THE WESTERN Bulldogs have started their 2013 campaign in sensational fashion, thrashing NAB Cup premiers the Brisbane Lions by 68 points Etihad Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Brendan McCartney's unheralded side booted the first six goals of the game, then went on with the job, snapping an 11-game losing streak with a 19.13 (127) to 7.17 (59) victory.
It was the Dogs' first home and away season win since they beat Port Adelaide on June 17 last year.
"It was a really good performance, and footy club are very proud of our players today and I'm sure our supporters and our fans enjoyed what they saw," McCartney said.
"We know that we may play that and we mightn't be able to get the job done playing like that, because you might run into a club that's a lot more mature and just does things really well.
"But internally we felt that our younger players, in particular, were handling more training and were able to run further and they were recovering better.
"So we we've been confident for a while now that we've been teaching them the right things, and some of it worked well today, but there's still room for improvement."
Promoted rookie Brett Goodes made an outstanding debut. Roaming across half-back, the 29-year-old was instrumental as the Bulldogs opened a 37-point half-time lead.
He finished with 24 possessions and a disposal efficiency of 91 per cent.
Despite being without their skipper Matthew Boyd, who missed the game due to a calf injury, the Bulldogs dominated in the midfield, with new boys Koby Stevens and Nick Lower both playing crucial roles.
Stevens gathered 17 touches before he had to be subbed out of the game with hamstring soreness.
Lower did a brilliant tagging job on Daniel Rich, restricting the Lions star to just four possessions in the first half and only eight for the game.
Ryan Griffen, Tom Liberatore, Mitch Wallis and rejuvenated gun Adam Cooney were other important contributors.
Floating across half-forward then half-back, Cooney moved freely, won plenty of the ball and booted a long-range goal.
Daniel Giansiracusa and Shaun Higgins led the way up forward with three goals each, while Bob Murphy was among five players who chipped in with two.
Murphy's haul included a sensational banana kick from right on the boundary line early in the third quarter.
Down back, Jordan Roughead held Lions co-captain Jonathan Brown to one goal, while Dale Morris looked right at home in his first game since he suffered a broken leg late in the 2011 season.
It was a massive let down for the Lions, who looked set to be one of the competition's big improvers after they demolished Carlton in the NAB Cup Grand Final two weeks ago.
But Michael Voss' men were flat from the outset and were hurt by poor kicking for goal when they did get going.
"For us, you've got to give complete credit to how the Dogs went about it," Voss said.
"They kept us under pressure the whole night. It shows you that round one, the season itself, it's brutal and you can't take your eye off the ball.
"We've got to make sure that every contest we come to we're absolutely 100 per cent ready for, physically and mentally."
Midfielder Tom Rockliff led the way for the Lions on the stats sheet, while former Melbourne on-baller Brent Moloney also tried his best to turn things around.
However, Matt Maguire added to his team's woes when he had to be subbed out of the game midway through the third quarter after suffering an ankle injury.
The Lions will need to produce a much better showing when they play their first home game of the season against Adelaide at the Gabba next Saturday night.
Having been widely tipped to finish in the bottom four on the ladder, the Bulldogs will be aiming to deliver another blow to their doubters when they host Fremantle at Etihad Stadium next Saturday afternoon.
Stand-in skipper Bob Murphy and teammate Tom Liberatore enjoy the Dogs' big win. Picture: AFL Media
6.1 10.5 16.9 19.13 (127)
0.6 3.10 5.14 7.17 (59)
Giansiracusa 3, Higgins 3, Cordy 2, Dahlhaus 2, Murphy 2, Dickson 2, Griffen 2, Jones, Johannisen, Cooney
Brown, Rich, Beams, Martin, Cornelius, Redden, Moloney,
Goodes, Griffen, Minson, Murphy, Liberatore, Higgins, Lower, Roughead, Stevens
Rockliff, Moloney, Karnezis
Koby Stevens (hamstring) replaced by Clay Smith at three-quarter time
Matt Maguire (leg) replaced by Claye Beams in the third quarter
Pearce Hanley (Brisbane) reported in the 2nd quarter for rough conduct
Margetts, Dalgleish, Findlay
25,263 at Etihad Stadium