THE WESTERN Bulldogs have four straight victories and are emerging as a genuine AFLW premiership threat, with a 25-point win over Greater Western Sydney on Saturday the latest emphatic statement of their intent this season.
It was the dynamic forward partnership of Isabel Huntington and Bonnie Toogood that inspired the 7.5 (47) to 3.4 (22) win at the VU Whitten Oval, with the pair providing an unstoppable combination in attack to haunt the Giants all afternoon.
BULLDOGS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats
Huntington finished with a career-best three goals from five big marks in a powerhouse performance up forward, with Toogood adding three goals herself to act as the perfect foil alongside the former No.1 pick.
Rebecca Beeson (24 disposals, five tackles) typified the Giants' performance, fighting hard all afternoon and perhaps shading the red-hot Ellie Blackburn (17 disposals, five tackles) in the midfield. But the Dogs had too many contributors to ease over the line.
It didn't all go their way, with the Giants controlling the territory battle throughout a tough and tense start to the match. But it was the Bulldogs who were putting on a counter-attacking clinic to ultimately claim the significant early advantage.
After the scores were level at the opening interval, Huntington and Toogood were the beneficiaries of some smooth transitions through the middle of the field to finish the half with a combined five goals and hand their side a 24-point buffer at the main break.
Their stellar work in attack inspired five consecutive goals on either side of half-time, with Huntington soon adding another as the speed and athleticism of Kirsten McLeod (nine disposals, one goal) forced yet more headaches upon the Giants.
It was almost the perfect afternoon for the Western Bulldogs, before the win – and the performance – was marred by a late non-contact knee injury to Deanna Berry that sent a hush over the Whitten Oval.
A round one loss to St Kilda, combined with five straight defeats to end the 2020 campaign, meant the Western Bulldogs had lost six consecutive games earlier this season. They looked anything but a premiership contender. But how much difference a month can make. The Dogs now have four straight wins, are entrenched inside the top-six, and look a genuine shot at the flag. Look out title contenders, Nathan Burke's side are coming.
Blink and you missed it
The Giants can feel hard done by. Having gone into quarter-time level, they dominated the early stages of the second term. They moved the ball forward nicely and worked repeat entries through awesome pressure inside 50, but had no means of converting the territorial control into goals. As it happened, the Bulldogs poured forward rapidly on the break, kicked four goals in 11 minutes, and the match was as good as done.
Isabel Huntington is a star. The Dogs might have struggled to get going throughout the first quarter, but back-to-back Huntington goals in the second term soon broke the game wide open. Her contested marking has been a feature of her young career, but it was a stunning goal on the run – having just out-bodied her opponent in the contest – that signalled why she is one of the game's most influential players. She finished with three goals for the first time in her AFLW career, complementing nine disposals and five strong marks.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.2 5.2 7.2 7.5 (47)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY 1.2 1.2 3.3 3.4 (22)
Western Bulldogs: Toogood 3, Huntington 3, McLeod
Greater Western Sydney: Privitelli, Tully, McKinnon
Western Bulldogs: Huntington, Toogood, Lamb, Blackburn, Brown, McLeod, Lochland
Greater Western Sydney: Beeson, Parker, Eva, Tully, Bennetts
Western Bulldogs: Berry (knee)
Greater Western Sydney: Nil
Crowd: 2461 at VU Whitten Oval
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