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Can the Dogs repeat their 2016 heroics this year?

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Langy new author
Roar Rookie
26th July, 2022
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The race for the AFL’s eighth spot has been a much talked about story following this year’s bye rounds, but what if the Western Bulldogs weren’t only planning a late finals surge, but in fact a 2016 repeat?

The Bulldogs have been the epitome of inconsistent, their best football is capable of beating anyone but finding their best has at times been a challenge.

This season, the 2021 runners-up haven’t sat any higher than their current ladder position (eighth), but they’ve shown before, the double chance isn’t something they necessarily rely on.

While it will still take a mountain of an effort for the boys from Footscray to qualify for the up-coming finals series, teams inside the top eight will fear running into the Dogs after last Saturday night’s crucial win over the second-placed Demons.

In 2016, the story often told is how the stars aligned during the pre-finals bye week when in fact the Bulldogs started their run of form four weeks out from finals, much like we could currently be seeing.

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The Bulldogs went 3-1 in the final four games of 2016 after an up and down season a record they’ll again have to replicate this year, and while this season’s bye won’t bring back the likes of Tom Liberatore, Jack McCrae and Jake Stringer; the Dogs seem to have regained the AFL’s best player the past two weeks and much more.

Marcus Bontempelli no doubt holds a huge key to the Bulldog’s success, and whether it’s due to injuries or just bad form, this year he hasn’t been able to match his form from 2021, that was until Round 18.

The Dogs skipper did a number on St Kilda under the Friday night lights, racking up 34 disposals and booting two majors, a performance he swiftly followed up with a 26 disposals, one goal and a nine tackle effort against Melbourne.

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The skipper’s form has been matched by the man many believe will be Max Gawn’s successor as the number one ruckman in the league, Tim English.

No longer is English the young lanky kid who gets pushed around, he is now not only a strong tap ruckman, but his work around the ground and versatility to go down forward and hit the scoreboard has proven to be match winning and keeping him on the park for the remainder of the season is a must for the Bulldog’s success.

Add in the evolution of Jamarra Ugle-Hagan, the recent addition of Josh Bruce back into the Dog’s forward line then possibly the only thing standing in the Bulldogs way of a premiership tilt is its at times shaky defence.

The run home includes a tough fortnight, firstly heading down the highway to take on the ladder-leading Geelong at GMHBA Stadium then back at Marvel Stadium to take on the fifth placed Fremantle.

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To make the eight it looks as though the Bulldogs will have to defeat at least one of those two as well as take care of GWS and Hawthorne in their final two fixtures, but many experts are tipping the Dogs to knock off Freo in round 21 and role into September full of confidence.

Was it the Bulldog’s plan to scrape into the 2022 finals series, I highly doubt it but with no other option remaining, the Dogs will again look to take the hard route towards a premiership and add to the club’s two premierships.

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