Western Bulldogs coach Luke Beveridge says dealing with the rising tide of public expectations will be a challenge for his resurgent side following a thrilling four-point win over Sydney at the SCG.
The Bulldogs followed up last week’s flogging of previously undefeated Adelaide by overcoming a late Sydney surge to record an 11.11 (77) to 10.13 (73) AFL win at the SCG on Saturday.
It broke a six-game losing streak against he Swans and was their first triumph at the SCG in six years and four attempts.
Desperate defending was a highlight of their play in wet conditions.
They conceded the first 13 points of the contest, with the recalled Adam Goodes and Lance Franklin kicking early goals
As the rain intensified, so did the Bulldogs’ efforts, as they kicked 6.3 to 0.6 either side of the first break, to lead by 21 points.
Sydney’s profligacy in that period proved costly and the Bulldogs led by between 11 and 14 at each change and resisted brief Swans surges in each of the last three quarters.
The win will inevitably generate more chatter about a potential first finals appearance in five years.
“There’s no doubt the players’ expectations will raise, because that’s an enormous win for our boys today,” Beveridge said.
He conceded it might be even harder to deal with external expectations.
“That’s probably going to be a bit of a challenge,” Beveridge said.
“I suppose we just need to make sure that we stay composed and only take care of the things that we can control.
“The public have expressed that they are rapt the way the Doggies are going and that’s brilliant.
“I know I said a while ago that circumstantially because you are at the bottom of the ladder you can be everyone’s second team.
“But I think it’s great that maybe we’ve struck a chord with everyone and the way our players are playing, the young and experienced players, maybe we can feed off that a little bit.”
He said the most pleasing aspect of their 4-1 start was winning games against West Coast, Richmond and Sydney, after each of those was in the balance.
Sydney coach John Longmire lamented critical errors that led to some early Bulldogs goals and his team’s failure to capitalise on eight more first quarter inside 50 entries.
“We were 2.5 from 19 entries in the first quarter and they were able to kick some really easy ones from a couple of basic errors from us,” Longmire said.
“I thought that was where the game was lost.”
Midfielder Dan Hannebery and ruckman Mike Pike had mighty games for Sydney, notching 37 possessions and 59 hitouts respectively, while Franklin kicked three goals.