Toby Greene celebrates a goal during the match between the Western Bulldogs and Greater Western Sydney at Mars Stadium in round 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

TOBY Greene has inspired an almighty comeback as Greater Western Sydney toppled the Western Bulldogs in a thriller by five points to claim a vital victory in the race for a finals spot.

The Giants, who secured their seventh straight win for the first time in club history, trailed by 35 points early in the third quarter before their skipper booted four goals in the term and then the go-ahead goal in a tense last quarter as the Giants prevailed 11.12 (78) to 10.13 (73) at Mars Stadium in Ballarat on Saturday afternoon.

BULLDOGS v GIANTS Full match coverage and stats

Greene's fifth goal, from Jake Riccardi's clever tap to his advantage, put GWS ahead with 5:58 remaining, before Brent Daniels converted a set shot from a tough angle with 4:51 left to open up an 11-point lead.


But the Dogs kept coming, with Bailey Dale snapping truly to cut the margin to one kick with just under four minutes remaining.

Jamarra Ugle-Hagan spurned a rushed chance from 25m out, before Nick Haynes took a crucial mark in the final 30 seconds from a Dogs' forward thrust to deny the home side.


The result has significant implications in the race for the top eight, with the Giants moving up to fifth with an 11-8 record, while the Dogs slip to seventh. While the Giants are on an historic seven-game winning streak, Luke Beveridge's side has now lost three of its past four games to put their finals aspirations in peril.

The Bulldogs appeared destined for victory earlier in the afternoon with Marcus Bontempelli dominating the opening term with 13 touches, but his influence was blunted after quarter-time by a close tag from Callan Ward against his former side. Bontempelli ended the game with 27 disposals (17 contested).


Taylor Duryea had kept Greene quiet in the first half, but the Giants skipper wouldn't be denied with a sensational third term that turned the game on its head. Greene finished with five goals from 19 disposals with 10 score involvements, while Riccardi booted three important majors.


Lachie Whitfield was excellent as Greater Western Sydney got its rebound off half-back going, managing 36 touches, while Toby Bedford set the tone after half-time by ramping up the pressure to finish with nine tackles. Sam Taylor also shut down Aaron Naughton, keeping him to one goal.

Dale, who booted the Dogs' last goal, had a game-high 37 disposals, while Tom Liberatore and Adam Treloar were excellent at the coalface, with 35 and 34 disposals respectively. Liberatore had a game-high 20 contested possessions, while Treloar also managed two goals along with ruckman Tim English.

The Dogs' first-half advantage was built around the contest and clearance work, while they were able to take 9-1 marks inside 50 in the first term, with English converting one of those chances as they led by 14 points at the first break.


The Giants struggled for ideas up forward in the first half, managing only two goals before half-time, as the Dogs added another three goals in the second term, including sub Rhylee West's snap and Treloar's fine shot from the boundary to lead by 29 at the main interval.

Naughton's goal early in the third, following a Finn Callaghan turnover, opened up a 35-point lead but the Giants rallied, with a clear shift in their ball movement and more willingness to run and carry off half-back. Greene provided the clinical edge they missed up forward.

Greene's third goal, which cut the margin to 14 points, came after Whitfield's creative rebound run, while the Giants were suddenly getting in behind the Dogs' defence with Greene finding Riccardi streaming into an open goal. Bedford's poised pass connected with Greene who goaled to narrow the margin to eight points at three-quarter time.


After nine goals in the third, the game tightened up in the last, before Riccardi eventually broke the deadlock after Callum Brown's composed pass.

Goals from Greene and Daniels put the Giants 11 points ahead, before Dale's snap ensured a thrilling finale, with Anthony Scott sending a long ball inside 50 in the dying seconds with Naughton unable to pull down a desperate marking attempt as the siren sounded.


Giants win wherever they go
Greater Western Sydney's remarkable run continued, extending its winning streak to seven consecutive victories, but among that are triumphs all over the country, with Ballarat the latest location to hear the club song. In fact, the Giants have saluted at nine venues in total this season, including wins in Alice Springs, Canberra, Hobart, Geelong and Adelaide's Norwood Oval. One of the better-known lines in the Giants' aforementioned club song, "we will never surrender", was fully on display in Ballarat, producing one of the club's finest comebacks as the potential of a September charge becomes more and more real.

The great wall shuts down Astro-naught
There was an intriguing battle from the opening bounce between two strong-marking Western Australians, with Taylor lined up against Naughton. The pair's battles at aerial contests were thrilling, but it was the probable All-Australian full-back Taylor who had the better of the match-up, repelling Dogs' attacks with eight marks and a game-high 15 intercept possessions. Naughton, however, had some moments, including a third-quarter goal that opened up a 35-point lead.

Sam Taylor marks in front of Aaron Naughton during the match between the Western Bulldogs and Greater Western Sydney at Mars Stadium in round 20, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

Further injuries for depleted Dogs defensive stocks
The Bulldogs' issues with key defenders just keeps on getting worse, with Josh Bruce limping out of the game with the assistance of medical staff after a worrying right knee injury. Bruce, who suffered an ACL injury in late 2021, was spotted watching on with ice on his knee alongside crutches in the fourth quarter. Full-back Alex Keath had earlier been subbed out due to concussion forcing Rory Lobb to be a makeshift defender. Bruce and Keath will join fellow key backs Liam Jones and Tim O'Brien on the sidelines due to injury. Jones was listed as 1-3 weeks away from his arm injury in some potential respite.



WESTERN BULLDOGS                3.5    6.10    9.10   10.13 (73)
GREATER WESTERN SYDNEY    1.3    2.5      8.8     11.12 (78) 

Western Bulldogs: English 2, Treloar 2, B.Smith, Johannisen, West, Naughton, Weightman, Dale
Greater Western Sydney: Greene 5, Riccardi 3, Brown, Kelly, Daniels

Western Bulldogs:
Liberatore, Treloar, Dale, Macrae, Bontempelli, English
Greater Western Sydney: Whitfield, Greene, Taylor, Ash, Coniglio, Bedford, Ward, Briggs

Western Bulldogs: Alex Keath (concussion), Josh Bruce (knee)
Greater Western Sydney: None

Western Bulldogs: Rhylee West (replaced Alex Keath in the second quarter)
Greater Western Sydney: Nick Haynes (replaced Aaron Cadman in the third quarter)

Crowd: 9,080 at Mars Stadium, Ballarat