The Western Bulldogs have surged into the top eight but they have their work cut out for them if they want to stay there.
While the Western Bulldogs didn’t walk onto Optus Stadium aiming for a 100-point win over West Coast on Saturday night, coach Luke Beveridge said the need for a big victory was simmering away in the background.
The Bulldogs face the tough second half of the season.
And while three consecutive wins and a massive percentage booster against the Eagles has catapulted the Bulldogs into the top eight, they have their work cut out for them to stay there.
Seven of the Dogs’ remaining games are against teams above them on the ladder, including two against Geelong.
That’s the ‘reward’ for playing in the grand final.
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They get to play the Eagles just once, while Fremantle, the Gold Coast, Richmond, Geelong and Adelaide play them twice each. The Cats and Suns schedules also include two games against the 17th placed Kangaroos.
The Dogs have four games remaining against sides below them on the table, two apiece against the unpredictable Greater Western Sydney and Hawthorn.
As Beveridge points out though, the travel schedule is just as daunting as the teams they still have to play, so picking up that 101-point win in Perth helps.
“There’s a competitor in us all that doesn’t show the opposition any mercy when you’ve got an opportunity to have a big win,” he said.
“One thing I don’t preach and we don’t focus on necessarily is the outcome. It’s talking about the core of what you do and the essentials to give you the opportunity to win games.
“Whatever falls out of that falls out.
“When the Eagles have recently been losing by on average 70 points, you know that other teams have probably had an opportunity and taken it.
“We didn’t talk about it, but it was in the background, there’s no doubt.
“So now with what’s coming up, I don’t anticipate anything there’s going to be to us obviously, but any time you can get a little bit of a margin it always gives you a chance. Every little bit counts.
“We’ve got a pretty heavy schedule coming up, so it’s good for us to get ahead of the ledger.
“In the next 11 games, six of them are made up against three opponents, but there’s a lot of travel. “We go to Brisbane, we go to Tassie, we got to Sydney, twice.
“We’re playing most of the teams that are in the eight, and we’ve still got to play the Saints, we’ve still got to play Carlton again, Melbourne again, on top of those other six sides.
“So, there’s big challenges up ahead.”
The Bulldogs got through the big win over West Coast unscathed, the only concern a jarred wrist for key forward Aaron Naughton.
Ruckman Tim English and small forward Cody Weightman both got through after several weeks on the sidelines due to injury.
They manhandled the struggling Eagles. They had 31 more inside 50 entries and 21 more scoring shots, 28 more contested possessions and 10 more clearances.
The Dogs had 16 players kick goals, equaling the AFL’s record.
While the Dogs needed the big win, Beveridge backed Simpson, who he worked with at Hawthorn, to get the Eagles through this difficult stage.
“Ultimately, after the event you can’t help but feel for what the Eagles are going through, because they’ve obviously had a lot of injuries, but then the Covid situation and what’s transpired has really knocked the club around,” he said. .
“Simmo and I really bonded and he’s a confidante; I consider him a friend.
“It’s a matter of keeping his chin up and he’d do that naturally.
“The one thing about Simmo is he talks about unity but he acts it out. He unifies people and he’s a great leader. I’m sure the Eagles will be fine and Adam will be instrumental in leading them out of the current challenges they have.”
Originally published as Huge win crucial for Western Bulldogs ahead of tough end to season