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Season preview: Can plucky Dogs push for a finals berth?

AFL Media’s Brandon Cohen takes a closer look at the Bulldogs ahead of the 2022 NAB AFLW season.

Club: Western Bulldogs

Coach: Nathan Burke

Captain: Ellie Blackburn

2021 best and fairest: Ellie Blackburn

2021 in a nutshell: The Bulldogs were one of the competition’s big improvers last season, holding a spot in the top six for much of the year before fading late to finish eighth with five wins and four losses. Captain Ellie Blackburn was superb early, leading the AFLW Best and Fairest count after round four. Wins over Carlton and Melbourne were big ticks but a 56-point thrashing by Adelaide in round eight ended the Dogs' finals hopes.

Full squad: Deanna Berry, Elle Bennetts, Ellie Blackburn, Eleanor Brown, Richelle Cranston, Alice Edmonds, Naomi Ferres, Jess Fitzgerald, Ellyse Gamble, Elisabeth Georgostathis, Isabella Grant, Ashleigh Guest, Britney Gutknecht, Sarah Hartwig, Bailey Hunt, Isabel Huntington, Gemma Lagioia, Kirsty Lamb, Amanda Ling, Brooke Lochland, Katie Lynch, Kirsten McLeod, Celine Moody, Nell Morris-Dalton, Isabella Pritchard, Hannah Scott, Aurora Smith, Elizabeth Snell, Annabel Strahan, Bonnie Toogood

Recruits: Elle Bennetts (GWS), Richelle Cranston (delisted free agent, Geelong), Alice Edmonds (replacement player, formerly Richmond)

Draftees: Amanda Ling, Aurora Smith, Elizabeth Snell

Inactive: Gabby Newton (shoulder)

Out: Ange Gogos, Lauren Spark, Amelia Van Oosterwijck (retired), Katy Herron, Danielle Marshall, Kim Rennie (delisted)

2022 opponents: Melbourne (H), Geelong (A), Carlton (H), Greater Western Sydney (A), Richmond (H), Adelaide (A), Gold Coast (H), Collingwood (A), Fremantle (H)

Circle it: It comes no bigger than a blockbuster round one clash under lights against Melbourne at Whitten Oval. The two clubs will vie for the Hampson-Hardeman Cup, which is currently held by the Dogs, although the Demons have a 7-4 overall winning record between the teams.

Player to watch: Midfielder Jess Fitzgerald will look to build on an excellent debut season in which she earned a NAB AFLW Rising Star nomination and selection in the AFLPA's 22under22 team. Averaging just over 10 disposals and kicking five goals in 2021, the former No.2 pick has all the attributes to become a vital part of Nathan Burke's side.

Best NAB AFLW Rising Star chances: Amanda Ling, Sarah Hartwig

2022 prediction: The loss of Gabby Newton for the season after a dual shoulder reconstruction is a massive blow, while a difficult draw means finals will be a tough proposition. The Dogs are more than capable of pushing the top sides and If they can bank another five wins – as they did in 2021 – then this year should be considered a success. But with Ellie Blackburn at the peak of her powers and a host of young talent including Izzy Huntington, Jess Fitzgerald and Issy Grant at their disposal, there's plenty of room for optimism in seasons to come.



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Western Bulldogs acknowledge that we reside on traditional lands of the Kulin Nation. We offer our respect to the Elders of these traditional lands, and through them to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples past, present and emerging.