THE WESTERN Bulldogs have provided senior coach Nathan Burke with the perfect birthday present on Sunday, winning for the first time in 317 days.
The St Kilda great celebrated his 52nd birthday with the Bulldogs getting on the board for the first time in 2022 after defeating Richmond by 17 points at VU Whitten Oval on Sunday afternoon.
BULLDOGS v TIGERS Full match coverage and stats
The Dogs hadn't won a game since round nine last season, but kept the Tigers at arms distance all day to breathe life back into a season that had been on life support heading into the weekend, winning 4.6 (30) to 1.7 (13).
The club has experienced an interrupted start to the season with two games postponed due to COVID-19 breakouts and had to play the first replacement game only five days ago, where it narrowly lost to Fremantle by a goal.
After smashing St Kilda by 38 points in round one, Richmond has now lost four consecutive games and are now in dangerous territory of spending another post-season watching on from afar.
The Dogs made a dominant start to the day but took some time to capitalise on the scoreboard. They recorded the first six inside 50s and the first goal of the day, with Richmond needing more than half the opening quarter to put the ball inside their arc for the first time.
They led by a kick at quarter-time and half-time before two well executed set shot goals in the early stages of the second half – one to Ellie Blackburn and the second to Celine Moody – killed the contest.
Play stopped for more than five minutes early in the third quarter when Hannah Burchell went down and clutched her left knee. There are serious concerns the 26-year-old has suffered an anterior cruciate ligament tear.
The stop in play may have halted the Western Bulldogs' momentum, but it didn't reignite the Tigers with no further goals recorded in the closing quarter and a half.
Western Bulldogs skipper Ellie Blackburn backed up her impressive display against the Dockers on Tuesday night with another eye-catching at VU Whitten Oval.
The premiership player and two-time best and fairest winner was a class above in sunny and breezy conditions in Melbourne's inner-west, collecting 19 disposals, including 15 kicks.
Kirsty Lamb was given far too much room all day and made the Tigers pay, amassing 27 touches, 17 kicks and nine marks.
Most 52nd birthday parties fade in the memory banks, but this one will last for Burke. The Dogs still have a pulse.
Ex-Dog does her best to spoil the party
Dual All-Australian Monique Conti torched her old side but didn’t have enough help from her teammates to seriously challenge the Western Bulldogs, the club where she spent the first two seasons of her career, winning the 2019 best and fairest. The 22-year-old continued her brilliant season, finishing with 19 disposals, 12 kicks and four tackles.
Another serious injury for the Tigers
It was a day of carnage for Ryan Ferguson’s team, taking Richmond’s injury situation from bad to worse. With Harriet Cordner suffering an ACL tear earlier in the season and Courtney Wakefield suffering a long-term shoulder injury, the Tigers have now lost three more players. Burchall has a suspected ACL tear that will be scanned on Monday, while Laura McClelland and Kate Dempsey both suffered ankle injuries.
"It's good to celebrate it with my second family. With my second family, there is no other place I'd rather be. They actually sang happy birthday in the team meeting before the game even started, which I wasn't expecting, I thought they'd be concentrating more on the game. So I had to quickly admonish them about not thinking about the game, but it was lovely." - Western Bulldogs coach Nathan Burke
"(Our season is still) more than alive. The challenge in this comp is we've got lots of teams like us who are trying to beat each other. Gold Coast, Geelong, West Coast and probably the Bulldogs and Carlton are a rung above that trying to get into the top six and we're trying to be competitive with the top six. On any day we can be competitive with anyone and we can beat anyone. But obviously in our development with where we are at, we've got to work hard for every goal and every win." - Richmond coach Ryan Ferguson
Richmond will look to snap a four-game losing streak when it hosts North Melbourne at the Swinburne Centre next Saturday, while the Western Bulldogs will travel to South Australia to meet Adelaide at Norwood Oval.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.2 2.2 4.6 4.6 (30)
RICHMOND 0.2 1.3 1.5 1.7 (13)
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Moody, Morris-Dalton, Toogood
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Lamb, Toogood, Hunt, Grant, Brown
Richmond: Conti, J. Hosking, Shevlin, Brennan
Western Bulldogs: Nil
Richmond: McClelland (ankle), Burchall (knee)
Western Bulldogs: Nil
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