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Pre-season switch pays off for Dale

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge's snap decision to send Bailey Dale to half-back under the warm February sun could hardly have panned out much better.

Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge's snap decision to send Bailey Dale to half-back under the warm February sun could hardly have panned out much better.

Dale endured a difficult 2020 campaign, floating in and out of the Dogs' best team for just nine games as he struggled to find a position to call his own.

Beveridge experimented by switching Dale to defence for the final quarter of a pre-season practice match against Hawthorn this year, and the move paid immediate dividends.

Six months later, the 25-year-old is a Therabody AFL All-Australian with his sights firmly set on a premiership.

"Bevo whacked me down there and the next week against Melbourne he stuck with me, and it sort of just flowed on from there," Dale recalled as he prepared for Saturday night's semi-final showdown with the Brisbane Lions.

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"We had a little chat prior to that about where I was at and where I would be playing this year.

"He sort of said half-forward and wing again, but if the opportunity arises we might try something different.

"It did and it's been a good change. I'm happy that I got the opportunity to go down there and give it a crack and made a good impression."

Dale's growth this season has been a big win for the Bulldogs and Beveridge as the coach attempts to lead his evolving group back to the top, five years after the famous 2016 premiership.

Dale was a second-year player and featured in Footscray's VFL flag that year, but will be one of the first picked against Brisbane this week.

"I don't think there's been any secret (to his rapid rise this season)," Dale said.

"Last year was a bit of a tough year so I just tried to have a really good pre-season and hoped to put together some consistent football, which I have.

"Going down back has really helped my skill set and what I can do with the footy.

04:13 Mins
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"The change of position and being able to use my skills a bit more has been the biggest thing."

Dale averaged more than a goal per game prior to 2021, kicking 60 majors in 59 appearances.

A run of 20 goals in six matches towards the end of 2019 was rewarded with a new three-year contract through to the end of 2022.

Dale said that time spent in attack had ultimately helped him hone his defensive craft.

"As a forward you always love space and if you don't get that it's very hard to have an influence, so I try to be on my man," he said.

"When the opportunity arises to run off that's when I have to go."

Dale: We’re confident in our group

Western Bulldogs defender Bailey Dale says the team is confident they have the right mix to combat Brisbane in Saturday’s semi final at the Gabba.
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