THE WESTERN Bulldogs are set to unleash former No.2 pick Jess Fitzgerald in a new role off half-back.

The 22-year-old Fitzgerald has spent her career to date in the midfield, averaging 15.4 disposals last year, but has struggled at times to have consistent impacts on matches.

A highly talented and smart player with a booming kick, the Dogs are hoping the new role will both generate some bounce out of defence for the side and give 40-gamer Fitzgerald a fresh challenge under new coach Tam Hyett.

Fitzgerald will be joining recruits Lauren Ahrens and Mua Laloifi, as well as young stalwarts Issy GrantNaomi Ferras and Elisabeth Georgostathis in the backline.

"'Fitzy', she's a huge talent that one. Very clean on the ground, but also, I think she hasn't hit her potential yet, so I'd love to help her drive out of that backline," Laloifi told

"Obviously I tried to push my case to go forward, every year I do, but no, I think I'll take a lot of experience from working alongside Kez (Peterson) at the Blues, she showed a lot of leadership in that backline, and I'm taking a lot of that through my playing career. 

"Now to come to the Bulldogs and play alongside Lauren, who's extremely athletic, but also get a chance to see how she plays and what she needs from me."


The Bulldogs finished last in 2023 after an injury-hit season where nothing went right.

All-Australian key defender Katie Lynch has effectively swapped spots at Gold Coast with Victorian Ahrens, who was keen to return home, while Millie Brown was delisted.

Tall Gabby Newton – who is now at Fremantle – also spent time at either end of the field as the Bulldogs desperately tried to stem the flow of goals, conceding an average of 59.5 points a match, a whisker better than Greater Western Sydney at 59.6.

The Bulldogs have a much healthier playing group than this time last year. While a few players are on managed loads, and Keely Coyne is still rehabbing her torn ACL, the side is in a much better position to get those crucial kilometres into their legs. 

Veteran Elle Bennetts – who ruptured her ACL in round one last year – is tracking well and will also provide some much-needed defensive structure (and height) from her wing role, while Laloifi will add five seasons of AFLW experience.

"For me this time around, is just to help build the confidence in the young defenders that are already established here at the Dogs," Laloifi said.

"That will warm up the ticker a bit, seeing these young kids develop in their own right and also build the confidence to take the game on. That's something you can ask as a mature player and a teammate, them giving 100 per cent, then what they need from me, I can show some support. 

"So go defenders, I'm a huge backline (fan), I could talk about backliners every day."