Three things to take from the Bulldogs’ 71-point win over Port Adelaide in the Preliminary Final on Saturday night.
1. Contested beasts
In all the pre-game statistical analysis in the lead-up to the Preliminary Final, there was one which told the tale of where the game was to be won and lost.
Over the past two years, Port Adelaide had won just about every game they played when they’ve won the contested possession count.
They came up against a Bulldogs team which prides itself on winning the hard ball inside, which ignites its running game on the outside.
In the first quarter alone, the Dogs were 23 ahead in the contested possessions, and 37 points up on the scoreboard.
By game’s end they were 30 in front in that all-important statistic, and they had booked their place in the big dance.
2. Macrae the magnet
It’s no secret that Jack Macrae knows how to find the football.
Now, it’s official; Macrae has become the highest possession winner in a single season since records were kept on such things.
His 36 touches in the Preliminary Final took him to 854 for the season, moving past the previous record set by Tom Mitchell (848) in 2018.
Macrae’s previous best tally was in 2019, where he racked up 767 disposals.
He has played every game for the Bulldogs this season, and dipped below 30 possessions only twice, with a season low of 25.
He has amassed 40 or more touches in three games this season, including 41 each against West Coast (Round 2) and St Kilda (Round 10).
3. Let’s talk about ‘Baz’
It’s some finals series this 20-year-old star is putting together.
We thought last week’s Semi Final performance was decent, but Bailey Smith backed that up – and then some – against the Power on Saturday night.
Four goals (the most he’s kicked in an AFL game), 23 disposals, nine score involvements and six inside 50s is pure match-winning stuff.
For a kid playing in his first Preliminary Final, it’s an extraordinary feat.
Smith has now kicked eight goals in three finals and averages 23 touches. You just know he’s not finished yet.