Continuing to reflect on the AFL season that was, we’ve collated our five best wins of 2021. In chronological order, here are some of our most memorable wins from this season.
Round 2 v West Coast
Home sweet home.
Playing in front of fans at Marvel Stadium for the first time in over 600 days, the Bulldogs turned around a 12-point deficit at the final break to record a gutsy come-from-behind win.
From Bailey Williams winning a 3v1 with just over a minute remaining, to Marcus Bontempelli’s goal which extended their lead to seven points, the final quarter alone was full of match-defining moments.
The skipper finished with three majors and 30 disposals, while Josh Bruce and Aaron Naughton both added a trio of goals each too. Jack Macrae collected 41 touches.
Round 3 v North Melbourne
This game was special, for more reasons than one.
First and foremost - there’s the privilege of playing on Good Friday, and being able to help raise much-needed funds for the Royal Children’s Hospital.
Then there was the match itself, which saw Josh Bruce bag 10 goals in the Bulldogs’ record-breaking 128-point triumph - the biggest winning margin in Club history.
Adam Treloar and Tim English added three goals each, while Josh Dunkley (33 disposals, five marks), Jack Macrae (33 disposals, seven clearances), Caleb Daniel (30 disposals) and Tom Liberatore (12 clearances, 10 inside 50s) led the stats sheets.
Round 9 v Port Adelaide
Despite having the odds stacked against them, the Bulldogs conquered one of the most difficult tasks in the AFL in round 9 – defeating Port Adelaide on their home deck.
The Power had won 10 of their last 11 games at Adelaide Oval heading into the match, and with the Bulldogs missing Lachie Hunter, Tim English and Josh Dunkley to name a few, plenty were quick to write them off.
But a four-goal haul from Aaron Naughton, plus a triple from Cody Weightman – in his first game for the season – helped the Dogs stun the hosts with a handy 19-point win on the road.
Jack Macrae continued his fine start to the year with another 32 possessions, while Tom Liberatore registered 12 clearances to go with his 27 touches. Marcus Bontempelli (26 disposals, two goals), Adam Treloar and Caleb Daniel (26 disposals apiece) were also impactful.
Round 19 v Melbourne
For the second time in the home-and-away season, the Bulldogs and Demons’ top-two clash was played in front of an empty stadium.
The Dees earned bragging rights in the earlier round 11 match, but on this occasion it was the Dogs who took the chocolates home, recording a gutsy 20-point triumph in slippery conditions.
Jack Macrae (38 touches, seven tackles), Caleb Daniel (34 touches, six marks) and Marcus Bontempelli (31 touches, six tackles, two goals) led the way on paper, while Josh Bruce, Mitch Hannan and Aaron Naughton all added two majors each.
There was also Cody Weightman’s mark of the year nomination, which saw him use Melbourne ruck Max Gawn as a step-ladder to clunk the footy at its highest point.
Semi-final v Brisbane
This win was one for the ages.
With a preliminary final spot up for grabs and neither side willing to admit defeat, this game went down to the absolute wire.
Bailey Smith’s miraculous left-foot running goal – followed by what quickly became his iconic ‘ice in his veins’ celebration – put the Bulldogs six points clear with under two minutes remaining.
But a quick response from the hosts saw scores level once again, with just over a minute left on the clock.
The match looked all but set to enter extra time, before a scrambled Laitham Vandermeer rushed behind and some desperate defending from Taylor Duryea - among many others - saw the Dogs hang on in a thrilling finish.
Round 6 v GWS
There’s nothing like beating one of your rivals to remain undefeated.
In chilly Canberra conditions, most of this match was an arm wrestle – with just a handful of points separating the two sides at various moments.
But after slotting just six goals across the first three quarters, the Bulldogs exploded in the last, adding nine majors to the Giant’s three to record a 39-point win, and their sixth straight triumph.
The win did come at a cost though, losing Lin Jong (hamstring) in the first quarter, and then Tim English (concussion) and Josh Dunkley (shoulder) late in the game.
Elimination final v Essendon
After dropping their last three games of the home and away season and falling outside the top four, the Bulldogs were under an immense amount of pressure heading into their do-or-die elimination final.
It was also only three weeks prior that the two sides had met in an empty Marvel Stadium, which saw the Dogs on the wrong end of a 13-point game.
But with everything on the line and a point to prove, the Bulldogs’ best was too strong for the Bombers – running out 49-point victors to record their first finals’ win since the drought-breaking 2016 flag.
Cody Weightman starred with four goals from 12 disposals, while Aaron Naughton finished with a triple, and Jack Macrae collected 36 touches in slippery conditions.
Preliminary Final v Port Adelaide
The Bulldogs steamrolled their way into the 2021 Grand Final with an astonishing 71-point triumph over Port Adelaide at Adelaide Oval.
Brushing off another week of extensive travel, quarantine restrictions and interruptions, the Dogs stunned their opposition with a dominant display, building a 58-point lead by half-time.
Slotting the first five goals of the game, the Bulldogs never looked back.
Bailey Smith continued his red-hot finals form, finishing with a career-high four goals to go with 23 disposals, while Jack Macrae (36 touches), Adam Treloar (23 touches, one goal) and Marcus Bontempelli (10 inside 50s, seven clearances) were impactful.