Sam Darcy is mobbed by his teammates after kicking a goal against Hawthorn in round 23, 2022. Picture: Getty

THE WESTERN Bulldogs have snuck into the finals by the barest of margins, jumping into the top eight on percentage thanks to a tense 23-point victory over Hawthorn in Launceston. 

Coming into Sunday afternoon's final-round clash needing a win to have any chance of replacing Carlton in eighth spot, the Bulldogs trailed by 12 points at quarter-time but came home with a wet sail.

The 12.15 (87) to 10.4 (64) result put the Bulldogs level on 48 competition points and, crucially, ahead of Carlton on percentage.

HAWKS V DOGS Full match coverage and stats

Collingwood's nail-biting come-from-behind win over the Blues just hours later, where the Pies held on by one point, means the Dogs retained eighth spot by 0.6 per cent.

Roarke Smith kicked three goals for the Bulldogs, including two crucial scores in the final quarter to give his side breathing space.


Aaron Naughton also kicked three while rookie Sam Darcy was ultra impressive, kicking two majors including his first at the top level.

Dylan Moore gave Hawthorn the best possible start in the final quarter with a goal inside the first minute to reduce the margin to just four points.


But the Bulldogs rallied, keeping their opposition to just 1.2 for the term.

The Bulldogs dominated clearances (49-22) and inside 50s (71-39) but struggled to translate the possession to points at a blustery University of Tasmania Stadium.

In his final game for the Hawks, dual-premiership winner Ben McEvoy notched two goals, including the opener when he was fed a handpass from the first touch of debutant Jack Saunders.

Jack Gunston kicked four for Hawthorn, while James Sicily was outstanding with a game-high 33 possessions.


The Bulldogs dominated territory early and kicked the opening two goals before Hawthorn went on a run of four goals with the breeze for a 12-point lead at quarter-time.

Gunston chipped in with two majors for the quarter, including an impressive snap after pinching the ball in traffic.

In a pulsating second quarter, Darcy got his side back in front with back-to-back goals in the space of a few minutes.


Hawthorn kept pace, responding when Saunders slotted his maiden major, before Bulldog Cody Weightman got his team's nose in front 52-49 at the main break.

The Bulldogs dominated inside 50s in a low-scoring third quarter, taking a 10-point lead into the last break in front of a crowd of 13,105.

Jack Gunston's still got it
The Hawks forward is closer to the end of his career than the start, but he's still got enough to play a major role at a club right in the hunt for a premiership. Hawthorn's rebuild means it's unlikely Gunston will win another flag at the Hawks, but he could be the cherry on top of a list primed for a September tilt. Out of contract and attracting interest from rival clubs, Gunston's four-goal effort on Sunday was a great reminder of his undoubted class.


Sam Darcy is going to be a star
This is hardly breaking news, but the young Bulldog showed again today why he's been widely tipped to have a long and fruitful AFL career. Having already shown his wares as a strong defensive mark since his debut in round 21, the 19-year-old showed off his attacking prowess against the Hawks, kicking two goals from four shots on goal and clunking six marks to go with his 13 disposals. He's only three games into his career, but this son of a gun has the goods.


Hawthorn's kids are all right
At the end of Sam Mitchell's first year as senior coach, Hawthorn's rebuild appears to be on course. Eight wins for the season represents a solid return for a club in transition, but that doesn't tell the full story of their year. Wins over Geelong and Brisbane were the high points, but they also pushed teams like Collingwood, Fremantle and Melbourne all the way to the line, showing they can match it with the best teams in the competition. The solid first game today of Jack Saunders, their eighth debutant of the year, is another reason for Hawthorn fans to take some hope into 2023.


HAWTHORN                       4.1          8.1          9.2          10.4 (64)
WESTERN BULLDOGS      2.1          8.4          9.12       12.15 (87)

Hawthorn: Gunston 4, McEvoy 2, Moore 2, Morrison, Saunders
Western Bulldogs: Naughton 3, R.Smith 3, Darcy 2, Bontempelli, Hunter, Treloar, Weightman

Hawthorn: Sicily, Gunston, Hardwick, Moore
Western Bulldogs: Dunkley, Darcy, Hunter, Daniel, R.Smith, English

Hawthorn: Nil
Western Bulldogs: Vandermeer (knee)

Hawthorn: Jai Serong (unused)
Western Bulldogs: Robbie McComb (replaced Vandermeer in the fourth quarter)