Marcus Bontempelli celebrates a goal during the round 24 match between Geelong and the Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium on August 26, 2023. Picture: AFL Photos

THE WESTERN Bulldogs have kept their finals hopes alive for another day, shaking off a feisty young Geelong side and their own first-half lethargy to win by 25 points.

The Dogs will be relying on Carlton to defeat Greater Western Sydney on Sunday evening in order to participate in September, having saluted 16.8 (104) to 11.13 (79) to win for the first time at GMHBA Stadium since 2003.

They broke the game open in the fourth term, piling on 6.3 and keeping the Cats to one goal.

CATS v BULLDOGS Full match coverage and stats

But the Bulldogs did it the hard way, having been fumbly, flat and second to the ball for three quarters before firing up for one last hurrah, quickly erasing the eight-point deficit and coasting to victory.


Star recruit Rory Lobb was crucial to the win, flipped into the ruck to open the second half and breaking the game open, combining beautifully with Tom Liberatore, Marcus Bontempelli and Adam Treloar.

The Dogs booted three goals in the first four minutes after the switch was made, keeping themselves in touch ahead of their final quarter run.


Geelong had dominated territory in the first half despite having made seven changes before the match; Brandan Parfitt, Tom Atkins and Sam Menegola (in his final game for Geelong, but not yet retired) working hard to provide supply to the forward line.

Inaccuracy and the tireless work of midfield generals Liberatore and Bontempelli kept the Dogs in touch, with the Cats going to half-time with 7.11 to their name.


But the first half was more about the unusually flat visitors – who were playing for a finals spot – than the home side, who were playing just their second dead rubber in Chris Scott's 13 years in charge.

The Dogs' height up forward – Aaron Naughton, Rory Lobb, Jamarra Ugle-Hagan and the occasional stint from Tim English – worried the Cats, who only had Sam De Koning and Jake Kolodjashnij over 192cm.

But the ball use into attack meant the Dogs initially failed to fully capitalise on that advantage, particularly under little pressure, with Tom Stewart and Zach Guthrie being picked out as if they had added some red to their blue and white jumpers.

It was a different story by the final quarter, getting the ball in quickly and to the advantage of their talls amid a tiring Cats defence.

Kolodjashnij's season finished a quarter early, leaving the field with suspected concussion early in the final term, while Bulldog Anthony Scott also suffered a head knock in the final few minutes.


Has 'Bont' sewn up the Brownlow?
Collingwood star Nick Daicos has been sidelined for the final three rounds of the season with a knee injury, potentially opening the door for Bontempelli to secure a well-deserved Brownlow medal. Christian Petracca may also be in the mix, but another 31 disposals, 10 tackles and six clearances from the Bulldogs skipper may have been enough to earn the winning votes.

Marcus Bontempelli leads out his side before the round 24 match between Geelong and the Western Bulldogs at GMHBA Stadium on August 26, 2023. Picture: Getty Images

Young Cats strut their stuff
With the season over last week, Geelong sent in a host of senior players for off-season surgery, paving the way for two debutants in Toby Conway and Ted Clohesy. Also brought into the team were Mitch Knevitt, Ollie Dempsey and Oisin Mullin, with Sam Menegola playing his final game for the club. Rhys Stanley and Shannon Neale held down the key forward roles, Conway showed plenty of agility in the ruck, and Dempsey had his moments inside 50, particularly in the first half.


One last run in the old Smith legs
Retiring four-time premiership player Isaac Smith looked like he enjoyed every moment of his final AFL game. The normally smiley Smith seemed to have an even wider grin than usual, ticking over his legs up and down the wing and relishing kicking the opening goal of the game. His three-quarter time celebration after Patrick Dangerfield's goal had to be seen to be believed, almost vaulting himself over his captain. There was no easing out of the game, Smith finishing his final game with a match-high 36 disposals and 895m gained.



GEELONG                        2.5     7.11     10.13     11.13     (79)
     3.1     6.2     10.5     16.8     (104)

O.Henry 3, Stengle 2, Smith, Neale, Atkins, Dempsey, Miers, Dangerfield
Western Bulldogs: Lobb 3, Naughton 3, English 2, Treloar 2, Weightman 2, Poulter, Vandermeer, Liberatore, Ugle-Hagan 

Geelong: Atkins, Parfitt, Stewart, Menegola, Dangerfield, Smith
Western Bulldogs: Liberatore, Bontempelli, Lobb, Treloar, Richards, English 

Geelong: Kolodjashnij (head knock)
Western Bulldogs: Scott (head knock) 

Geelong: Ted Clohesy (replaced Mitch Knevitt at three-quarter time)
Western Bulldogs: Lachie McNeil (replaced Vandermeer in the fourth quarter)

Crowd: 20,533 at GMHBA Stadium