Boasting sky-high confidence and a sense their luck has turned, the Western Bulldogs feel anything is possible in this AFL finals series.
The Bulldogs followed up last week’s upset elimination final win over West Coast with something even better on Friday night – a 24-point semi-final triumph that ended Hawthorn’s bid for a fourth-straight premiership.
They first rallied from 23 points down in the second quarter and then mauled the Hawks in the third term, making the league’s pacesetters look tired.
The ‘Dogs will be the outsiders again next Saturday when they meet the Giants at Spotless Stadium in a preliminary final.
In round nine, the Giants beat the Bulldogs at the same venue by 25 points.
And no team has made the grand final from outside the top four in the current top-eight format
But the odds and history mean nothing to coach Luke Beveridge and his players.
Everyone’s second-favourite team is now riding a finals wave as they try to win only the second premiership in club history.
“We don’t have a great deal of experience with these situations, but everyone has been ice-cold and managed themselves superbly,” Beveridge said.
“You can never be intimidated when you have a group who keep aspiring to ge the most out of yourselves.
“You just feel that this group of players can do anything.”
Beveridge also noted that after a season blighted by rotten injury luck, their fortunes appear to be turning.
“We may have timed our run with our health okay,” he said.
“There are a lot of superstitious people around, but I did tongue-in-cheek say that it appears as though all 22 players got through the game reasonably healthy.
“That’s a great sign.
“There hasn’t been a negative vibe at any point in the year, no matter what they’ve been up against – now we’re in good nick.”
Beveridge feels they are using the ball better and that, combined with their team defence and rock-solid work around the stoppages, makes them a very tough proposition.
He discounted the significance of Bulldogs key forward Tom Boyd and Giants veteran Ryan Griffen, who play in a preliminary final two years after they swapped clubs in a massive trade.
“I don’t think much about that – Tom might and Ryan might, there’s no doubt,” Beveridge said.
“But I don’t think it will enter into our mindset too much.”
Beveridge, a former Hawthorn assistant coach, admitted to conflicting emotions about Friday’s famous win.
Hawks coach Alastair Clarkson went into the Bulldogs rooms post-match to wish Beveridge all the best.
“It is a little bit different, beating the Hawks – I have so much admiration and respect for everyone over there,” he said.
“But you can imagine how I feel about our football club and how much I admire what everyone has done.
“We’re still not there yet, but we’re on the right track.