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The Fightback 30: Moment 3

Match Highlights: Bulldogs v Giants (PF) Watch highlights of the Bulldogs' thrilling preliminary final win over the GWS Giants.

To celebrate the 30-year anniversary of the famous Footscray Fightback campaign of 1989, Bulldogs fans have voted on the most significant moments for the Club over the last 30 years.

Today, westernbulldogs.com.au reveals moment 3.

The Bulldogs will take on Melbourne in Round 17 on a day dedicated to the Fightback – a time which saw an extraordinary fan uprising save the Club from a merger with Fitzroy. 

On July 14, Footscray will take on Casey in the VFL, followed by the AFL game at Marvel Stadium.

VIEW THE ORIGINAL LIST OF 30 MOMENTS

3. AFL 2016 Preliminary Final win

It might be hard for anyone other than a Western Bulldogs fan to understand that a Preliminary Final win could be viewed as important as — and for some, even more important than — a Grand Final victory. But that's exactly how many Doggies' fans felt about the result of the match played at the Sydney Showground on September 24, 2016. 

In foreign territory, the Western Bulldogs managed to do what those before had failed seven times in a row to achieve — win a Preliminary Final. Six of those losses had come since the Club had been saved in 1989, two as heartbreaking as they come.

Under Mick Malthouse in 1985 the Dogs came within a whisker of claiming a place in the Grand Final, only for a late Hawthorn charge to see them miss out by 10 points. It was a testament to club and coach Terry Wheeler that the Bulldogs made it back to a Preliminary Final in 1992, just three years after the Fightback campaign, but Footscray fell well short of Geelong that day.

VISIT THE BULLDOGS FIGHTBACK WEB HUB

Five years later, a new era had begun for the club. The newly named Western Bulldogs made it to a 'Prelim' in the first year of Terry Wallace's coaching stint. But fate conspired against the Dogs and after leading by 22 points going into the final term, they were pipped at the post by the Crows, the final margin two heartbreaking points. A year later the Crows won in the corresponding match by a crushing 68 points.

Under Rodney Eade, the Bulldogs made it to three more Preliminary Finals. Again, they came up short. Outclassed by Geelong in 2008 and St Kilda in 2010, it was the 2009 loss that stung the most. Leading early in the final quarter, as they had in 1997, the Dogs succumbed to two late Saints goals, plunged into despair as they once more fell agonisingly short of a Grand Final berth. 

Seven Preliminary Finals; seven losses. No wonder Doggies' fans went into Preliminary Final week in 2016 with trepidation!

This trepidation was countered, though, by the fact that the 2016 Dogs had already broken through barriers not previously breached. Defeating West Coast gave the Club its first ever win in an interstate final. Another win against Hawthorn gave the Bulldogs consecutive finals victories, something not achieved since 1961.

A convoy of excited, expectant, nervous Bulldog fans made the trip up the Hume Highway for the match against the GWS Giants in Sydney's west. Their hearts were filled with extra cheer when coach Luke Beveridge shouted them breakfast as they stopped for a rest. 

BUY TICKETS: WESTERN BULLDOGS V MELBOURNE

The game itself was a 'cracker'. Over four excruciating quarters, neither side gave an inch. The Dogs would edge clear, only for the Giants to claw back and take the lead. Bodies slammed into each other, each side suffering casualties. Jordan Roughead's night came to an early end with an accidental poke to the eye. Up stepped Tom Boyd to shoulder the ruck duties for the rest of the match. He did so magnificently. Clay Smith played the game of his life, kicking four first-half goals. Bontempelli, Macrae, Johannisen — every Bulldog stepped up when the moment demanded they do so.

Despite all their efforts, the Dogs still found themselves 14 points behind five minutes into the final term. For every Bulldog fan it was impossible not to conjure thoughts of an eighth Preliminary Final loss.

The players' minds were focussed not on the past, though, but on forging their own place in history. Every player lifted again. Goals to Dickson, Bontempelli (after a scintillating 'JJ' burst) and Zaine Cordy had the Bulldogs heading into time on with a seven-point lead. A goal to Giant Jonathon Patton cut the margin to one. The game was on a knife's edge. Some fans could not bear to watch. 

SAVING THE DOGS: THE IRENE CHATFIELD STORY

With three minutes to go, two herculean efforts from Tom Liberatore saw the ball land in the arms of Jack Macrae inside the Dogs' forward 50. Macrae had not kicked a goal since Round 1, but with nerves of steel he put the Bulldogs ahead by a goal.

Time enough remained, though and a behind to Devon Smith brought the Giants to within five points. Libba and Macrae combined again, this time with Tom Boyd, to deliver the ball to Jake Stringer running along the boundary line. The 'Package' coolly squared the ball to Tory Dickson, who soaked up the final 30 seconds before hitting the post with the final kick of the match.

Dickson's miss mattered not. The Western Bulldogs had won by six points and were into their first AFL Grand Final in 55 years.

History shows the Dogs went one better the following week to break a premiership drought that had stood more than six decades. But for so many fans, it was the Preliminary Final victory win that truly marked the return of the Western Bulldogs as a force.
And not one of them will ever forget it.

THE FIGHTBACK 30 SO FAR:
MOMENT 4
MOMENT 5
MOMENT 6
MOMENT 7
MOMENT 8
MOMENT 9
MOMENT 10
MOMENTS 11-15
MOMENTS 16-20
MOMENTS 21-25
MOMENTS 26-30