The Western Bulldogs’ 2013 season has been one that has seen both inspiring wins and soul destroying defeats.
However, it is difficult to imagine that the same team that in successive weeks lost to Melbourne and came within four points of becoming the first team to fall to the then-winless GWS Giants, would just a few weeks later be able to record stirring high-scoring wins against the likes of West Coast, Carlton and Adelaide.
After losing the last 10 matches of 2012 by an average of nine goals, the Bulldogs began 2013 with a bang after their 68-point thumping of the heavily favoured Brisbane Lions. However, they then fell away with seven consecutive defeats to sit with a 1-7 record after round 8.
The low points of the season were the 70-point defeat by the Eagles in round 6, and the loss to the Demons in round 14, in which the Dogs trailed by 44 points midway through the final term before responding with the last seven goals of the match to fall agonisingly short of win. After their struggling victory over the Giants the next week, in which the Dogs claimed the points with an uninspiring performance, this victory seemed to be the catalyst for a stunning reversal of form.
The question is – what’s changed in the last few weeks for the Bulldogs?
In the last five weeks, the Dogs have lost with creditable efforts against both of last year’s Grand Finalists and recorded three impressive wins against teams that were aiming to reach finals action this year. Without doubt the efforts of individual players such as Adam Cooney, Ryan Griffen, Jarrad Grant, Tom Liberatore, Luke Dahlhaus, Tory Dickson and Will Minson have lifted the Dogs from also-rans to a team that is capable pushing every single team in the competition. These players as a collective have performed individual feats of glory, and as part of the team have delivered in spades for the club.
With two winnable games against the Brisbane Lions and Melbourne coming up, the Dogs are well placed to finish the year with nine wins, after a total of just five in 2012. If the Bulldogs are able to finish off the season with four straight wins, it will be a great boost for coach Brendan McCartney and his team looking to 2014 and beyond, with the prospects of future finals football for this list.
Where mid-season it appeared the Bulldogs were staring at a prolonged period of occupying the bottom few rungs of the ladder and a tough, long rebuild, the future now looks a whole lot brighter for the boys in the red, white and blue. The light at the end of the tunnel is a lot closer now than it appeared to be a few short weeks ago. For this, all credit must go the the coaching staff and the playing group that have ensured that the Western Bulldogs are now one of the teams to watch for season 2014.