed a smart winger and she fills that position really well,” he said.

“We haven’t really had one, we’ve been cobbling a few together over the last couple of years.

“We brought her in for a role. Did we expect that she’d play the role so well at the start, probably not. During pre-season, she was only at training once a week, twice a week at times and just forced her way into the team.

“I don’t know who picks the rising stars. I thought she might have gotten the nod last week but I think she is going to be really hard to overlook this week.”

The Bulldogs’ backline was strong at weathering the storm of the Dockers surge, led by Katie Lynch who Burke said has really improved so far this season.

“Absolutely, she’s [Katie Lynch] been outstanding and just understanding when to sag off and go for the mark and when to stay on her opponent. Last week I thought she was 90 per cent there and tonight I thought she was really good at that,” Burke said.

“When she goes and marks the footy, it’s just really important for us to set up across half back. I challenged her to be an All Australian centre halfback and she’s started the season like she’s going to be that.”

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For the Dockers, it was Kiara Bowers (17 disposals and 10 tackles) and Hayley Miller (16 disposals and seven tackles) that provided them with plenty of spark out of the midfield and around the ground.

While Emma O’Driscoll was strong down back, cutting off plenty of entries from the Bulldogs, finishing the game with 13 disposals.

Aine Tighe provided a tall option up forward for most of the game for the Dockers, hitting the scoreboard early and kicking the Dockers’ first goal to give the side a one-point lead going into the first break.

Fremantle made the most of its opportunities in the second quarter, with Arielle Runnalls setting up a nice play from half back that allowed Dana East to score a goal and extend the Dockers’ lead to seven points. 

Speaking post-match, Trent Cooper said that the performance from the Dockers was a step in the right direction.

“That was the message just then, we’re disappointed yet proud of our efforts. We’ve got people out at the moment and that’s a given but we still haven’t performed anywhere near like we should against Brisbane and Geelong, so tonight was a big step in the right direction.”

The Bulldogs will play expansion side Hawthorn at Box Hill City Oval, while Fremantle will take on Carlton at Fremantle Oval.

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