Bulldogs can play AFL finals: Hardwick

Damien Hardwick believes the Western Bulldogs are AFL finals contenders after seeing his Richmond side cleaned up by the Dogs at the MCG.

Bulldogs fans are rapidly resetting their expectations for season 2015 after dispatching the Eagles and Tigers – the first time they’ve won their first two matches of the season in nine years.

And it’s not just the victories that make the Bulldogs the surprise story of the season so far.

It’s the manner in which they’ve won.

Luke Beveridge’s side were ferocious in their attack on the ball on Saturday, ripping the Tigers apart with a relentless tackling approach.

Hardwick saw enough in four quarters to know the Bulldogs’ trajectory.

“Their pressure around the contest (and) their ability to score inside 50 was very good,” he said.

“All credit to a young side that’s on the way up, they’re terrific and are going to well and truly challenge for the bottom end of the eight.”

Tigers coach Hardwick said one stat jumped out at him to help explain their 19-point loss.

“Loose ball gets inside 50 are gold … we had three, they had 16.”

After singing the club song for the second time in as many games as coach, Beveridge said his side would only improve after doubling down on their round one win.

“Backing up is crucial to establish a foothold … it’s like we’re in experimental mode,” he said.

“We’re on this journey where there’s so much change – personnel, strategy, different systems,”

“Every time you get a good result, it increases the buy-in, the belief and you can grow it.

“There’s a lot to be gained out of winning two in a row.”

The crowd of 49,945 is the biggest home and away crowd the Bulldogs have won in front of for a decade.

Just Matthew Boyd and Bob Murphy have tasted victory with such a big attendance, with Beveridge suggesting it was significant.

“I mentioned to the players there could be 60,000 … and they were a bit startled by that,” he said.

“That’s a really important day out for them, to play in front of so many.”

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