NATHAN Burke has revealed match-winner Ellie Blackburn nearly didn’t play against the Blues due to a health issue.
Blackburn kicked a late goal to put the Bulldogs in front in the dying minutes of the Western Bulldogs' match against Carlton on Friday night.
Burke stopped short of revealing the nature of Blackburn’s ailment, but said Blackburn pulled up poorly after flying to and from Perth during round nine.
"I'm not going to go into it but you guys don't know the issues that she's had on a physical level over the last couple of weeks that she's been dealing with," Burke said of Blackburn post game.
"The particular condition isn't helped by flying, and we flew to Perth and back last week.
"I honestly didn't think she was going to play today, so from not being able to play today and not training throughout the whole week, and then to come out and do that, that's special."
The win guarantees the Bulldogs their first finals berth since 2018.
"You can't love a person or a footballer more than that," Burke said of Blackburn's match-saving effort.
"She's a leader in every sense of the word... She just wasn't going to be beaten today, and what she did was amazing.
"If you knew the backstory, ever since last night, I've been scheming in my head going 'how I can just nurse her through the game?'.
"So the idea was we play her forward for most of the game for really short stints on the ground and see what happens, and hopefully the scoreboard was in a way that would allow me do that but I just couldn't do it, I needed her in the middle and she delivered like she always does."