Skip to main content

The Western Bulldogs were the ultimate underdog story of 2016. Five years later, they are returning to the Grand Final stage much more than a dark horse.

Much like they did in their drought triumph in 2016, the Dogs have defied the odds so far, coming in from outside the top four and winning three straight finals to advance to Saturday’s deciding game. evening against the Demons.

Eight players from the 2016 Bulldogs triumph are looking for a second flag: Marcus Bontempelli, Daniel Caleb, Josh dunkley, Lachie Hunter, Jason johannisen, Tom Liberator, Jack macrae and Easton Wood.

Watch Fox Footy’s massive lineup of Weekly Grand Final coverage on Kayo, including live pre-match, half-time and post-match coverage with full top-team analysis of the sector. New to Kayo? Try 14 days for free>

But the emergence of several other players – added to the roster before and after the 2016 triumph – helped the Bulldogs return to the big September stage. Bailey dale (Choose 45, 2014) and Bailey williams (Pick 48, 2015) missed out on premier fame five years ago, but are now walk-in starters in the Bulldogs’ baseline.

And regardless of Saturday’s outcome, two-time Prime Minister Kangaroo David King believes the Bulldogs’ promising roster has the potential to push for several more prime minister positions.

“You would look at the way they’ve drafted the last few years and think there are more to come. There is a dynasty available here, ”King told Fox Footy.

The Bulldogs could win a second flag in five years. Photo: James ElsbySource: Getty Images

“Since we haven’t seen (a lot of) Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and (father-son perspective) Sam darcy is the rookie of the boom that’s going to come at the end of this campaign, so they have some top talent that will only make them better.

“(He’s) the center forward, which we haven’t really said about the Dogs in years.” works through how the Bulldogs reshaped a roster that could offer the club their second piece of silverware in 67 years. In many ways, this mirrors Melbourne’s roster building, using the project to build a foundation before completing with some nifty moves at the trading table and in free agency.



Fresh off their flag victory, the Bulldogs remained active in trying to improve their roster for the following season, adding the veteran Collingwood Travis Cloke and defender of Sydney Michael talia. However, the two had little impact at Whitten Oval, raking in 11 games at the club.

But it was the draft where the Bulldogs really capitalized, catching Tim English with Pick 19. After struggling to make his way as a No.1 ruckman, the Englishman has found his niche playing primarily as a key forward / back-up ruckman, scoring 19 career goals in 2021.

The Dogs completed their 2016 National Draft by adding Patrick Lipinski (Choose 28) and Young Lewis (Pick 49), both of whom have provided depth this season. Although Lipinski seems ready to ask Collingwood or Carlton for a trade for more regular senior opportunities.


The Dogs sensationally fell into the top-eight a year after winning the flag, finishing 10th as their roster underwent significant changes at the end of the season, with the departure of Cloke, Matthew Boyd, Robert Murphy and Jake Stringer. .

Hold vs. Roll – Man Spare the Key? | 02:49

They acquired the old Pick 2 Josh schache of the Brisbane Lions, who struggled to carve out a top 22 spot in his early years but turned his career upside down over the past month, including stopping Power star defender Aliir Aliir in the preliminary final.

The Bulldogs have also landed Hayden crozier in a Fremantle case. He reinvigorated himself as a defenseman with the Dogs, but fell out of favor in 2021 amid an injury-ridden season.

But once again, the Bulldogs nailed their writing, adding Aaron Naughton (Choose 9), Ed richards (Choose 16) and Roarke smith (recruit project).

Naughton might be the most essential piece of their premier puzzle. He scored 46 career goals in 2021 and took the most contested ratings in the competition (average 2.7 per game) to become a true star.


The Dogs slipped further down the ladder in 2018, finishing 13th as several other senior players left: Luke Dahlhaus, Jordan Roughead, Shane Biggs, Clay Smith and Marcus Adams.

they acquired Taylor Duryea Hawthorn in exchange for a fourth-round pick. Three years later and double premier Hawk has become a key member of Luke Beveridge’s full six.

Bailey Smith of the Bulldogs. Photo: Daniel KaliszSource: Getty Images

In the draft, the Dogs would nail another first draft pick, taking Bailey smith with the seventh overall selection amid a crop of budding stars including Sam Walsh, Max King and Ben King.

Smith took his game to new heights in a dominating finals series, averaging 23.3 eliminations and eight goals in three games that included several clutch moments. If the Dogs lift the cup on Saturday night, you feel like Smith would’ve had a big part to play based on what he’s produced in those playoffs.

The Dogs also got a father-son perspective Rhylee West (Choose 26), Laitham Vandermeer (Selection 37) and Jordan Sweet (rookie project) in the same offseason.


The new-look Dogs climbed back into the top eight in 2019, but were knocked out by the Giants in Week 1 of the Finals. Then other top players moved on to Dale Morris, Tom Boyd, Liam Picken and Fletcher Roberts.

This time, the Dogs were the most active at the exchange table, handing over draft picks in exchange for a duo of key positions Alex keath (Adelaide) and Josh bruce (St Kilda), who helped anchor the back line and the front line, respectively.

dogs abandon Ryan Gardner for the grand finale | 01:25

Bruce had a career-best 48-goal season before an ACL injury in Round 21 ended his campaign prematurely and left a major void forward.

Dogs also picked up Ryan gardner upon return from the mid-season draft. The key defender has played a key role in the club’s backline for the past few seasons but was an unlucky omission for the squad in Saturday’s Grand Final, first reported by

Despite a clear shift towards adding mature talent from rival clubs, the Dogs also got Cody Weightman with Pick 15 in the national draft. The small forward scored four goals in his final victory over Essendon and was a priority inclusion for the Grand Final squad after being declared fit to come back from a concussion.


After another exit from the Week 1 Finals, the Dogs were the main beneficiaries of the Next Generation Academy program, matching a Pick 1 offer on Jamarra Ugle-Hagan.

As the Dogs had to trade mass draft picks in order to match Adelaide’s offer and secure Ugle-Hagan, the key forward was the club’s only notable domestic draft selection.

Lyon, Grant dreams of a role in the Grand Final | 01:07

Despite the scramble for points in the bank to tie an offer on Ugle-Hagan, the Dogs were still very active at the trading table, completing with ruckman Stephane Martin, cheeky Mitch hannan, and especially, Adam treloar. The old Magpie’s story has been well documented after she was notoriously offloaded from Collingwood in an imbalanced trade to clear the wage cap space.

Treloar, Martin and Hannan have all played a key role for the Dogs this year in helping the club to the next level as a true flag contender.

The Dogs also used the extra preseason selection period to select Anthony Scott, who could have a prime minister’s medallion around his neck on Saturday if he is appointed medical non-commissioned officer,

And with that, the Dogs formed a roster that led him to a grand final. And that could be the first of many in the short term.