The Western Bulldogs have made sure they will be playing in the AFL finals instead of Melbourne following a 30-point win over Fremantle in Cairns.
- The Bulldogs will finish in either seventh or eighth spot on the ladder, depending on the result of Collingwood’s match against Port Adelaide
- The Demons had needed the Dockers to defeat the Bulldogs to make the finals
- The Bulldogs did not come through the Dockers match unscathed, with Aaron Naughton and Mitch Wallis sustaining injuries
The Bulldogs’ 11.8 (74) to 6.8 (44) victory on Sunday night saw Luke Beveridge’s side snap up the last remaining finals berth at the expense of the Demons.
The Demons had given themselves hope of making the finals when they beat the Bombers on the Gold Coast on Saturday to provisionally move into the top eight prior to the Bulldogs-Dockers clash.
The Bulldogs finished the home-and-away season on 36 points, four ahead of the Demons.
The win over the Dockers means the Bulldogs will finish either seventh or eighth, with their final position depending on Collingwood’s encounter with Port Adelaide on Monday.
But the victory could come at a major cost, with forwards Aaron Naughton (face) and Mitch Wallis (shoulder) sustaining injuries.
The Bulldogs slipped to ninth following the Demons’ win on Saturday, meaning they needed a draw or a win against the Dockers to claw their way back into the top eight.
The Demons were hoping for a Fremantle upset, and the Bulldogs seemed in danger after star forward Naughton went to hospital at half-time for scans on his face.
Naughton immediately clutched his face after a clash of heads with Sean Darcy during a clumsy shepherd from the Fremantle ruckman in the second quarter.
If Naughton has suffered a facial fracture and is ruled out of the start of the finals, it would be a huge blow to the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs are also sweating on the fitness of Wallis, who went off late in the match with what appeared to be a shoulder injury.
Midfielder Lachie Hunter was prolific for the Bulldogs with 34 disposals and a goal, while ruckman Tim English booted two goals and handed off another.
Dockers skipper Nat Fyfe battled hard to finish with 23 disposals, six clearances and two goals in a losing effort.
The first term was a scrappy affair as both sides committed inexplicable turnovers.
Fyfe added some polish in the second quarter with two goals, including a 60-metre bomb.
But the Bulldogs took control despite kicking against the breeze, booting five goals in the second term to take a 12-point lead into half-time.
The stutter-step run-up of Rory Lobb came to the fore again, with the Dockers big man missing a 20-metre set shot from straight in front.
The Bulldogs dominated field position in the second half, but it was not until the final term when they got true reward for their efforts.