Dogs surge into finals mix with Dockers thumping
Watch Out, top-eight.
The Western Bulldogs are coming for you.
On the back of five wins in six games and a 47-point thumping of Fremantle at Marvel Stadium yesterday, the Bulldogs are making an eleventh-hour charge towards September.
And their finals fate is now largely in their own hands.
The Bulldogs now sit only a matter of percentage points outside the top-eight and face the team they currently sit just behind - a floundering eight-placed Adelaide - in the final round of the season.
It won't be easy, for Luke Beveridge's side faces fellow top-eight sides Brisbane, Essendon and Greater Western Sydney over the next three weeks before the Crows.
But where there is a will, there is a way.
Last week's forgettable loss to St Kilda aside, the Bulldogs have been one of the form teams of the competition since their Round 12 bye and have proven themselves against the best teams this year including Geelong, Brisbane and Richmond.
It seems a longshot, but in such an even year a fairytale run towards September just as the Bulldogs had in 2016 cannot be discredited.
The Bulldogs have speed to burn, are playing an attacking brand of football and have now found avenues to goal they have struggled to find in recent years.
Their midfield - led by Marcus Bontempelli, Jack Macrae, Tom Liberatore and Josh Dunkley - is as strong as any in the AFL right now and the Bulldogs' skill level across the ground is up there with the best.
Fremantle had been the fourth-best defensive side in the AFL entering the weekend, conceding an average of just 75 points a game.
The Bulldogs had 78 points on the board by halftime, such was their clean and attacking ball movement - and superior work rate.
Bailey Dale has spent much of the year in the VFL with Footscray, but the mid-sized forward bagged four goals to follow five majors against the Saints last week.
Aaron Naughton managed just one stunning soccer goal, but the Bulldogs still managed to kick 16 majors.
As Beveridge said last week, there is not a lot of "wiggle room" for his side to make the finals.
But for now, the dream is well and truly alive.
OPENING TERM BLITZ
First quarters had been a problem area for the Western Bulldogs this year.
Heading into the round, Luke Beveridge's side ranked second-last in the competition for opening quarters won, a 5-2-10 record putting it ahead of only St Kilda.
But the start of the game certainly wasn't an issue yesterday, with the Bulldogs on fire early and playing with attacking flair.
They put on 8.2 (50) in the opening quarter - the club's highest-scoring first term since Round 20, 2015.
Bailey Dale and Bailey Smith each got on the end of two goals for the term among six individual goalkickers before the first break.
Asked during the week what could be expected of Bulldogs debutant Rhylee West, coach Luke Beveridge replied: "He's very determined. He's a very hard player. He's tough".
With his famous father Scott - a seven-time Bulldogs best-and-fairest winner - watching on in the stands, West endeared himself to Bulldogs fans early in his first game, putting that toughness on show as went full-steam into a marking contest which brought a heavy collision with Fremantle's Luke Ryan only to bounce straight back up.
West went on to kick his first AFL goal late in the second quarter, every Bulldogs player on the ground getting over to congratulate him.
The 19-year-old finished with 14 disposals playing primarily as a small forward.