Two goals apiece to star forward Izzy Huntington and rising star Jess Fitzgerald have propelled the Western Bulldogs to a third consecutive AFLW victory.
The Bulldogs defended bravely in the first half, before opening things up against Melbourne in the second half on their way to reclaiming the Hampson-Hardeman Cup with a 13-point win at VU Whitten Oval on Sunday afternoon.
Wins against the Demons, Cats and Blues over the past three weeks have seen the Bulldogs jump into the top six on the ladder.
The Bulldogs will have a chance to make it four in a row next Saturday against the GWS Giants at VU Whitten Oval, with the AFLW’s round five fixture announced at half time.
In a tough, physical contest, the Bulldogs’ withstood an onslaught of opposition inside-50s in the first half.
The visitors dominated general play, generating 21 inside-50s to four prior to the major break.
However, three of those four inside-50s for the Bulldogs resulted in scores – two of them goals.
Kirsten McLeod made the Dees pay for a number of missed opportunities in the first term, converting the first goal of the game after earning a free kick.
Dees star Karen Paxman found a reply soon after. But it was rising star Jess Fitzgerald who produced the second quarter’s only goal, as the Bulldogs took a one-point lead into half time.
A pair of Huntington goals in the third term – either side of a Melbourne goal – allowed the Bulldogs to extend their lead to five points at the final change.
And the Bulldogs made the game theirs in the final quarter.
Skipper Ellie Blackburn won a forward-half one-on-one before finishing calmly on the run, before Fitzgerald again showcased her class with a second – the match-winner.
Blackburn was the Bulldogs’ leading disposal-winner with 16, as the team shared the load.
Young guns Sarah Hartwig and Jess Fitzgerald had 13 and 12 disposals respectively, with Katie Lynch (12 disposals) a standout in defence and experienced heads Hannah Scott, Brooke Lochland, Kirsty Lamb and Ash Guest all collecting 12 disposals and having an impact around the ground.
WESTERN BULLDOGS 1.0 2.1 4.1 6.1 (37)
MELBOURNE 1.4 1.6 2.8 2.12 (24)
Western Bulldogs: Fitzgerald 2, Huntington 2, Blackburn, McLeod
Melbourne: Paxman, Scott
Western Bulldogs: Blackburn, Fitzgerald, Hartwig, Huntington, Scott
Melbourne: Paxman, Gay, Scott, Pearce, Lampard
Western Bulldogs: Moody (shoulder)
Crowd: 3180 at Victoria University Whitten Oval