I wouldn’t have been the only one at the start of the season when working out my top eight to have the Western Bulldogs sitting somewhere outside and looking in.
Let’s face it. The Dogs were coming off a 14th-place finish last season, marginally better than the pair of 15ths in 2013 and 2012.
And the off-season had not been kind to them as there appeared to be a mass exodus of their experienced players, with captain Ryan Griffen, Brownlow winner Adam Cooney, and Shaun Higgins all leaving the club.
At best you might have considered them as fringe top eight team, one of those sides who would finish somewhere between seventh and 12th.
But, with Saturday’s thumping win over Port Adelaide, coupled with yet another loss from the Sydney Swans, the Dogs have surged not into the eight, but the top four.
It’s hardly surprising prospective coach of the year Luke Beveridge is trying to keep a lid on things, saying after the win: “I think until we’re a mathematical certainty to play, I just won’t acknowledge that we’ve made finals or talk about it, because we’ve seen a lot of examples of teams that have been in position and then it just goes pear-shaped. You guard against that and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
I’m not sure that lid will stay in place much longer Luke.
Amid all the Adam Goodes drama in recent weeks, a caller phoned into Sky Sports Radio’s Big Sports Breakfast and told the presenters that everyone was missing the really big story in AFL – the Western Bulldogs and the way they were playing their football.
He was right.
Whether they can finish in the top four is debatable. Their final four matches are against Melbourne, the West Coast, North Melbourne and Brisbane. They should be able to get enough out of that quartet to play finals’ footy for the first time since 2010, but looking at their top four challengers, it’s going to be tough for the Dogs to hold onto the double chance.
The Swans have Collingwood, the Giants, the Gold Coast, and St Kilda, and, if they get their mojo back, they should win all four.
Richmond, another last start loser, meet the Gold Coast, Collingwood, Essendon and North. If they get back into the form they showed against Hawthorn, then they can win all four and push for the top four.
Ironically the Dogs have beaten both the Swans and Tigers in 2015, as well at the Eagles.
They were again outstanding against Port.
Their forwards, Jake Stringer, Tory Dickson, Stewart Crameri, Jack Redpath, Luke Dahlhaus and Caleb Daniel were all constant problems for the Port defence.
Down back the ever reliable Matthew Boyd and Easton Wood were great, and their mids were at times exceptional, led by Mitch Wallis who was best on ground, Marcus Bontempelli, Jackson Macrae and Liam Picken.
And all this with captain Robert Murphy rested.
The Dogs play like you play when you’re a kid in the park. Full of enthusiasm, with no pressure and enjoying it. It’s working for them, and that radio caller was right.
I reckon they are the best story out of the AFL right now.
Every Dog has its day, here’s hoping these Dogs have a few more good days to come in the 2015 season.