The Western Bulldogs defeated Greater Western Sydney Giants by a single goal in the second preliminary final to book a meeting with the Sydney Swans.
The match at Spotless Stadium on Saturday night was a classic with fast-paced play, tenacious tackling, desperate individual plays and the occasional scuffle.
The Dogs raced out to what would become one of the largest leads of the game, 13-1, in the first quarter before the Giants eased into the match. The lead changed multiple times, keeping the fans on edge – and thirsty. According to Triple M Spotless Stadium run out of beer by half-time. “Spotless management must not have realised just how much Victorians drink,” the station reported.
Luke Dahlhaus put in a solid shift for the Bulldogs, getting 32 disposals, 9 marks and 6 inside 50s while Tory Dickson and Clay Smith booted four goals each.
The game ebbed and flowed as the Bulldogs extended their lead to 41 – 32 by half-time, only to surrender it to the Giants, who were ahead by just one point ahead of the final quarter.
Goals to Rory Lobb and Toby Greene kicked the young side ahead by 14 points early in the quarter but the Victorians immediately hit back. Marcus Bontempelli pushed his side back to the front with a crucial goal after 17 minutes, then Zaine Cordy built on that momentum to give the Bulldogs a seven-point lead. Jonathan Patton pulled the Giants back with a goal but from there on play favoured the Melbourne team.
The Western Bulldogs hadn’t featured in an AFL Grand Final since 1961 when they were known as Footscray. Their one and only premiership came in 1954. They’ve made history this season by becoming the first side outside of the top four to make the Big Dance. Greater Western Sydney’s fairytale first finals campaign is over, but they will have learned a lot from their experience on the big stage and have written a brilliant chapter in the club’s short history.
Save next Saturday for the Sydney Swans v Western Bulldogs Grand Final at the MCG next Saturday. It’s going to be a cracker. – Patrick Staveley
The Western Bulldogs prevailed over the Greater Western Sydney Giants in a hard fought AFL preliminary final at Spotless Stadium, Sydney, on Saturday night. Image from the GWS Twitter feed.